Draft weekend exciting to watch hundreds of athletes realize their dreams of getting to the next level. The celebrations as their new head coach calls them is half of the fun of watching on TV. However, with many young men jumping into new jobs, comes the unfortunate reality that hundreds of NFL players were replaced this weekend. It is a tough business, and competition brings out the best.
With that in mind, these five players may have come into the weekend a bit worried about their status or position within the team. It is safe to say that these five also walked away from the weekend even happier than they entered.
Bud Dupree has not been a disappointment in his career but has not met expectations either. That is why it was no surprise to see the Steelers pick up his fifth-year option, but fail to negotiate a long term deal. They want to see him prove himself this season before committing.
Without a long term option across from T.J. Watt and without much depth to speak of the team waited until the 6th round to take Sutton Smith, an undersized outside linebacker who will primarily live on special teams. Dupree will walk into OTAs as the starter and there is not an immediate replacement near him on the roster. It may have just been the way the board broke, but the Steelers drafted Diontae Johnson over Chase Winovich with a chance to push Dupree. This speaks to the Steelers faith in him.
When Marcus Gilbert was traded some in the national spotlight said that the Steelers lost a starting right tackle. They never put the huge asterisk beside “starter” that notes that he started 12 of the Steelers last 33 games. Whether he was a “starter” or not, Matt Feiler started more games than Gilbert over the past two seasons. The Steelers drafted Chuks Okorafor in round three last year, with the understanding that Gilbert could not last much longer. The two will compete, and neither should be handed anything. However, the Steelers waited until round 7 to draft offensive line, and there are rumors that Derwin Gray will play guard in the NFL. Whether it be Feiler or Okorafor, the Steelers starting right tackle was on their roster before the weekend.
Another popular pick in mock drafts for the Steelers was safety. The team went safety heavy in the last draft adding Marcus Allen and Terrell Edmunds and went linebacker heavy this year double-dipping on Devin Bush and Ulysses Gilbert. Safeties have to defend the run and linebackers have to cover more than ever. The positions are becoming interchangeable. Still, the Steelers depth chart at safety currently has Sean Davis, Edmunds, Allen, Malik Golden, Jordan Dangerfield. When asked about the depth, and when asked about dime safety play, Mike Tomlin mentioned Allen as an option. They seem to see him as their clear number three safety and a top dime safety option.