Jarvis Jones, outside linebacker, Georgia - This is the pick that people have been projecting for a few months now and let me say, I am thrilled with this selection. How often do you get the chance to select a player with Jones' production in the middle of the first round? Sure, he is almost 24 years old and he has some back issues but he still is a dominant force in the run game and as a pass rusher. He will come in and contribute right away. Lebeau will find a way to get he, Timmons, Worilds, and Woodley on the field at the same time and it will scare opposing teams. The Steelers lost James Harrison and replaced him with Jarvis Jones. You can't say they are not trying to build for the future when you look at that. Jones will be a dominant force in the NFL and this will go down as one of the best picks Colbert has made in a long time.
Le'Veon Bell, running back, Michigan State - This is the pick that has taken the most heat so far from Steelers fans and I see why. There were plenty of talented players on the board still (Arthur Brown is the main one) that might have been better picks. However, out of all the players who the Steelers drafted, Bell will probably have the biggest impact in his first season. I see Bell easily winning the job to be the starting running back. He is a powerful back capable of taking 30 carries a game. He will wear down defenses. He will convert third and shorts. He can pass block well. He might never be considered an elite running back in the NFL but I see him having a long, productive career.
Markus Wheaton, wide receiver, Oregon State - This is probably my favorite pick of all the mid round selections. Wheaton does not have elite speed or elite size (although he has great speed and good size) but he is an elite route runner who rarely drops anything. I believe that by year's end, he will be the teams number two wide receiver. He, Brown, and Sanders bring a great combination of skills that will allow the Steelers to be dynamic on offense. Wheaton can play anywhere on the field and will do a lot of damage out of the slot. He will make people miss and his reliable hands will be something much needed because I can't deal with watching our receivers drop wide open passes anymore.
Shamarko Thomas, safety, Syracuse - The Steelers traded a 2014 3rd round pick to move up and get Thomas in the fourth round, which drew some ire from fans. However, I do not think that is a problem because the Steelers are all but guaranteed to receive the 33rd pick in the third round last year, just one spot behind where their original third round pick will be. As for Thomas himself, he is a stud. He is the hardest hitting safety in this class and just has a penchant for destroying receivers. He will contribute on special teams this year and once Clark or Polamalu move on, he will be a starter.
Landry Jones, quarterback, Oklahoma - Picking a backup quarterback was going to happen this year and the Steelers decided Landry Jones was their guy. I like Jones as a developmental prospect because he has good physical tools. He needs work on his mechanics and he needs to improve under pressure. Thankfully, he gets to learn from the best quarterback in the NFL in terms of dealing with pressure. The goal of this pick is to develop Jones to the point where in two to three years, he has shown enough to get a second or third round pick from a team in need of a starter. He is not the quarterback of the future because Big Ben still has four to six good years in him.
Terry Hawthorne, cornerback, Illinois - Hawthorne fits the mold of Steelers corners recently. He is a great tackler, a good athlete, and can make plays on the ball. He needs some work on his technique and making reads but with the way Carnell Lake has been developing our corners, expect Hawthorne to become a good player as well. He has the tools to become a really solid corner and I think he will contribute a good amount on special teams as well.
Justin Brown, wide receiver, Oklahoma - Brown is a physical wide receiver who is already a polished run blocker. He does not have blazing speed but it is adequate and he is very reliable with his hands. He won't ever be an elite receiver but he could be a steady number three or four type of receiver who can be used on run packages as well.
Vince Williams, inside linebacker, Florida State - Outside of Wheaton, this was my favorite pick in the draft. Williams is a tremendous run defender with good enough athleticism to be a three down backer. I think within a year or two, he will be our starting buck linebacker. He is also a tremendous leader and a great person and won't cause any locker room issues.
Nick Williams, defensive tackle, Samford - I didn't know much about Williams when he was drafted but after doing some research, he seems like an athletic linemen with a ton of upside. It will probably take a few years, but if he can stick around and if he takes instruction well, he could become a good player, similar to the path Steve McLendon has taken with the Steelers.
Overall Thoughts: This is going to be a very good class with a lot of contributors. There are only two players with star potential (Jones and Thomas) but guys like Bell, Wheaton, Hawthorne, and Vince Williams could have long, productive careers with the Steelers. There are no character concerns which I love. It is a compilation of hard working individuals who put the team first. This class could contribute a ton right away and could be considered the class that started the rebuilding process for the next decade. The Steelers clearly drafted for need but also made good value selections at those needs. They filled their needs at OLB, RB, WR, S, and ILB and that was what they had to do.