Leading up to the 2021 NFL draft now only one week away, let’s look at how some of the Steelers’ drafts played out.
The 2021 NFL draft is now only one week away. Each week leading up to the draft, we are going to dive into an NFL draft class starting with the Steelers 2004 NFL draft. In doing so, each player selected by the Steelers will be highlighted as to how their NFL career, or lack thereof, took shape. Next week, the remaining three drafts will be combined as many of those draft choices are still with the Steelers on their rookie deals.
Part 14 of 15 will highlight the Steelers 2017 NFL draft, which will be the last single draft class covered.
So let’s take a look at the eight players drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2017 NFL draft:
Outside Linebacker, Wisconsin
Steelers fans should not have to be informed what is going on with Trent Jordan Watt these days. Already a two-time Pro Bowler and two-time First Team All-Pro, Watt has also been a finalist for the NFL Defensive Player of the Year the last two seasons. Of course, many feel Watt should already be a two-time winner. Entering 2021 and currently playing on his fifth-year option paying him just over $10 million, there is still a possibility Watt could get his contract extension this offseason. If it doesn’t come until next year, the Steelers would likely use the franchise tag if they need more time to back up the Brinks truck. In other words, the Steelers defensive captain is not going anywhere for a long time.
Wide receiver, USC
Although many Steelers fans were unhappy with this draft pick with the Steelers dire need at cornerback, JuJu Smith-Schuster stole the hearts of many fans his first couple years in the league. Putting up great numbers and earning a Pro Bowl selection in 2018, Smith-Schuster has not had the same production over the last two seasons. Of course, he played 2019 while battling an injury and without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. As fans assumed they would be bidding farewell to Smith-Schuster at the end of his rookie deal, JuJu reportedly took less money for at least one additional season in Pittsburgh.
Yet to be a full-time starter for the Steelers, Sutton is arguably the best cornerback the Steelers have drafted in recent years. Signing a two-year deal to stay in Pittsburgh through the 2022 season, Sutton will have his greatest chance of proving on the field why he is so highly regarded in the Steelers secondary to where he was retained while others were let go.
Running back, Pittsburgh
James Conner was selected with the Steelers third-round compensatory draft pick courtesy of the departure of Kelvin Beachum and became an instant fan favorite. Between overcoming cancer and being a hometown kid playing at the University of Pittsburgh, Conner saw limited action as a rookie. But when called upon in 2018 as Le’Veon Bell sat out the season in a contract dispute, Conner was selected to the Pro Bowl. Unfortunately, injuries and availability have been the biggest concern with Conner, although it is a common problem among running backs across the entire NFL. With the Steelers looking to revamp their running game for 2021, James Conner was allowed to test free agency and signed a one-year deal for $1.75 million with the Arizona Cardinals.
After graduating from the University of Tennessee with a degree in aerospace engineering and a 4.0 GPA, Dobbs was the Steelers third quarterback on the roster in 2017 and did not see any playing time. Earning the back-up role over Landry Jones in 2018, Dobbs threw his first regular-season NFL pass in the fourth quarter of the Steelers 23-16 win over the Ravens in Week 9. With Ben Roethlisberger having a come off the field for one play due to injury, Dobbs converted a 22-yard pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster on a 2nd & 20 from their own 5 yard line. After losing the back-up role to Mason Rudolph in 2019, Dobbs was traded to the Jacksonville Jaguars prior to Week 2 of the season. The Steelers received a fifth-round pick in the 2020 NFL draft which was subsequently used in the trade for Minkah Fitzpatrick. Used only as a back up and never appearing in a game, Dobbs was released by the Jaguars following training camp in 2020. The Steelers claimed Dobbs off waivers, but he was only active for one game in Week 17. Just recently, Dobbs signed back with the Steelers for 2021 in order to compete for a spot on the roster.
Defensive back, Utah
Making the 53-man roster in 2017, Allen appeared in 10 games his rookie year but only saw snaps on special teams. In his second season, Allen was initially released by the Steelers and signed to the practice squad. Activated in early October, Allen played in six games in 2018, once again only seeing snaps on special teams. To start the 2019 season, Allen was placed on injured reserve at the end of August and was waved several days later with an injury settlement. Signing with the Seahawks on their practice squad, Allen spent the remainder of 2019 in Seattle and signed a futures contract for 2020 only to be waived in early August. Allen and then joined the Buffalo Bills late in training camp but did not ultimately make the team. Allen was later signed to the 49ers practice squad and was elevated for one game where he played his only defensive snaps of his NFL career to date. On 24 snaps, Allen was targeted six times with five completions for 124 yards and a touchdown surrendered. Released in late October, Allen join the Bengals practice squad in early November and signed to the Cleveland Browns active roster ahead of their playoff matchup with the Steelers. Allen re-signed with the Browns for the 2021 season.
Long snapper, Louisville
To say Steelers fans were scratching their heads when they selected a long snapper in the sixth round would be an understatement. What was even worse is Holba did not win the starting job after the retirement of Greg Warren and instead Steelers went with Kameron Canaday. Holba has since bounced around the NFL and has appeared in 19 games between the Jacksonville Jaguars, San Francisco 49ers, and New York Giants. Holba signed a Reserve/Future contract with the Los Angeles Rams this offseason. But one thing no one will will ever be able to take away from Holba is his home run derby championship during the Steelers 2017 training camp.
Outside linebacker, Western Michigan
Missing his entire rookie season after landing on the Reserve/Injured List with a shoulder injury, Adams did not make the Steelers roster in his second season but was signed to the practice squad for the entire year. After signing a Reserve/Future contract in the offseason, Adams was released following the 2019 NFL draft. Catching on with the New York Giants, Adams landed on injured reserve again before the start of the season and was waived in October. Currently, Adams has signed a contract to play with the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the Canadian Football League for the 2021 season.