Most people say you have to wait three years before properly judging a draft class. This is a good time frame, but four years is even better.
All rookies under the current Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) sign four-year contracts, with the first round picks getting a team option for a fifth year.
With the 31st overall selection in 2011, how did the Pittsburgh Steelers do?
Round 1 (Pick #31): DE Cameron Heyward
Round 2 (Pick #63): OT Marcus Gilbert, Florida
Round 3 (Pick #95): CB Curtis Brown, Texas
Round 4 (Pick #128): CB Cortez Allen, The Citadel
Round 5 (Pick #162): OLB Chris Carter, Fresno State
Round 6 (Pick #196): G Keith Williams, Nebraska
Round 7 (Pick #232): RB Baron Batch, Texas Tech
Draft Grade in 2011:
ESPN (Mel Kiper Jr.): B+
Yahoo! (Jason Cole): C
First Round Pick: Cameron Heyward
Coming off a loss in Super Bowl XLV to the Green Bay Packers, the Steelers had the 31st selection. With the pick, they added youth to their defensive line and took Heyward. It took two years for him to break into the starting lineup, but he has started 29 games over the past two seasons. After recording five sacks in 2013, he really broke out in 2014 with 7.5 sacks and was Pro Football Focus’ (PFF) sixth-best 3-4 defensive end in the NFL. It took a while for Heyward to develop as a player, but he is now one of the better 3-4 defensive ends in the NFL.
Best Pick (Not First Round): Marcus Gilbert
A starter from day one at right tackle, Gilbert has started 46 of the 47 games he has played in for Pittsburgh, only missing time due to injury. For the 2014 season, PFF graded him as their number 10 right tackle. Offensive line has been a problem for the Steelers over the past few years, but now it is a strength of the team. Gilbert is one of the main reasons for this improvement.
Worst Pick: Curtis Brown
It wasn’t a good year to be a third round pick in the AFC North, as all three failed to live up to expectations. For the Steelers. Brown managed to play 85 defensive snaps in three seasons (none in 2011, 84 in 2012 and one in 2013). For his career, he gave up 11 catches on 15 targets (73.3 completion percentage) and opposing quarterbacks had a rating of 120.4 when throwing at him. Brown struggled to make it onto the field and when he did, it wasn’t good. Overall, a big miss.
Outside of the Steelers first and second round picks, this draft class hasn’t contributed much. Heyward and Gilbert are starters in the trenches and are building blocks for the future. Allen flashed potential in his first three years and was rewarded with a substantial contract extension, but, thrust into a full-time starting role in 2014, he severely regressed before being injured and placed on injured reserve. If not for two quality starters, this grade would be a whole lot worse.