Saturday, April 19, 2014
Steelers' draft review: 2013
By Scott Brown
PITTSBURGH -- The is the last in a series that reviews the Steelers' drafts under general manager Kevin Colbert and coach Mike Tomlin.
Next up is the 2013 draft:
Total picks: 9
Picks still with the team: 8
Best pick: RB Le'Veon Bell. The second-round selection set a Steelers record for yards from scrimmage by a rookie (1,259) despite missing the first three games because of a foot injury. Bell's receiving skills -- and the trust quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has in the Michigan State product picking up blitzes -- make him an every-down back. Bell improved as a runner as he adjusted to the speed of defenses at this level, and he rushed for 214 yards and two touchdowns in his final two games of the 2013 season. The only question with Bell moving forward is how much the Steelers will ease his workload after signing former Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount last month.
Worst pick: QB Landry Jones. This is nothing against Jones and all on the Steelers for using a fourth-round pick on a quarterback when they had more pressing needs, particularly on defense. Jones didn't dress for a game last season, and what made taking a quarterback in the fourth round all the more curious is the Steelers did it after signing veteran Bruce Gradkowski to a three-year contract to back up Roethlisberger. Jones will continue to see limited snaps even in practice as long as Roethlisberger and Gradkowski stay healthy.
Best value pick: LB Vince Williams. The second of the Steelers' two sixth-round picks started 11 games as a rookie, eventually settling in at left inside linebacker following a season-ending arm injury to veteran Larry Foote. Williams recorded 66 tackles and improved as the season progressed, particularly against the run. There are questions about whether Williams, the 206th overall pick of the draft, can play the pass well enough to establish himself as a long-term starter. But the Florida State product has already proven his value as a run-stopping linebacker and special-teams contributor. Even if he does not hang onto his starting job alongside Lawrence Timmons, Williams gives the Steelers quality depth at inside linebacker.
Also of note: Outside linebacker Jarvis Jones, the 17th overall pick of the draft, started eight games last season but managed just one sack. Jones did record nine tackles in the regular-season finale, almost doubling his previous high (five) for stops in a game. ... Third-round pick Markus Wheaton played just 157 snaps and caught six passes for 64 yards. He is expected to get the first crack at replacing Emmanuel Sanders, who signed with the Broncos last month, in the starting lineup. ... Cornerback Terry Hawthorne, a fifth-round pick, has not signed with another team since the Steelers released him at the end of preseason practice. ... Seventh-round pick Nick Williams has a real opportunity after spending last season on injured reserve because of a knee injury. The Steelers are thin at defensive end and they will give Williams a long look during offseason practices and training camp.
Final analysis/grade: So much of the Steelers' draft hinges on the jump Jarvis Jones and Wheaton make in their second season -- and whether the two become productive starters. Assuming that happens and fourth-round pick Shamarko Thomas works his way into the rotation at safety, this has the makings of a very good class. But it is too early to put a grade on it so I will give the Steelers an incomplete here.