Continuing our feature of reviewing all of the Pittsburgh Steelers' draft classes under Mike Tomlin, we continue with the class of 2013. This was a talented group which certainly has it's stars, it's duds and a lot of question marks throughout. The team needed to address the departure of James Harrison to the Cincinnati Bengals, and thought they did so with their first overall draft pick.
The 2015 team finds themselves in a similar situation with the team desperately looking to fill a void at outside linebacker as the 2015 NFL Draft approaches. The Steelers rarely take a pass rusher in the first round, but they did so in 2013. Maybe the team can learn and adapt accordingly before the first round kicks off this Thursday April 30th.
2013 Steelers Draft class:
1st Round Selection: OLB, Jarvis Jones
2nd Round Selection: RB, Le'Veon Bell
3rd Round Selection: WR, Markus Wheaton
4th Round Selection: S, Shamarko Thomas
4th Round Selection: QB, Landry Jones
5th Round Selection: CB, Terry Hawthorne
6th Round Selection: WR, Justin Brown
6th Round Selection: LB, Vince Williams
7th Round Selection: DT, Nick Williams
With the 17th overall selection in the 2013 NFL Draft the Pittsburgh Steelers select Jarvis Jones, linebacker, University of Georgia.
When those words were spoken by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, there was excitement and disappoint surging throughout the Steelers' large fan base. The man who made a living getting to the quarterback in Georgia was tabbed to be the next great Steelers' pass rusher, but little did fans know that type of production would be far from the norm with Jones. Jones was forced into playing more than any rookie usually would in 2013 when Harrison wasn't retained by the team and left for Cincinnati. A sub-par rookie campaign could be overlooked, but when the sophomore season starts off promising, yet ends plagued with injuries, people want to know if the production will ever arrive. Jones is entering his 3rd season in the Steelers' defense and needs to live up to his first round draft status in 2015.
In the second round the Steelers stole a player many overlooked. By selecting Le'Veon Bell our of Michigan State, the team solidified their backfield for years to come. After dealing with foot issues his rookie season, Bell burst onto the season in 2014 and has gained over 2,000 yards on the ground and received over 1,200 yards in his short career. The sky is the limit for Bell, and the Steelers stole him in the second round of the draft.
Wide receiver Markus Wheaton was selected in the third round of the draft. Lauded for his tremendous route running and receiving skills, Wheaton dealt with injuries to his fingers his rookie season, but bounced back in his sophomore season. Despite only scoring two touchdowns in two seasons, Wheaton is slowly turning into a solid No. 3 receiver behind Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant, and could be a part of one of the best wide receiving corps in the NFL.
The Steelers had two 4th round picks, largely due to a trade with the Cleveland Browns to move up in the round, and with their first they selected safety Shamarko Thomas from Syracuse. Thomas played in nickel and dime sub packages his rookie season until an ankle injury left him out of the starting defense for the remainder of the season. In his second year he saw his playing time diminish as Will Allen was chosen to back up Troy Polamalu over him. With Polamalu's retirement, Shamarko will be the starter entering camp. Whether he keeps that job has yet to be determined.
With their second pick in the 4th round the Steelers provided a head-scratcher when they selected QB Landry Jones. Jones hasn't played a meaningful down in the NFL since being drafted, and hasn't dressed for a regular season game, but remains on the team's 53-man roster as the team's No. 3 quarterback. Jones has been given a chance in the preseason, but has looked awful in every game. Jones could see his time with Pittsburgh end if he cannot beat out Bruce Gradkowski for the backup position in 2015.
In the 5th round the Steelers selected cornerback Terry Hawthorne. Hawthorne would start a trend of 5th round cornerbacks who don't make the team's roster. Hawthorne failed to make the Steelers' roster after training camp and hasn't played a down of NFL football since.
The Steelers also had two sixth round draft picks. The first was spent on WR Justin Brown from Oklahoma. Brown spent his rookie season on the team's practice squad, but emerged in 2014 to play a significant amount of reps in the early portion of the season. When Martavis Bryant was activated midway through the year, Brown saw the writing on the wall and was released. The Buffalo Bills claimed him off waivers and he is now a current member of the Bills organization.
The second 6th round draft pick as LB Vince Williams from Florida State. Williams started almost every game his rookie season due to the biceps injury to Larry Foote, and for his lack of pass coverage Williams plays the run as well as anyone. With Ryan Shazier drafted in 2014, Williams was a predominant special teams player and back up throughout the season when Shazier was injured.
With their final draft pick of 2013, the Steelers selected defensive tackle Nicholas Williams in the seventh round. Williams didn't make the team's 53-man roster as a rookie.
BTSC Draft Overview:
Some might look at Jarvis Jones' lack of production and declare 'bust', but Jones still has a chance to prove the naysayers wrong. Le'Veon Bell certainly makes up for any mistakes made in the previous round, just as Vince Williams, Brown and Wheaton could be viewed as making up for the Landry Jones selection. The jury is still out on Shamarko Thomas, but he, like Jones, will have a chance to prove his worth in 2015.