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Pittsburgh Steelers Draft Review: the class of 2011

We continue to go back through the analysis of Mike Tomlin's draft classes, and today's feature is the class of 2011.

Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

In 2011, the Pittsburgh Steelers were looking to address the growing need along the defensive line, and only had 7 draft picks in this draft. Nonetheless, the team, coming off a devastating Super Bowl 45 loss to the Green Bay Packers, took care of business with the 31st pick in the draft. After that, well, that is up for debate.

2011 Draft Class:

1st Round: 31st selection - DT Cameron Heyward
2nd Round: 63rd selection - OT Marcus Gilbert
3rd Round: 95th selection - DB Curtis Brown
4th Round: 128th selection - DB Cortez Allen
5th Round: 162nd selection - LB Chris Carter
6th Round: 196th selection - OL Keith Williams
7th Round: 232nd selection - RB Baron Batch

Upon further review, this draft class didn't have much shock and awe to it from top to bottom. In the first round, Heyward was an easy selection for the team, and despite a below average freshman and sophomore years in the NFL, Heyward has come into his own as a professional and seems to be the vocal leader of the defense, as well as the team's best defender, heading into the 2015 season.

In the second round, Marcus Gilbert being selected seemed to make sense. A big left tackle to protect Ben Roethlisberger's blind side. Only problem is, Gilbert now plays right tackle. Gilbert failed to show the athleticism and technique to anchor the left tackle position, but seems to have found his niche as the team's starting right tackle. Gilbert was given a new contract entering the 2014 season, and despite missing several games due to injury, had a decent 2014 campaign.

The third round whiff of defensive back Curtis Brown was a pick which hurt the Steelers. Looking at their secondary they knew they would need to address the cornerback position eventually, and took two in back-to-back rounds. Brown did stick around on special teams until 2013, but was then released and hasn't played in the NFL since.

The second of consecutive cornerbacks selected was Cortez Allen. Allen is the enigma most Steelers fans hope to crack in 2015. Allen had a stellar second half to the 2013 season, but followed it up with one of the worst seasons a defensive back has had in a black and gold uniform in a long time, routinely being picked on by opposing quarterbacks, and when he wasn't being burned for a big gain, he was drawing a penalty. Allen does have good ball skills, and after signing a new contract before the 2014 season, like Gilbert, the Steelers are banking on Allen to anchor the secondary in 2015 with the recent retirement of veteran Ike Taylor.

In the 5th round, Chris Carter, a versatile linebacker, was selected and Carter played a significant amount for the Steelers in his time there. While playing both special teams and backup linebacker, Carter played sparingly in 2011 and 2012. In 2013, he played in 13 games and started one, but without registering a sack in his career. Carter was eventually waived by the team in 2014 and was signed by the Cincinnati Bengals, who also released him. He was eventually signed by the Indianapolis Colts.

The 6th round saw the Steelers attempt to sign a versatile offensive lineman in Keith Williams, but the attempt was no successful. Williams did not make the roster his rookie season, and eventually signed with the Buffalo Bills. Since 2012, Williams has not played a down in the NFL.

With the Steelers' final pick in the 2011 draft, they selected running back Baron Batch from Texas A&M. Batch had a tremendous training camp his rookie season, and looked to be a shoe in for a backup role behind then starter Rashard Mendenhall, but a torn ACL derailed those plans. Following the surgery, Batch stuck around with the Steelers playing in 12 games in 2012 until failing to make the team the following season. Batch hasn't played in the NFL since and is known now more for his artwork and writing than his time wearing a football helmet.

BTSC Overview:

The class of 2011 catches a lot of flack from fans, as do most draft classes from Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin, but this class of 7 has 3 players who still remain to be significant members of the current 2015 Pittsburgh Steelers. Between Heyward, Gilbert and Allen, the Steelers most certainly are seeing the fruits of their draft labor. As stated earlier, the 3rd round muff of Curtis Brown hurt the team's future at DB, but can't stain the entire draft class either.

Overall Grade: C