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The Steelers traded a potential Top 3 pick for Minkah Fitzpatrick, and it was worth it

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 04/24/2020 - 10:00am
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

I’d take Minkah Fitzpatrick over any player in the 2020 draft.

Wait, don’t skip to the comments to tell me the Steelers traded the 18th pick in the 2020 draft, I already know that.

But that was the pick with Minkah Fitzpatrick playing 14 games for the Pittsburgh Steelers, a span of games where the Steelers went 8-6. What is their record in those games if they don’t have Minkah? Fortunately we don’t know, and will never have to watch those games, those awful, soul sucking games that would have been.

To start looking back at those hypothetical games, I want to go back to an article I wrote right after the trade, “Are Mason Rudolph and Minkah Fitzpatrick really the answer for the Pittsburgh Steelers?”

In that article I talked about the difference between the Steelers defense with a healthy Sean Davis, and the defense without a healthy Sean Davis While short sample size caveats abounded in that article, the conclusion was that to salvage the season, the Steelers needed Mason Rudolph to be a competent, league average QB, and Minkah Fitzpatrick to help the defense play at the level they did with Sean Davis.

Mason Rudolph was not far off from an average NFL QB for a good number of his starts, and Minkah Fitzpatrick was the best safety in the NFL, and turned the Steelers defense into one of the best in the league almost overnight.

But how many wins did Minkah Fitzpatrick bring to the Steelers? I’ve heard people claim 3 wins, and do so as if it was a ridiculous number, but true because Minkah was that good.

But that number is too low.

With Sean Davis hurt or out in the first two weeks, the Steelers gave up 54 points on 15 drives, but only 7 points on 7 drives with Davis healthy. Again the short sample size cannot be stressed enough.

The main problem? With Davis out the free safety position fell to either Terrell Edmunds or Kam Kelly. Edmunds is a fine strong safety with a real weakness in deep zone coverage. Kameron Kelly is a decent box safety who can cover slower slot players at a competent level. That’s being kind, Kelly was awful, especially in deep zone coverage.

The Steelers, with that safety tandem, were handing out big plays like free candy. And worse, DBs like Joe Haden and Mike Hilton were getting exposed in their own weaknesses in carrying receivers deep. When Fitzpatrick brought his “Fitzmagic” act to Pittsburgh, Haden and Hilton were able to be more aggressive and not worry about giving up big plays. And it paid off.

In a hypothetical 2019 without trading for Minkah Fitzpatrick, Haden isn’t grabbing 5 picks, he’s likely viewed as a problem by Steeler fans, and Hilton would have been targeted even more.

That’s the on field impact, but what about stats?

With Minkah Fitzpatrick the Steelers held teams to 74.5% of their season points per offensive drive. In the two games before that they gave up 139.0% of expected points. That’s an enormous swing, and remember, it is already adjusted to the opponent faced. So in this hypothetical, the Steelers probably replace Sean Davis with a free agent off the street, or trade for another team’s backup, and lets say that goes well. Let’s say the Steelers with Safety X hold teams to 100% of their usual points per drive, just give up what the opposing offense did in other games.

In that situation the Steelers would have given up 83 more points from week 3 on than they did, an average of 6 more points allowed per game. Again, that’s assuming the Steelers are league average with a safety they sign off the street starting and having to anchor deep zone coverage.

Then consider the turnovers that aren’t being forced. The Steelers aren’t getting a pick 6 from Minkah, and they aren’t getting as many interceptions from Joe Haden, who had 3 in his first two seasons with the Steelers. If you give Haden 2 and say the safety the Steelers sign to play FS gets 2 as well, that’s six interceptions that don’t happen. That affects the offensive scoring and would probably mean more points allowed as well.

So how do we apply this to wins and losses? Let’s start with point differential, if you just add 83 points allowed, the Steelers go from -14 point differential to -97 which absolutely guarantees Tomlin’s first losing season. That’s tied for 7th worst in the league. But we are going to go farther than that.

Let’s look at each 1 score win the Steelers had in 2019.

Week 6, Chargers: With Steven Nelson and Mark Barron out, the Steelers hold one of the top deep passing teams in the NFL down until Haden also leaves the game and your starting CBs are Artie Burns and Cameron Sutton. Does anyone believe we win this game without Minkah Fitzpatrick locking down the deep zone?

Week 9, Colts: Minkah Fitzpatrick 96 yard INT return for a TD in a 2 point win. . . that’s a loss without Fitzpatrick.

Week 10, LA Rams: Fitzpatrick with a fumble return for a TD and a game sealing INT in a 5 point win. Another loss there.

Week 12, Bengals: It gets tougher now, as teams are avoiding Fitzpatrick. Haden and Hilton have 3 passes defended each, and a Minkah Fitzpatrick 36 yard fumble return gives the Steelers field advantage for the last 3 drives of the game. The Steelers held the Bengals to 50% of their per-drive average scoring and 66% of their usual yards per drive. This one is closer, but I am still calling this a loss without Minkah Fitzpatrick.

Week 13, Browns: A 7 point Steeler win and one where the offense actually did something. the only turnovers were a strip sack and a Haden INT. If the Steelers give up the Browns average points per drive the game would have been 20-20 and gone to overtime, so while we counted the Bengals a loss, we’ll give the Steelers a win here, still avenging the nightmare from 2 weeks earlier.

Week 14 Cardinals: This 6 point win is a loss without Fitzpatrick. his goal line stop of a Kyler Murray scramble took 4 points off the board, and Joe Haden gave credit to the guys behind him allowing him to be aggressive and get his 2 INTs in this game. Without Minkah Fitzpatrick, Haden isn’t taking those gambles and, seriously, they avoided throwing within 15 yards of Minkah Fitzpatrick in that game. That’s a major impact even if Fitzpatrick’s stats are mostly blank because of it.

I’m giving the Steelers only 1 of 6 one score wins without Minkah Fitzpatrick, and a 3-13 final record in 2019. Strength of schedule would cost the Steelers in a three way tie with Cincinnati (who gained a win in this exercise) and Washington, giving the Steelers the #3 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.

And I’d still take Minkah Fitzpatrick. He’s only a month older than Joe Burrows, and in our scenario, the Steelers are desperate for safety help, and there’s no one in this class that could make a bigger impact on the Pittsburgh Steelers than Minkah Fitzpatrick already has.

Who do you think the Minkah Fitzpatrick-less Steelers would have taken in the 2020 draft with the #3 pick, and would you rather have that pick than Minkah Fitzpatrick?

Mock Draft: Complete Second Round Predictions

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 04/24/2020 - 9:13am
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

With Round One done, BTSC projects Round Two of the 2020 NFL Draft.

Everybody did mock drafts the last three months. You couldn’t swing a dead cat without hitting a mock draft (PETA don’t fret, my 10-year old daughter just chastised me for the use of that phhrase.) But now that the first round is through, where are all the mocks?

Have no fear, BTSC has put together a projection for Round 2...with the Steelers eventually getting on the clock. Check it out.

33) Cincinnati Bengals: OT Josh Jones - Houston

With a new franchise QB in the form of Joe Burrow, maybe consider protecting the guy a tad. Jones had a fantastic 2019 season and an even better Senior Bowl.

34) Indianapolis Colts (from Washington): WR Tee Higgins - Clemson

Philip Rivers needs a weapon. With great success throwing to the gigantic Keenan Allen, Rivers will love to target and scream at the 6’4” Higgins Is a red zone target who can out jump anyone on the field.

35) Detroit Lions - EDGE Yetur Gross-Matos - Penn State

The Lions had the second-fewest sacks in the league last year at 28. YGM gives Matt Patricia what he needs most besides a good grooming, a pass rusher.

36) New York Giants - EDGE A.J. Epenesa - Iowa

The powerful and versatile Epenesa patterns his game after J.J. Watt. The Giants need to get to the passer. If he can emulate Watt, Gotham will celebrate.

37) New England Patriots (from LA Chargers): S Xavier McKinney - Alabama

“The Hoodie” has 14 picks and he will get his signal caller by trading into this round, but not yet. McKinney is first round talent that the Patriots should not wait to nab.

38) Carolina Panthers: LB Zack Baun - Wisconsin

With Luke Kuechly retired, the Panthers need a new man in the middle. Baun, Zach Baun will leave opponents shaken and stirred.

39) Miami Dolphins: RB D’Andre Swift - Georgia

The Dolphins finally replace Kenyan Drake with quite possibly the best running back in the draft.

40) Houston Texans (from Arizona): WR Denzel Mims - Baylor

Brandin Cooks and Randall Cobb might not fill the void left by the trade of DeAndre Hopkins, but they’ll help bridge the gap until the 6’3” Mims grows into the role.

41) Cleveland Browns: DT Ross Blacklock - TCU

The Browns add a player with a high-motor to plug along an already electric d-line.

42) Jacksonville Jaguars: Edge Terrell Lewis - Alabama

Jags lost a lot of firepower in the pass rush the past two years. Lewis can help reignite things in Duval.

43) Chicago Bears (from Las Vegas): CB Kristian Fulton - LSU

Bears need help in the secondary from a guy that excels in press coverage. Bingo!

44) Indianapolis Colts: QB Jalen Hurts - Oklahoma

Frank Reich looks to the future with the dual-threat QB that can learn the system behind Old Man Rivers.

45) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: RB Jonathan Taylor - Wisconsin

The Bucs get a durable and explosive one-cut master to add to their new treasures on offense.

46) Denver Broncos: CB Trevon Diggs - Alabama

Stefon Diggs’ brother is a big corner with great ball skills, size and speed to match up with tall NFL receivers. Denver will fly miles-high with Trevon in the secondary.

47) Atlanta Falcons: Edge Josh Uche - Michigan

The Falcons badly need defense and have uncovered an explosive pass rusher in Uche.

48) New York Jets: WR Michael Pittman Jr. - USC

Pittman is 6-4, ran a 4.5 at the combine and excels on ST. He’ll have a chance to thrive in an offense led by a familiar passer.

49) Pittsburgh Steelers: RB J.K. Dobbins - Ohio State

JK is a well-built and compact back with great bounce. Could be a home run hitter to eventually take over for James Conner.

50) Chicago Bears: G Robert Hunt - Louisiana-Lafayette

Hunt, who played tackle in college, is a Day 1 starter on the interior For the protection-craved Bears.

51) Dallas Cowboys: S Antoine Winfield Jr. - Minnesota

America’s team adds a playmaking centerfielder who can also play in the slot.

52) Los Angeles Rams: C Lloyd Cushenberry - LSU

The No. 2 center in this class is a 1-on-1 mauler that really sinks into his anchor against bull rushes.

53) Philadelphia Eagles: S Grant Delpit - LSU

Eagles get a playmaker in middle of the field.

54) Buffalo Bills: EDGE Julian Okwara - Notre Dame

The Bills have a solid defense, but their pass rushing leaves a lot to be desired. Okwara gets through the line and makes plays in the opposing backfield.

55) Baltimore Ravens (from New England via Atlanta): WR Leviska Shenault - Colorado

The Ravens add a game changer that can line up anywhere on the field and dominate. That is if he remains healthy.

56) Miami Dolphins (from New Orleans): S Jeremy Chinn - Southern Illinois

Miami needs to replace Minkah Fitzpatrick. The tall, menacing Chinn is one of the most athletic players in this class and he can play safety or linebacker.

57) Los Angeles Rams (from Houston): RB Cam Akers - Florida State University

The Rams replace Gurley with a juker that can make defenders miss with ease.

58) Minnesota Vikings: OT Ezra Cleveland - Boise State

Cleveland has flown under the radar as one of the most athletic lineman in his class. The fans of the Vike will like.

59) Seattle Seahawks: OT Lucas Niang - TCU

The 12th Man get a guy that moves well in space and can dominate in the run game. Now they just need to find a run game.

60) Baltimore Ravens: DT Neville Gallimore - Oklahoma

Gallimore, a freakish athlete with a nonstop motor, is a perfect fit for Wink Martindale’s defense.

61) Tennessee Titans: Justin Madubuike - Texas A&M

Rebuilding the Music City defensive line is easier with Madubuike, who has a relentless motor and is a solid bull rusher.

62) Green Bay Packers: WR Bryan Edwards - South Carolina

The 6’3” Edwards can go up and pull down contested passes. Maybe he will make Aaron Rodgers less angry.

63) Kansas City Chiefs (from San Francisco): CB Jaylon Johnson - Utah

The Super Bowl champs need an aggressive and confident playmaker somewhere other than the offense. Johnson is it.

64) Seattle Seahawks (from Kansas City): TE Cole Kmet - Notre Dame

The Golden Domer gives Russell Wilson a sure-handed target. Kmet can contribute right away.

What are your thoughts on the predictions? Are you on board with the JK Dobbins pick, or would you rather take someone else? Let us know in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers heading into Day 2 of the draft.

It’s hard to say who the Steelers 2nd round pick will be, but temper your expectations for him

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 04/24/2020 - 7:45am
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Already having high expectations about the Steelers second-round pick before they even make it? Just remember that it’s not a first-round pick, and you should be fine.

Hello, draft fan, it’s the big day!

Actually, as I sit here typing away on April 23, 2020, it’s the big day for the rest of the professional football world (American). What am I talking about? The 2020 NFL Draft, complete with pandemic-induced Zoom concerns and a commissioner who is asking you to virtually boo him for charity as he announces each selection from his home.

If you’re a Steelers fan, however, it’s the day before the big day. What day is that, you ask? The day Pittsburgh makes its first selection in the 2020 NFL Draft. But thanks to the trade with Miami last September that fetched safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, that first selection won’t come until the evening of April, 24, 2020. It also won’t happen in the first round.

You know that by now, I’m sure. But did you also know that you’re going to heap heavy expectations on that poor fella?

You don’t think so? Below are some tests:

If you’ve ever dated a ride-share driver and ultimately asked him to take you on a trip to Rio, you might be someone who is going to put high expectations on the Steelers second-round pick.

If you went to see Horrible Bosses 2 anticipating lots of laughter, you might be someone who is going to put high expectations on the Steelers second-round pick.

If you tuned into my first video podcast hoping to see George Clooney eyes, a Brad Pitt jawline, and hair, you might be someone who is going to put high expectations on the Steelers second-round pick.

If you’ve used words and phrases such as “Day 1 starter,” “high-impact player” and “Le’Veon Bell was a second-round pick” when talking about Pittsburgh’s future second-round pick, you might be someone who is going to put high expectations on the Steelers second-round pick.

What I’m getting at with all of this is that the Steelers second-round pick is still going to be a second-round pick. It doesn’t matter how long we’ve talked about it or how many mock drafts we’ve read to try and get a clearer picture of who Pittsburgh will take at 49, 49 is still located in the middle of the second round.

“I wouldn’t touch that guy in the first. Maybe if he’s there in the second.” That’s the kind of prospect Pittsburgh will be getting in the second round.

That doesn’t mean he’s going to be a bad player—far from it. Second-round draft picks are expected to start sooner rather than later. Jack Lambert was a second-round pick. Levon Kirkland was a second-round pick. Even non-middle/inside linebackers were second-round picks. I mentioned Bell. Also, JuJu Smith-Schuster was a second-round pick.

Second-round picks command high enough expectations. However, second-round picks don’t command first-round pick expectations.

Yes, while a lot is expected from second-round picks, there’s still room left to be pleasantly surprised if they perform like first-round picks.

“How did he ever slip to the second round?” is what someone is supposed to ask about a first-round caliber player that somehow lasted until the second round.

“You mean Lynn Swann was picked in the first round and Lambert went in the second round of the 1974 NFL Draft? I did not know that.”

That’s the spirit.

Have that perspective when evaluating the Steelers second-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Now, about the Steelers third-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft...

2020 NFL Draft: The best available players heading into Day 2

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 04/24/2020 - 6:30am
Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

With the craziness of Day 1 now behind us, what players are still available for the Steelers first selection of 2020?

One down, six to go. Although Day 1 of the NFL has been concluded, there are still six more rounds to go over the next two days as NFL teams look to fill more of their rosters with the best possible prospects. With 223 picks still remaining, all 32 NFL teams still have a lot of work to do. Since the Steelers have yet to make a selection in 2020, the players remaining for Day 2 are more important than in years past.

So what players are still available going into the second round on the 2020 NFL draft? While the exact rankings for players are all over the place due to the lack of pro days, the best we can do is look at one particular list. For this exercise, we will use SB Nation’s Top 200 list.

Here are the players still available after the first round of the 2020 NFL draft:

21. Josh Jones, OT, Houston

22. A.J. Epenesa, Edge, Iowa

23. Grant Delpit, S, LSU

25. Yetur Gross-Matos, Edge, Penn State

26. Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama

27. Ezra Cleveland, OT, Boise State

28. Antoine Winfield Jr., S, Minnesota

31. Laviska Shenault Jr., WR, Colorado

32. D’Andre Swift, RB, Georgia

33. J.K. Dobbins, RB, Ohio State

34. Jonathan Greenard, Edge, Florida

35. Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama

36. Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor

40. Ross Blacklock, DL, TCU

43. Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin

44. Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson

46. Michael Pittman Jr., WR, USC

47. Prince Tega Wanogho, OT, TCU

48. Jaylon Johnson, CB, Utah

49. Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU

50. Marlon Davidson, DL, Auburn

51. Curtis Weaver, Edge, Boise State

52. Lloyd Cushenberry, C, LSU

53. Justin Madubuike, DL, Texas A&M

54. Cameron Dantzler, CB, Mississippi State

56. KJ Hamler, WR, Penn State

57. Zack Baun, LB, Wisconsin

58. Kyle Dugger, S, Lenoir-Rhyne

59. Terrell Lewis, Edge, Alabama

60. Cam Akers, RB, Florida State

61. Julian Okwara, Edge, Notre Dame

62. Jeremy Chinn, S, Southern Illinois

63. Neville Gallimore, DL, Oklahoma

64. Robert Hunt, G, Louisiana

65. Matt Peart, OT, Connecticut

66. Josh Uche, Edge, Michigan

67. Bryan Edwards, WR, South Carolina

68. Van Jefferson, WR, Florida

69. Zack Moss, RB, Utah

70. Cole Kmet, TE, Notre Dame

71. Saahdiq Charles, OT, LSU

72. Jacob Eason, QB, Washington

73. Chase Claypool, WR, Notre Dame

74. Jabari Zuniga, Edge, Florida

75. Adam Trautman, TE, Dayton

76. Lucas Niang, OT, TCU

77. Jalen Hurts, QB, Oklahoma

78. Matt Hennessy, C, Temple

80. Jordan Elliott, DL, Missouri

81. Harrison Bryant, WR, Florida Atlantic

82. Alex Highsmith, Edge, Charlotte

83. Ashtyn Davis, S, California

84. Amik Robertson, CB, Louisiana Tech

85. Hunter Bryant, TE, Washington

86. Damien Lewis, G, LSU

87. James Lynch, DL, Baylor

89. Eno Benjamin, RB, Arizona State

90. Devin Duvernay, WR, Texas

91. Reggie Robinson, CB, Tulsa

92. Darrell Taylor, Edge, Tennessee

93. Akeem Davis-Gaither, LB, Appalachian State

94. Leki Fotu, DL, Utah

95. AJ Dillon, RB, Boston College

96. Khalid Kareem, Edge, Notre Dame

97. K’Von Wallace, S, Clemson

98. Willie Gay Jr., LB, Mississippi State

99. Colby Parkinson, TE, Stanford

100. Bradlee Anae, Edge, Utah

101. Jack Driscoll, OT, Auburn

102. Antonio Gibson, RB, Memphis

103. Lynn Bowden, WR/RB/QB, Kentucky

104. Alton Robinson, Edge, Syracuse

105. Raekwon Davis, DL, Alabama

106. Jonah Jackson, G, Ohio State

107. Tyler Biadasz, C, Wisconsin

108. Kenny Willekes, Edge, Michigan State

109. Jake Fromm, QB, Georgia

110. Gabriel Davis, WR, UCF

111. Netane Muti, G, Fresno State

112. Davon Hamilton, DL, Ohio State

113. Albert Okwuegbunam, TE, Missouri

114. Josiah Scott, CB, Michigan State

115. Collin Johnson, WR, Texas

116. Thaddeus Moss, TE, LSU

117. Troy Dye, LB, Oregon

118. Anfernee Jennings, Edge, Alabama

119. Antonio Gandy-Golden, WR, Liberty

120. Rashard Lawrence, DL, LSU

121. Trey Adams, OT, Washington

122. Jonathan Garvin, Edge, Miami

123. Nick Harris, C, Washington

124. Ke’Shawn Vaughn, RB, Vanderbilt

125. John Simpson, G, Clemson

126. Logan Wilson, LB, Wyoming

127. Ben Bartch, OT, Saint John’s (Minn.)

128. Kenny Robinson, S, West Virginia/XFL

129. John Hightower, WR, Boise State

130. Terrell Burgess, S, Utah

131. Devin Asiasi, TE, UCLA

132. Jason Strowbridge, DL, North Carolina

133. Alex Taylor, OT, South Carolina State

134. Logan Stenberg, G, Kentucky

135. Malik Harrison, LB, Ohio State

136. John Reid, CB, Penn State

137. Jared Pinkney, TE, Vanderbilt

138. Donovan Peoples-Jones, WR, Michigan

139. Lamar Jackson, CB, Nebraska

140. Joshua Kelley, RB, UCLA

141. Geno Stone, S, Iowa

142. Anthony Gordon, QB, Washington State

143. Tyler Johnson, WR, Minnesota

144. Anthony McFarland, RB, Maryland

145. Larrell Murchison, DL, North Carolina State

146. K.J. Hill, WR, Ohio State

147. A.J. Green, CB, Oklahoma State

148. Brandon Jones, S, Texas

149. Jauan Jennings, WR, Tennessee

150. Khalil Davis, DL, Nebraska

151. James Proche, WR, SMU

152. Bryce Hall, CB, Virginia

153. Markus Bailey, LB, Purdue

154. Calvin Throckmorton, OT, Oregon

155. Troy Pride Jr., CB, Notre Dame

156. Darryl Williams, C, Mississippi State

157. Benito Jones, DL, Ole Miss

158. Alohi Gillman, S, Notre Dame

159. Stanford Samuels III, CB, Florida State

160. Danny Pinter, G, Ball State

161. Derrek Tuszka, Edge, North Dakota State

162. Isaiah Hodgins, WR, Oregon State

163. Cole McDonald, QB, Hawaii

164. Joe Bachie, LB, Michigan State

165. Lavert Hill, CB, Michigan

166. Brycen Hopkins, TE, Purdue

167. J.R. Reed, S, Georgia

168. Quintez Cephus, WR, Wisconsin

169. McTelvin Agim, DL, Arkansas

170. Jacob Phillips, LB, LSU

171. Rodrigo Blankenship, K, Georgia

172. Darrynton Evans, RB, Appalachian State

173. Nate Stanley, QB, Iowa

174. Trajan Bandy, CB, Miami

175. D.J. Wonnum, Edge, South Carolina

176. Quartney Davis, WR, Texas A&M

177. Tanner Muse, S, Clemson

178. Davion Taylor, LB, Colorado

179. Solomon Kindley, G, Georgia

180. Stephen Sullivan, TE, LSU

181. Carlos Davis, DL, Nebraska

182. Essang Bassey, CB, Wake Forest

183. Kevin Dotson, G, Louisiana

184. Kalija Lipscomb, WR, Vanderbilt

185. Lamical Perine, RB, Florida

186. Carter Coughlin, Edge, Minnesota

187. Cam Brown, LB, Penn State

188. Levonta Taylor, S/CB, Florida State

189. Michael Onwenu, G, Michigan

190. Robert Landers, DL, Ohio State

191. David Woodward, LB, Utah State

192. Mason Fine, QB, North Texas

193. Trevis Gipson, Edge, Tulsa

194. Tyre Phillips, OT, Mississippi State

195. Michael Warren, RB, Cincinnati

196. Michael Ojemudia, CB, Iowa

197. Evan Weaver, LB, California

198. Jeff Thomas, WR, Miami

199. Nick Coe, Edge, Auburn

200. Dane Jackson, CB, Pittsburgh

A history of NFL players drafted with the 49th overall pick

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 04/24/2020 - 5:30am
Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

What other notable players in the NFL have gone in the spot the Steelers are scheduled to make their first selection?

“With the 49th pick in the 2020 NFL draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers select…”

We are all patiently waiting for those words. While it is possible the Steelers could make a move forward or backward and have their first selection be at a different number, Steelers’ Nation has been plugged in and anxiously awaiting who their beloved black and gold will take with the 49th selection in the draft. As we are waiting the name of the player we can celebrate when the Steelers take the field for the 2020 season, what can we expect from said player? How well have other players taken 49th fared in their NFL careers?

First of all, the Steelers have only made a pick in the NFL draft in the 49th spot twice in their franchise history. The first was in 1947 when the Steelers selected C/LB Bryant Meeks out of South Carolina. Meeks played two seasons in the NFL, both of which were for the Steelers. In 1947 he played in eight games with zero starts and in 1948 he played in 10 games with three starts. The only stats attributed to him were two fumble recoveries.

The other 49th selection by the Pittsburgh Steelers is quite forgettable as defensive end Willie Fry was taken in the second round out of Notre Dame. Dealing with injuries his first two seasons, Fry only stayed in the NFL for three years and never appeared in a regular season game. But because he was on the team, Fry earned two Super Bowl rings with the Steelers.

Even though the Steelers have not had the best luck with their 49th selection, there are some other notable players around the NFL who have had great careers. First of all, there are no players in the Pro Football Hall of Fame who were drafted in the NFL draft with the 49th selection, so perhaps the Steelers can change that trend in 2020 if another player does not get selected in the meantime. Probably the most notable player taken 49th who is still playing in the NFL would be wide receiver DeSean Jackson. With three Pro Bowl selections, Jackson is still in the league after being drafted in 2008 and has been credited with being a starter for 11 seasons. Jackson has 55 receiving touchdowns and over 10,000 receiving yards.

Limiting the field to players selected since the NFL merger in 1970, only four players out of the 50 selected with the 49th pick in the NFL draft have ever made first team All-Pro. The players are running backs Roger Craig and Delvin Williams, both originally of the San Francisco 49ers. The other two players are center Max Unger of the Seattle Seahawks and center Barret Robbins of the Oakland Raiders. Robbins is most notable for going missing right before Super Bowl XXXVII and was not able to play in the game.

When it comes to players making the Pro Bowl since 1970, there have only been eight selected with the 49th pick in the draft. Other than the four previously mentioned All-Pros as well as DeSean Jackson, the other players were wide receiver Brian Blades, running back Pete Johnson, and defensive back Eric Thomas. The player to play in the most games in the NFL would be linebacker Randall Godfrey who appeared in 170 games and made 149 starts with five different frnchises.

Of the 50 players drafted 49th from since 1970, 32 of them were considered a full-time starter for at least one season in their NFL career.

On the negative side, the only other player drafted since 1970 in the 49th position who did not play an NFL game other than Willie Fry was Cincinnati Bengals’ running back Kenny Irons. Selected in the 2007 NFL draft, Irons tore his ACL in the Bengals first preseason game. Irons was waived prior to training camp the next season and never played with another NFL football team.

So how important is this history lesson to the Steelers 49th pick in the 2020 NFL draft? Honestly, not at all. This exercise has really just been a piece of interesting trivia in preparation for the Steelers for selection in the 2020 NFL draft. Should the Steelers draft a player who is the likes of DeSean Jackson, Max Unger, or Roger Craig, I’m sure Steelers’ Nation would be quite happy with the selection. Although it may not be possible every season, there are plenty of times where a good playmaker was taken with the 49th pick.

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