Steelers rookie minicamp: Mike Tomlin sets expectations for rookie class


It's understandable why Tomlin would keep his sights lower on his 2013 draft class. Judging by the 2012 class's general issues, both self-caused and unexpected, lower is better.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin is quick to temper expectations over his team's draft class in 2013.

It's the smart thing to do.

After all, last season's draft class came with big expectations as well, and even for a rookie class, they fell far short of those expectations. Injuries, off-the-field (and on the field) problems and inconsistency plagued a class that got basically no production from its first round pick, injured guard David DeCastro, a middling overall season as well as injuries from second round pick Mike Adams and a career-threatening injury from its third round pick, Sean Spence. The answer over whether Spence will play in 2013 or ever again seems to depend on who you talk to within the Steelers organization.

Alameda Ta'amu was a guest of the county after playing slalom with multiple parked cars and police officers in downtown Pittsburgh during the season. He was technically released, and signed to the team's practice squad.

Chris Rainey, a decent return man his rookie year, provided essentially nothing on the offensive end, was released after a domestic incident had him arrested. It was his second offense for a crime of a similar nature. The Steelers traded their sixth round pick to move up in the fourth to get Ta'amu, meaning all they have in 2013 to show for three picks is Ta'amu, who has as much game experience as the newest class does.

They got spot starts and plenty of playing time from seventh round picks Kelvin Beachum and David Paulson, but neither are expected to hold down starting positions this season. The team has since released the two other seventh round picks, CB Terrence Frederick and WR Toney Clemons.

Tomlin took a big picture stance when speaking to Tribune-Review reporter Alan Robinson Sunday.

"We're just laying a foundation for their careers," Tomlin said. "It's just familiarizing yourself with the young men, how they learn and how they move, areas in which they may be deficient."

It's easy to get excited about a class that carries as much promise as this one does, but the interesting thing is the Steelers didn't draft a player with the high likelihood of developing into one of the best in the league at his position, like DeCastro, or a tantalizing athletic talent like Adams. For as solid as many feel Le'Veon Bell and Markus Wheaton are, they have limitations from a physical perspective.

But what they have, by most accounts, is exactly what the 2012 class lacks, in retrospect. Maturity.

That's why Tomlin's message is both perfectly suited for the situation and the perfect mentality to apply.

These rookies may see quite a bit of playing time right out of the gate, or they may not play at all. But like every draft, the real evaluation will come in another year, or two or even three. Expectations will be raised considerably for both classes by that point.

Then we'll see how well Tomlin's message sunk in their heads.

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