Draft Grader: Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers are a franchise in transition at the moment and Khaled Elsayed reviews their draft picks from 2009-11 that should be at the head of the change here.

| 3 years ago

Draft Grader: Pittsburgh Steelers

draftgraderPITfeatDraft season is upon us as free agency quiets down and prospect watch goes into overdrive. But the reality for us is that we’re not that involved in the College side of things, but that doesn’t mean we’re not fans of the draft.

For me though that means reflecting back on drafts gone by to tell you which teams made the best picks and which ones the worst. So as I do every year I’m grading every draft pick from 2009 through to 2011 on the PFF rating scale (-2 to +2), factoring in where they were drafted, injuries and a host of other things.

We’re moving in draft order so it’s the Pittsburgh Steelers who get the next look.


+2.0: You’ve just found Tom Brady in the 6th round

Nope …

+1.5: Getting much more than you bargained for!

Antonio Brown, WR (196th overall pick in 2010): It says something that this move is closer to a +2.0 than it is a +1.0. Brown has been a revelation since falling to the sixth round, developing into one of the most consistent receivers in the league. A little more consistency (particularly in 2012) would never hurt, but here’s a guy who finished with the highest receiving grade of any wide out in 2013, was seventh in 2011, and to a degree made Mike Wallace expendable.

+1.0: The scouts nailed it!

Mike Wallace, WR (84th overall pick in 2009): Perhaps the premier deep threat in the league, Wallace never developed into an all-around weapon but he was such a game changer he changed how defenses would plan. His last year in Pittsburgh left something of a sour taste in the mouth, but his work before that speaks for itself.

+0.5: Never hurts to find a solid contributor

Keenan Lewis, CB (96th overall pick in 2009): May now be one of the best corners in the league, but the Steelers just didn’t get enough out of him during his four years with the team. Granted his play was still fine, but 1,392 snaps is an indication that they were slow to develop a man who would star in New Orleans.

David Johnson, FB (241st overall pick in 2009): This seventh-rounder would deliver more than the average 241st selection of any draft. Some strong run blocking during his 1,013 snaps and a career +5.9 rating is a good return.

Emmanuel Sanders, WR (83rd overall pick in 2010): Solid starting receiver in round three? Yep, they’ll take that. Sanders would never grow into the threat that Brown or Wallace would, but then it’s unfair to expect every middle to late round receiver to reach those heights (the majority don’t get close). He has though managed 2,195 yards (including postseason yardage) and 11 touchdowns while operating outside and in the slot.

Marcus Gilbert, OT (63rd overall pick in 2011): You wonder if perhaps this third rounder might deliver more, because the tools appear there. As it is he’s definitely upgraded the tackle play for the Steelers with a healthy +7.2 grade during his first three years that have seen him graded positively in pass pro in each of them.

Cortez Allen, CB (128th overall pick in 2011): Has already proved his worth as a late fourth round pick. A starter who has looked the part of a good No. 2 corner at the very least, his return of a +12.4 grade on 1,341 snaps is a win for the team.

0.0: It could have been worse

Ra’Shon Harris, DT (205th overall pick in 2009): Waived before the start of his rookie year, where the Carolina Panthers would swoop in and snap up. Harris would eventually resurface with the Steelers before again being cut, a formula that was repeated once more.

A.Q. Shipley, OC (226th overall pick in 2009): Went onto have some success in Indianapolis but didn’t even get on the field during his time in Pittsburgh.

Jason Worilds, OLB (52nd overall pick in 2010): May have gotten paid this offseason (for the next season at least) but Worilds is a guy who has just about done what is expected of him and little more. His numbers flatter his streaky play with a career pass rush grade of +3.8 which is nothing special for a 52nd overall pick. He’s coming off his best season and appears on an upward curve, so don’t be surprised if he jumps up a grade next year.

Stevenson Sylvester, LB (167th overall pick in 2010): Held on long enough to make 175 snaps on defense while eating up snaps on special teams.

Jonathan Dwyer, RB (189th overall pick in 2010): A one-dimensional back who has some joy when he’s run the ball, but carried not nearly enough to get a positive mark.

Cameron Heyward, DE (31st overall pick in 2011): I do like Heyward and expect big things out of him with a starting spot his. I also expect a first round 3-4 end to play more than 1,359 snaps in his first three years. This is a case of the Steelers slow burn development process limiting immediate impact, with the team using more plodding talents to keep him off the field.

Chris Carter, LB (162nd overall pick in 2011): So far he’s managed 235 snaps and a -7.8 grade in three years with the team. Carter is a fifth rounder who may need to do a better job standing out on special teams if he’s to keep hanging on.

Baron Batch, RB (234th overall pick in 2011): Spent two years with the team (including one on Injured Reserve) that saw him play 99 snaps on offense.

-0.5: That pick was not put to good use

Frank Summers, FB (169th overall pick in 2009): Rookie season was cut short by injury before being released before his second season. Not what I expect from a fifth rounder.

Joe Burnett, CB (168th overall pick in 2009): Just 44 snaps on defense, Burnett was dismissed before the start of his second season with the team.

Chris Scott, OT (152nd overall pick in 2010): Fifth rounder would never play a snap on offense, being cut a month into his second season.

Crezdon Butler, CB (165th overall pick in 2010): Would spend a year with the team, but didn’t reach the magical second season as the team would cut him with no snaps on defense.

Maurkice Pouncey, C (18th overall pick in 2010): Has a career positive grade (+1.2) but in three and a bit season with the team there’s an argument you expect an awful lot more out of a mid-first round pick than an average center.

Doug Worthington, DT (243rd overall pick in 2010): Another late-round flier who didn’t get off the ground.

Curtis Brown, CB (95th overall pick in 2011): It took three seasons, an ACL injury, 85 snaps on defense and a -5.3 PFF grade for the team to cut their losses on this compensatory pick.

Keith Williams, OG (196th overall pick in 2011): A sixth-rounder who would be released before the start of his first season. Not ideal.

-1.0: What a waste!

Ziggy Hood, DE (32nd overall pick in 2009): If he was picked a little early then he’d get the -1.5 grade he was so close to achieving. Despite plenty of action (3,388 snaps) Hood never developed into a player who should be starting. He didn’t hold up well to double teams, couldn’t beat linemen one on one, and got very little in the way of pass rush. He was the exact opposite of an impact player.

Kriag Urbik, OG (79th overall pick in 2009): Has gone onto have success in Buffalo but wouldn’t even get on the field for Pittsburgh. Blame that on whichever party you want but that’s ridiculous for a third round pick on a line with a number of holes.

Thaddeus Gibson, DE (117th overall pick in 2010): There aren’t a lot of fourth round picks who are cut during their rookie season. Gibson proved one of them though, a huge swing and a miss.

-1.5: The scouts/ coaches failed, big time! 

Not here …

-2.0: You just drafted the love child of JaMarcus Russell and Ryan Leaf!

Or here …


Here’s a list of every team we’ve covered

HOU | IND | JAX | KC | MIA | MIN | NE | NO | NYG | NYJ | OAK | PHI
PIT | SL | SD | SF | SEA | TB | TEN | WAS


Follow Khaled on Twitter: @PFF_Khaled


  • Jeff

    Wait… wait… wait! Are you saying that Pouncey is not the next coming of Jim Otto, and that he is overrated?

    • sgtrobo

      Didn’t that meme die out about 2 seasons ago?

  • JonLee

    “He didn’t hold up well to double teams, couldn’t beat linemen one on one, and got very little in the way of pass rush.”

    Sounds like a Jaguar to me too!

  • darnell perkins

    cameron heyward and jason worilds should be around the +1.0 or +1.5 rage i think

    • sgtrobo

      As a player, sure Heyward deserves more. It’s a rather solid, accurate slam against the Steelers for taking nearly 2-1/2 seasons to finally get him on the field, considering how well he played in his limited duty in 2012.

      • Izach

        Agreed simply because they’ve taken so long to become starters they are average picks as of now

  • Andrei Bermejo

    Pouncey an average center? Are u fucking kidding?

    • Richard Light

      An average, journeyman center successfully replaced him this past season, so…….

    • sgtrobo

      Pouncey is an above-average center. PFF tends to “balance” the hype by downplaying what he does. That said, Steelers fans grossly overrated Pouncey. He’s borderline top-10 in the NFL when he’s healthy. We’ll see what happens this season with Munchak.

  • Izach

    Marcus Gilbert was a 2nd rounder not a 3rd, brings his grade down a bit I think,

  • Izach

    Also think Keenan Lewis is a step above Emanuel sanders, sanders was never more than a 3rd WR really even this year cotchery stole a lot of attention, Keenan as been a good starter for 2years being a no.1 or 2 CB both seasons, I guess it’s maybe because he didn’t play last season on steelers?

    • sgtrobo

      Keenan Lewis is an excellent CB. He is far better than Sanders. Problem is the Steelers made a horrible decision letting him go.

      • Chris from Cape Cod

        It’s ironic too, as the Steelers have been the model franchise the last decade+ for not falling in love with veterans (like they did this time with Ike Taylor) and developing younger talent.

      • Madi

        There was no keeping Keenan Lewis. He was going to the Saints, and that was that.

        • sgtrobo

          well of course we couldn’t keep him. We told him we weren’t going to make him an offer, then went and got William Gay off the scrapheap. Then when free agency came around, we didn’t make him an offer. So yeah, definitely can’t keep a guy you don’t try to keep.

          • Madi

            Not what I meant, but I think you knew that. Lewis was keen on “going home” and playing for the Saints. It would have taken much more than the offer he signed in order to keep him in Pittsburgh. You act like they didn’t even want him, like they thought Gay was better, like they didn’t think he was worth keeping.

          • sgtrobo

            The Steelers stated outright they weren’t going to make him an offer. Before FA started, they brought William Gay back. When FA started, they didn’t make him an offer. Steelers’ fault. They had Cortez Allen and Keenan Lewis, their “future” at CB. They brought in Gay, kept Ike, and let Lewis go. Now we’re looking at 1st round CBs. No matter how desperately we want to ignore reality, it smacks us in the face. Steelers screwed the pooch on this one, plain and simple.

          • Madi

            Your take is that regardless of money, they preferred Gay to Lewis? You don’t think money played a role? I think it played the primary role. They felt like they couldn’t afford him. You can say they screwed the pooch by not having enough cap space to enter a bidding war, but they didn’t simply “pass” on him.

          • sgtrobo

            they never made an offer. They chose to spend the money elsewhere (Ike Taylor, William Gay). It was a specific decision they made. They completely screwed the pooch by overvaluing Ike Taylor. They could keep Ike or they could keep Keenan Lewis. They kept Ike Taylor, brought in William Gay, and paid them nearly double (last season) what Lewis made, so they had the money.

          • Madi


  • sgtrobo

    it’d be damn scary if this included the 2008 draft, one of the biggest swings and misses for the Steelers in quite some time.