Breaking down the Pittsburgh Steelers' class in the 2019 NFL draft.
Round 1, No. 10 overall: Devin Bush, ILB, Michigan
My take: The Steelers went bold to solve an obvious need at inside linebacker by trading up 10 spots for one of the best overall players in the draft. At 234 pounds, Bush is versatile, instinctive, has 4.4 speed and loves to hit. Replacing Ryan Shazier in the middle of the defense required a normally conservative franchise to get aggressive, and the move should pay off.
Within limits: General manager Kevin Colbert felt comfortable making the Bush deal because of the caliber of the player and what he had to give up to get him. Parting with a second-round pick was reasonable enough. But Colbert had a clear criterion: He wanted two Day 2 picks in 2019 for roster improvement. So, the Steelers threw in a third-rounder for next year and keep their two third-round picks for Friday. "Giving up the two, that's what you pay for," Colbert said.
Doing it all: The Steelers coveted Bush for all the boxes he checked, and the ones he refused to leave blank. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin called Bush an "all-situations player" who doesn't have to leave the field. The coach added the staff is "equally fired up" about Bush's intangibles. Bush's father, Devin Bush Sr., was an NFL safety for eight seasons. Bush believes his speed from sideline to sideline is suited for today's NFL. "I can cover. I can blitz. I can play the run, play the pass," Bush said.
Round 3, No. 66 overall: Diontae Johnson, WR, Toledo
My take: The Steelers use the pick from the Antonio Brown trade to select a player with shades of Brown. Johnson is 5-10, played in the MAC, can line up anywhere on the field and is a "naturally gifted" pass-catcher, Pittsburgh receivers coach Darryl Drake said. Sound familiar? "He can make people miss in open space," Drake said. On paper, this might be a reach -- Johnson said he expected to go in the late third or early fourth rounds -- but Johnson and Drake both insist he's quicker on the field than his 4.53 40 time suggests. "Once I put the pads on and get the ball in my hands, I'm faster," said Johnson, who visited the Steelers in the pre-draft process.
Round 3, No. 83 overall: Justin Layne, CB, Michigan State
My take: The Steelers get a big, physical outside corner to develop alongside veteran starters Joe Haden and Steven Nelson. Many projected Layne to go in the second round because of his frame (6-foot-2, 192 pounds) and willingness to compete at the line of scrimmage. "I didn't think he'd be around this long," Pittsburgh assistant Teryl Austin said. With Layne and inside linebacker Devin Bush, the Steelers fill two defensive needs with proven Big Ten talent. And Layne, who can begin on special teams, is eager to prove himself after a Day 2 slide. "They are gonna feel me," he said.
Round 4, No. 122 overall: Benny Snell Jr., RB, Kentucky
My take: This is a prototypical Steelers pick -- a hard-nosed, between-the-tackles runner to complement James Conner. You have to love his pedigree. His great uncle, Matt Snell, rushed for 121 yards and a touchdown in the Jets' Super Bowl III upset of the Colts. His father, Benny Sr., spent time with the Ravens and played in the XFL. Snell Jr. left Kentucky as the school's all-time rushing leader despite pedestrian speed (4.7 in the 40). -- Rob Demovsky
Round 5, No. 141 overall: Zach Gentry, TE, Michigan
My take: A former quarterback prospect, Gentry is a monster target at 6-foot-8, but many felt he struggled to get off blocks at the collegiate level. Still, Gentry has the potential and natural athleticism to possibly develop into an offensive weapon, but it could take time. Selecting a tight end -- even a developmental one -- makes sense for Pittsburgh. The Steelers are searching for additional tight end help behind Vance McDonald and Xavier Grimble. -- Jeff Dickerson
Round 6, No. 175 overall: Sutton Smith, OLB, Northern Illinois
My take:Smith was one of the most productive pass-rushers in college football. He was one of two players to finish with at least 10 sacks in each of the past two seasons (first-round pick Montez Sweat was the other). There are questions whether he has the size to be a rush linebacker in the NFL. His immediate impact probably will come on special teams. -- Jamison Hensley
Round 6, No. 192 overall: Isaiah Buggs, DT, Alabama
My take: Nicknamed "Big Pooh," he played some defensive end in college but is likely to become a defensive tackle in the NFL at 6-foot-3, 306 pounds. He has a good base and is strong on the lower half of his body that should help him in the middle of the Steelers' defensive line. This, though, will be a project for Pittsburgh. -- Michael Rothstein
Round 6, No. 207 overall: Ulysees Gilbert III, ILB, Akron
My take: Gilbert was a tackling machine at Akron, amassing 359 in 51 career games. The Steelers' effort to build out their linebacker corps has been well-documented, starting with the first-round trade that landed Bush. At this point in the draft, it's best to consider Gilbert a special teams player who might develop into a defensive contributor at some point. -- Kevin Seifert
Round 7, No. 219 overall: Derwin Gray, OT, Maryland
My take: Gray, who started at left tackle for Maryland, possesses good size at 6 feet 4, 320 pounds, but he may end up at guard in Pittsburgh. The Steelers likely view Gray as a swing player on their offensive line, which not only increases Gray’s overall value, but also increases the likelihood he’s active on game day. Gray projects to be a backup/special teams contributor as a rookie – granted he makes the team and is on the 46-man roster on Sundays.