Without a first round pick in the upcoming 2020 NFL Draft, I felt it was important to go back and reflect on how the Steelers have had a lot of success selecting players… in the second round!
While first round draft picks are expected to be homeruns, general managers make their money by rounding out rosters throughout entire drafts. Some of those players turn out to be role players while others may surprise us by becoming superstars, but one thing is for certain: Kevin Colbert has found more “studs” than “duds” on day two of the draft.
This is important too as the Steelers have traditionally built through the draft since Chuck Noll arrived in the Steel City and implemented a blueprint of a success that Pittsburgh would utilize for years to come.
In other words, the Steelers live and die by the draft; and they have largely done so by finding first round talent in the second round.
The following is a list of those players the Steelers have drafted out of the second round in recent years and what type of impact they've had with the team.
Washington is the Steelers most recent second round pick as the team traded their 2019 selection to swap spots with the Denver Broncos and move up to get to Devin Bush.
Washington arrived a day after the Steelers traded Martavis Bryant, and while he hasn’t had a full opportunity to fill those shoes, he has flashed big-play potential.
He capped off his second season as a pro with 44 catches for 735 yards and 3 touchdowns. While those numbers appear paltry to some of the standards we’ve seen in Pittsburgh due to a lack of offense last season. Washington’s 735 yards, for example, led the team in 2019 – certainly down from the previous season where the Steelers had not one, but two 1,000-yard receivers.
With Ben Roethlisberger returning this season, it’s possible that Washington’s arrow is trending upward even more than it had in prior years.
Remember when JuJu Smith-Schuster was a “luxury” or “wasted” pick?
While last season was a down year due to the same reasons Washington’s season looked lackluster, Smith-Schuster also struggled with injuries which kept him from maintaining his meteoric pace as a pro.
JuJu had caught seven touchdowns in each of his first two seasons, while also having over 1,426 receiving yards his last full season with Big Ben. (He was also named to the Pro Bowl.)
Players don’t put up numbers like those as a fluke – I would expect Smith-Schuster to return to form in 2020 as well. He made Martavis Bryant expendable with his rookie season of 58 receptions for 917 yards and 7 touchdowns: both second on the team in those categories.
Smith-Schuster also infused fun and intensity into his new team. Fans will talk for years about his touchdown celebrations, stolen bike story, and how he laid out Bengals enforcer Vontaze Burfict.
If that's not an impact, I don't know what is.
A versatile safety who is unfortunately no longer with the team, Davis rarely missed a snap on the field, playing in every game for the Steelers in his career up until last year, where he was placed on IR after Week 2 (and failing to participate in Week 1 as well).
During his tenure in the Pittsburgh, Davis played nickel cornerback, strong safety, and free safety - he was pretty much asked to do anything and everything. A true "Jack of all Trades, but Master of None" if you will, but otherwise still a solid second round selection.
Well, there is this pick, which sadly for both parties, didn't work out.
Golson was unable to ever play a snap in three seasons for the Steelers... even in the preseason. The much-needed cornerback kept getting hurt in training camp, which made him expendable last season.
If there's one thing Golson was good for, it's that he the staff's eyes on his college counterpart Mike Hilton, who joined Pittsburgh as an undrafted free agent and is now their starting nickel corner.
Tuitt was the second-round steal before JuJu became a second-round steal.
As a player many gave a first-round grade, Tuitt entered the 2014 NFL Draft as an accomplished college player. I recall seeing his name come up on day two of the draft and completely forgetting he was still available.
Defensive linemen are seldom exciting picks, but Tuitt has helped anchor the other side of the Steelers line, bookending captain Cam Heyward. Since becoming a full-time starter in 2015, Tuitt has 203 tackles and 23.5 sacks.
An injury shortened 2019 season halted what was starting to look like a Pro Bowl campaign, if not more. It will be interesting to see how much better Tuitt makes an already good Steelers defense in 2020.
Controversial but a complete, All-Pro back, Le'Veon Bell tried to redefine the running back market by contract terms, but has already done so with his play.
Back in 2013, teams were shying away from the position. No running backs were selected in the first round of the draft. It took 37 picks for a franchise to bite on one when the Cincinnati Bengals selected Giovani Bernard.
11 picks later the Steelers would select Bell, who would go on to turn heads in the Steel City with his dual-threat ability as a runner and receiver. In five seasons with the Steelers Le'Veon tallied 5,336 rushing yards and 2,660 receiving yards, along with a total of 42 touchdowns.
He twice broke Pittsburgh's single-game postseason rushing record... and in back-to-back games.
Regardless of how he sat out a season and then went to the Jets in free agency, Bell should always be considered one of the team's greatest second-round picks.
Filed under the Golson category of "incomplete", this Ohio State tackle was thought to be an incredible value for where he was taken in the draft.
Unfortunately, Adams career didn't turn out for the better. Unable to anchor the left side of the line, and losing his job to a 7th round pick (Kelvin Beachum) Adams was no more than a backup swing tackle since our next name secured the starting job on the right side of the line.
While he doesn't have the fancy honors and Pro Bowl selections to back up this statement, Gilbert had been nothing short of great since being taken in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft.
Once considered one of the best right tackles in the game, injuries shortened his career. After starting in 75 of the 76 games he appeared in, Gilbert missed 20 games in 2017 and 2018. He was traded to the Arizona Cardinals where he would fail to play in a game at all.
But no one can deny how great the Steelers offensive line was with him in the lineup.
A defensive end at Virginia Tech, Worilds was a conversion project who was to be the next great sack master.
And he nearly was.
When the team was debating on what to do with an injured LaMarr Woodley, it was Worilds who rose to the occasion to become a starter. He flashed the potential to get to the quarterback, getting 8 sacks in 2013 before signing his transition tag in 2014 and getting another 7.5.
With everyone wondering if the Steelers could retain Worilds for the 2015 season and beyond, the outside linebacker instead surprised everyone by announcing his retirement during the second day of a free agency period where he was expected to cash in on a big contract.
He left pro football following five seasons with 25.5 career sacks.