On Saturday, the Pittsburgh Steelers reached out and selected one of the most awarded receivers in the 2016 NFL Draft class in University of Houston in Demarcus Ayers. In the seventh round (229th overall), Ayers joined a Steelers team that has been defense-heavy thus far in the draft. Ayers was the recipient of at least thirteen collegiate football awards during his career with Houston and led the American Athletic Conference (ranked sixth in the nation in receptions).
Several of the awards Ayers received the past three seasons include: 2015 Phil Steele’s AAC First Team (PR & Wide Receiver), 2015 The American Athletic Conference’s First Team (Wide Receiver), 2015 The American Athletic Conference’s First Team (Return Specialist), American Athletic Conference Special Teams Player of the Week (Oct. 19, 2015), 2015 Biletnikoff Award Watch List, 2015 Athlon Sports Preseason AAC Second Team, 2015 Phil Steele’s Preseason AAC Third Team, 2014 CFPA Kick Returner Trophy Watch List, 2014 Phil Steele’s Preseason AAC First Team, 2014 Athlon Sports Preseason AAC First Team, 2013 American Athletic Conference All-Academic Football Team, 2013 The American Athletic Conference’s Special Teams Player of the Year and 2013 The American Athletic Conference’s First Team.
During his 2015 season, Ayers started all 14 games at receiver and was ranked 18th nationally with 1,222 receiving yards (in addition to his 98 receptions). Named a first-teamer in the American Athletic Conference as both a receiver and return specialist, Ayers had 28 punt returns for 290 yards and a touchdown and finished ranked third on the UH record books for career kickoff return yards with 1,613. In his final collegiate game against Florida State in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, Ayers had a game-high nine receptions for 82 yards, threw a 20-yard touchdown pass and rushed six times for 17 yards. His career-high game for receiving came against Navy, where Ayers had 161 yards on eight catches and a touchdown.
In high school, Ayers was a ranked three-star athlete by ESPN, Rivals, Scout and 247Sports and considered the number five athlete in the state of Texas by Dave Campbell. Ayers was ranked at 61 nationally by Scout and 95 Player in Texas by 247/Sports. Ayers was also named Dave Campbell’s District 15-4A Player of the Year.
Ayer’s athleticism and speed will add yet another dynamic to a Steelers offense and should boost a struggling special teams squad. His ability to see the field and stretch it will give quarterback Ben Roethlisberger another weapon as well. With the looming suspension of Martavis Bryant, the Steelers were expected to reach for a young receiver to give them in-house help after failing to make much noise during the free agency period.
Ayers joins Jerald Hawkins as the only other offensive player to be selected by Pittsburgh in the 2016 Draft.