The top six Steelers draft picks from the previous five seasons

With the 2024 NFL Draft almost a month old now, it’s time to reflect on past drafts to see how former Steelers draft picks have panned out.

Tracking the development of Steelers draft picks is a good measure of how the team has performed over the last several seasons. Without counting the most recent draft, we can go back over the previous five – back to 2019.

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Here, we’ll share the stories of the most recent successful Pittsburgh Steelers’ draftees and how they went from college prospects to established NFL stars. If you want to play like a star, visit Roulette77 Australia: you can find tips, strategies, and advice from the pros!

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Alex Highsmith

The 102nd pick of the 2020 NFL Draft was a homerun the Steelers desperately needed. At a time when the team was prepared to lose Bud Dupree to free agency – and lacked a first-round selection due to trade – Highsmith ascended to become a formidable edge rusher opposite the generational athlete that is T.J. Watt.

In 55 starts over his first four NFL seasons, Highsmith has accumulated 29.5 sacks, 59 quarterback hits, 40 tackles-for-loss, eight forced fumbles, and three interceptions.

His numbers rival those of Dupree, who needed an additional season (due to injuries) and four more games to have comparable stats. The same could be said when Highsmith is compared with former Steelers great Jason Gildon, who had 31.5 sacks in 61 starts after becoming a full-time player in his third NFL season.

Needless to say, Highsmith is overshadowed by his counterpart in Watt but should be recognized as one of the best pass-rushing finds in recent draft history.

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Joey Porter Jr.

Porter may break Pittsburgh’s curse of not being able to adequately draft cornerbacks.

PFF’s highest-rated rookie cornerback of last season was selected with the first overall pick of the second round in the 2023 NFL Draft.

Porter would become the team’s starter seven games into the 2023 season, deflecting 10 passes but also making an impact earlier in Week 5, when Ravens quarterback (and NFL MVP) Lamar Jackson targeted the newcomer, but unwisely judged his ability: Porter picked off a would-be game-winning touchdown pass which altered the course of an eventual Steelers victory.

Porter is already thought to be a “CB1” around the league and will continue to forge his own legacy from that of his legendary Steelers namesake, and father, Joey Porter.

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Najee Harris

The 2021 NFL Draft was a unique one for the Pittsburgh Steelers, in that they had to identify the best ways to improve their team for the present – by surrounding aging QB Ben Roethsliberger with talent – while also looking toward the future. Harris was everyone’s pick to do both, as the Alabama product filled a crucial hole in the Steelers backfield.

Over his first three seasons in the NFL, Harris has failed to miss a game. He has rushed for over 1,000 yards in all three seasons, scoring 22 rushing touchdowns. Harris added 866 yards and six touchdowns in the air over the span.

While there’s talk of whether or not Harris will return after Pittsburgh decline his fifth-year option, there’s little doubt he will continue succeed following upgrades to the team’s offensive line and the hiring of a new, run-friendly offensive coordinator in Arthur Smith.

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Pat Freiermuth

When Steelers great Heath Miller retired after the 2015 season, the team struggled to find a suitor capable of replacing his production. That didn’t stop them from trying, as a revolving door of tight ends such as Ladarius Green, Jesse James, Vance McDonald, and Eric Ebron came to Pittsburgh with various success and failures.

The seesaw action at the position would finally come to a stop when the team drafted Pat Freiermuth in the second round of the 2021 draft. Freiermuth gave Ben Roethlisberger a reliable target in the latter’s final NFL season, where he connected with his tight end for seven touchdowns. Freiermuth would break free in 2022, with a career-best 732 yards and has been a starter in each of his three season with the team.

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George Pickens

While Pickens’ story is still being written, he has somehow carved a path to stardom despite inconsistent play from Pittsburgh’s quarterbacks.

Pickens would burst onto the scene as a rookie in 2022, but would supersede his previous numbers in his sophomore campaign by grabbing 63 balls for a team-best 1,140 yards. That figure also gave Pickens a team-best 18.1 yards-per-reception, a category he’s lead the Steelers in in each of his first two seasons as a pro.

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Diontae Johnson

Johnson probably won’t be mentioned a lot in “best of” categories with the Steelers and especially so now that he’s no longer with the team. However, he earns a spot on this list having stabilized the wide receiver position for several seasons.

The Steelers receiver room was in shambles heading into the 2019 offseason. Prior to the 2018 NFL Draft, the team traded Martavis Bryant to the Oakland Raiders, and would soon send another of their stars there too, when Antonio Brown demanded a trade after the team failed to make the postseason. Thus, the Steelers needed more production from their room.

Pittsburgh would trade up to select Devin Bush in the 2019 NFL Draft, leaving them without a second-round pick. When pick 66 of the third round came into play, Pittsburgh selected Toledo receiver Diontae Johnson as their next in line to rise to stardom.

While JuJu Smith-Schuster looked like a rising star after making the Pro Bowl during a 1,426 yard receiving season in 2018, he would miss four games and see his numbers dip to 552 yards in 2019. Johnson would take advantage of JuJu’s absence, leading the team with 59 receptions and 5 receiving touchdowns, while finishing second with 680 receiving yards. He was able to do this despite only playing six quarters of football with Ben Roethlisberger that season.

During Roethlisberger’s final season, Johnson would make the Pro Bowl with a career-high 1,161 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns. Johnson would finish his time in Pittsburgh with a career-high 14.1 yards-per-reception in 2023 as the team traded him to the Carolina Panthers this offseason.

Not too shabby for a third round selection.

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