The 2017 NFL Draft is over and every sports site (and a good percentage of all non-sports sites, too) is putting out their draft grades. As, Bs, Cs, Ds, Fs, whatever is below that for the Chicago Bears — all without any of the drafted players having played a single NFL game.
It’s a bit of a farce that we all put up with, and eagerly click on, each year. There’s no way to know how good a team’s draft is for at least a few months, and usually not for a few years. Every draft grade should be Incomplete, if we’re all being honest.
What we can know is that a team’s draft will turn out one of three ways: Good, Bad or Okay. Here is how each scenario could play out for the Steelers.
Potential Steelers NFL Draft Grade: Okay
Okay isn’t bad. Bad is bad, and the Steelers class would be good to not be bad. An okay outcome for Round 1 pick T.J. Watt is that he has an impact in Pittsburgh like Lawrence Timmons or LaMarr Woodley: a solid player who is a valued member of the defense, but not a guy who will get any Canton votes.
The okayness can continue if Round 2 pick JuJu Smith-Schuster eventually locks down the third receiver job and becomes a Markus Wheaton-type that puts up some 700-yard receiving seasons while leaving the starring roles to Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant. Cameron Sutton can feature in the defensive backfield, helping the Steelers improve one of the most mediocre-to-bad pass defenses in the league last season.
Need more acceptability? James Conner becomes a reliable goalline back, Josh Dobbs successfully replaces Landry Jones (but not Ben Roethlisberger), Utah cornerback Brian Allen contributes on special teams for a few seasons and Louisville longsnapper Colin Holba reliably snaps things long for the next five to 10 years. Seventh rounder Keion Adams doesn’t make the team in this scenario because when seventh rounders contribute, you’ve drafted better than okay. Got it? Good.
Thanks to their okay draft, the Steelers remain playoff contenders every year, but don’t have enough to get past the Patriots in the AFC. Bad!
Potential Steelers NFL Draft Grade: Bad
Now for the very bad. A bad draft always means the Round 1 pick is a bust and that could easily happen if T.J. Watt, who only played one full year in college due to injuries and a position change, proves to be the second coming of J.J. Watt (the 2016 edition, when he played in three games and had eight combined tackles and 1.5 sacks). The Watt pick gets really bad if linebacker Reuben Foster, taken immediately after Watt, becomes a star with the 49ers — who then go on to tie and exceed Pittsburgh’s record six Super Bowl titles.
A blown Round 1 looks even worse if the team’s second rounder fails, too, and Smith-Schuster could very well be this generation’s Limas Sweed. Conner’s place in Pittsburgh sports lore is forever secure, but he wouldn’t be the first third rounder to fail to make much of an NFL impact, only in this case it would feel much worse because it’s JAMES CONNER in Pittsburgh.
Sutton is unable to gain the bulk he’ll need at the NFL level and fails to make the secondary any better at all. The Dobbs pick goes south if he not only fails to replace Ben Roethlisberger, but also Zach Mettenberger. And to wrap up the lost draft of 2017, the fifth, sixth and seventh round picks fail to make the team. Or, who knows, maybe in this scenario, sixth round pick Colin Holba becomes a “star” longsnapper … which still doesn’t justify using a sixth-round pick on a man who only snaps long. And what an awful way that would be to remember the 2017 class: “Well, at least we got that good longsnapper, which is important because all we do is punt now, because we’re worse than the Browns.”
Potential Steelers NFL Draft Grade: Good
Hold onto your butts. It’s time for good.
First round pick T.J. Watt becomes every bit the defensive force his brother was in his prime, but even better — and shames J.J.’s effort by giving a full 111-percent at all times, to boot. T.J. caps his rookie year in this year’s AFC title game by sacking Tom Brady five times, once hitting him so hard that a foggy Brady admits in the postgame press conference that he has cheated during every game of his career. (I knew it!)
Smith-Schuster, compared by some scouts to Anquan Boldin, fulfills that potential and gives Pittsburgh the most sure-handed receiver in the game across the middle, while Martavis Bryant stretches defenses deep and Antonio Brown does Antonio Brown things, giving the Steelers the greatest collection of receivers of all-time. The 60 points put up in the AFC title game looks great until the Steelers score 84 in the Super Bowl.
Four of 12 TDs scored in the Super Bowl? They come by way of James Conner, who establishes himself as the NFL’s most bruising runner in Week 1 — the perfect compliment to Le’Veon Bell. Conner’s life story is made into a major Hollywood movie, filmed in Pittsburgh, further establishing the city as a major player in the film industry.
It’s not like the Steelers need any defense with all the points they’re scoring, but they’ve got one, led by Cameron Sutton who has turned himself into the next Rod Woodson.
After Ben Roethlisberger wins three more Super Bowl, he tires of all the winning (just as President Trump predicted!) and in steps a fully-mentored Josh Dobbs to win even more. Meanwhile, 2017 Round 5 cornerback pick Brian Allen, after taking a couple years to learn the position, becomes a force at the position at 6-3, and even Round 7 pick Keion Adams gets in the rotation on the defensive line. As for longsnapper Colin Holba? It’s hard to get a good read on him, because the Steelers never punt, never kick field goals and always go for two (and convert, of course!) after their many touchdowns.
Hashtag: blessed. That right there is a good draft. Congratulations to the Steelers.