In 2015 the Pittsburgh Steelers took Bud Dupree with the twenty second pick in the first round. The jury is very much out on whether or not that was a good selection. After a below average first season with the Steelers, Dupree has just now made it back on the field coming back from abdominal surgery. Looking back, it still seems like Dupree was the best edge rusher left on the board when the Steelers selected. Washington defensive end Preston Smith had 8 sacks in his rookie season, and was drafted 8 selections later. Smith is more of a 4-3 defensive end and doesn’t seem to fit the 3-4 style of the Steelers. Where it looks bad for Pittsburgh is in round two where they selected Senquez Golson out of Mississippi. Golson has yet to take a regular season snap after back to back season ending injuries. Meanwhile players like Markus Golden (Arizona) and Frank Clark (Seattle) each have 7 sacks now in their second seasons. Both were drafted after the Golson selection. That selection really hurts because not only does it seem like a complete miss, but it also caused the Steelers to have to draft another corner again in the first round of 2016.
Fast forward to the 2016 draft, and Pittsburgh’s secondary was in shambles. This lead to them drafting defensive backs in each of the first two rounds, seemingly reaching in both cases. In the first round the Steelers selected corner Artie Burns from Miami. Rumors had Pittsburgh very interested in corner William Jackson III out of Houston, who had a terrific showing at the draft combine. One pick before they were ready to select, the Bengals surprised everyone and grabbed Jackson. The Steelers had options here, including trading down with Denver who were desperate to move up for quarterback Paxton Lynch. Instead they may have panicked and drafted Burns who nobody had a first round grade on. The highly touted edge rusher Noah Spence ended up going to Tampa Bay 14 picks later. Spence has 5.5 sacks on the season and is looking like the rusher the Steelers so desperately need. Of course it’s still very early to judge either player. Burns has shown signs of being a very good corner now that he has become a starter. In the second round, Pittsburgh went defensive back again drafting safety Sean Davis. This seemed higher then most teamshad Davis slotted. Not coincidentally Pittsburgh may have missed on another chance at a legitimate edge rusher. Yannick Ngakoue was drafted 11 picks later by the Jacksonville Jaguars, and now leads the team with six sacks. That would be enough to lead the Steelers as well, in case you were wondering. It seems obvious that the teams failures in previous years to draft in the secondary or at outside linebacker have forced them to draft for need rather then taking the best available talent. Come the 2017 draft, the Steelers will again be drafting out of desperation to find a pass rusher.