As the Pittsburgh Steelers prepare for the 2020 NFL Draft, let’s take a look back at their mixed bag of previous top selections.
Historically, the Pittsburgh Steelers built competitive teams through the draft instead of signing big-name free agents. While the team landed plenty of superstars with their top selections over the past ten years, the franchise also set themselves back with several poor decisions.
With Ben Roethlisberger nearing the end of his career, Pittsburgh needs a strong draft class this year. Unfortunately, the team doesn’t hold a first-round pick. Instead, their first selection comes deep into the second round.
Hopefully, their top pick this year follows the path of the highest-ranked players on these rankings, putting the last 10 top draft picks for the Pittsburgh Steelers in order from worst to best.
10. Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia (2013)
One of the worst first-round selections in Steelers history, Pittsburgh drafted Jones with the 17th overall pick in 2013. In his two seasons as a starter at Georgia, Jones recorded 28 sacks and 44 tackles for loss. He produced like a first round pick, and Pittsburgh jumped at the chance to pair him with Jason Worilds.
Despite appearing in 14 games and making eight starts, Jones only recorded one sack in 2013. He added another in 2014 and only two more in 2015, despite starting all 16 games. Pittsburgh gave Jones another nine starts in 2016, and he produced one sack again.
After Jones produced six sacks and 17 quarterback hits in four years, the Steelers let him enter free agency. Jones never appeared in another NFL game.
9. Artie Burns, CB, Miami (2016)
Right position, wrong player. The Steelers took Burns with the 25th overall pick, one spot after Cincinnati claimed William Jackson. However, the Miami product never showed signs of development and will probably not survive in the NFL much longer.
Burns started 32 of his 58 appearances with the Steelers. Pittsburgh gave Burns all 16 starts in 2017, but he floundered his opportunities away. In 2019, Burns appeared in ten games and made one start. With Joe Haden, Mike Hilton and Steven Nelson on the roster, Pittsburgh doesn’t need a mediocre player like Burns.
Other cornerbacks from the 2016 draft turned into valuable starters. Notably, Xavien Howard, the next cornerback taken after Burns, turned into an All-Pro. James Bradberry also developed into a respectable top coverage option.
The Steelers did not pick up Burns’ fifth-year rookie option, and he entered free agency this, where the Chicago Bears signed him to a one-year deal.