"Why can't the Steelers ever draft rookies who can contribute from Day 1?"
"That is a nice pick, too bad he won't play for another 3 years."
While this has a lot to do with the fact the Steelers are usually picking in the back end of the draft, I'll focus solely on the comments. You know, why would anyone want to bring logic into such an argument?
With that said, the 2016 NFL Draft class of the Steelers should certainly satisfy most fans' desire to see those fresh faced rookies see playing time.
First, let's take a look at the rookies who made the team's 53-man roster:
CB Artie Burns
S Sean Davis
DT Javon Hargrave
OT Jerald Hawkins (Injured Reserve)
ILB Tyler Matakevich
That's right, 5 of the 7 draft selections the Steelers had this Spring could be on the active roster on game days. But there is more to this crop of defensive players than just making the team. As rare as it is, the Steelers will be seeing contributions from their rookies in 2016.
Sean Davis has been an extremely versatile player in just his first year. He has been lauded for his football intelligence and ability to learn the team's defensive playbook, but what might be more impressive was his ability to step onto the NFL field and contribute as the team's slot cornerback after Senquez Golson was injured. Davis played cornerback as a Senior at the University of Marylandand and the team is using that experience to help them mask their lack of cornerback depth when they throw sub packages onto the defensive side of the football.
In other words, Davis will be seeing the field in 2016.
Third round pick Javon Hargrave has been more than just a quality player for the Steelers throughout the 2016 preseason, he has looked like a difference maker. You take preseason success with a grain of salt, but Hargrave's ridiculous stats in college don't seem to be a product of playing at South Carolina State, but more due to his skill set. Hargrave will see the field in sub packages, obvious passing downs and even as the nose tackle in certain 3-4 looks the Steelers plan on deploying.
In other words, Hargrave will be seeing the field a lot in 2016.
Artie Burns was the team's prized draft pick in the 2016 draft, and although not likely to see the field quite as much as the previously mentioned rookies, he showed flashes of his skills on Thursday in the preseason finale against the Carolina Panthers. Burns is long, athletic, fast and extremely raw. Those variables don't always equate to early success in the league, but if Burns can continue to develop, he could be a factor in the second half of the season if injuries dictate him playing more than originally planned.
In other words, Burns very well could be seeing the field in 2016.
Throw in the fact that Tyler Matakevich will provide a presence on special teams, and depth at the inside linebacker position and I would say that is a pretty solid draft class.
Fans love to rip Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin's draft selections, but outside of the fact that selecting talent from college which can translate to talent in the NFL is a difficult task, they seem to have selected some players who could be a large part of the Steelers defense in the future, but also in the present.
One of the aspects of this class which impresses me the most is how this group is not necessarily going to be playing out of necessity. If Golson wasn't injured, Davis might not see the field as much, but he would still be utilized. The team could keep Daniel McCullers on the field, but Hargrave has proven his worth and will likely see more playig time than "Big Dan". There is a stark contrast between these type of players, and the players who play because the cupboard is completely bare at a specific position.
Fans have wanted rookies who will play, and they will get their wish in 2016. Hopefully the experience doesn't just pay off in 2016, but for years to come.