A year ago today, I felt like a kid in a candy store. The Pittsburgh Steelers were coming off a draft where really the only concern I had was Mike Adams being taken in the second round. From top to bottom, the 2012 draft for the Steelers looked good on paper and had the potential to be really, really good.
And then the season started…
David DeCastro was lost for most of it with an injury suffered during a preseason game. Sean Spence went down with a catastrophic knee injury in the preseason and Mike Adams was slow to pick things up before playing and eventually getting hurt. Do I even need to mention Alameda Ta’amu?
5th round pick Chris Rainey was a bright spot in the return game but was cut following a domestic assault allegation and amazingly, two other players who saw the most time were 7th round selections in tight end David Paulson and tackle Kelvin Beachum.
With all of that said, the 2013 draft for the Steelers looks promising as well.
The Steelers have an absolute pass-rushing beast in Jarvis Jones and a running back for the future in Le’Veon Bell. Receiver Markus Wheaton is a durable, speedy guy who could fit in well with Todd Haley’s offense and safety Shamarko Thomas could be the steal of the draft in the fourth round.
QB Landry Jones will certainly be a player to keep an eye on as the team felt grabbing him in the fourth was worth it. Can he become the back-up and eventual replacement to Ben Roethlisberger is obviously the major question.
The guy who could be a player down the road is Terry Hawthorne, a defensive back from Illinois. He has very good size and strength but has to improve his back pedal and get his hips on a swivel a little better. If he can do that, I can see him contributing in the next few years.
In wide receiver Justin Brown, the Steelers get a 6th round pick with good size (6’3″) and decent productivity as he once had a 73-catch season at Oklahoma. He was a Penn State guy before transferring to Norman. It’ll be very interesting to see if he can do enough to make the team.
I give credit to the Steelers front office for finally targeting a guy to play inside linebacker which Vince Williams will be tasked with doing. Whether that is the ‘mack’ or ‘buck’ is unclear but they needed to add depth here regardless.
The final pick of the Steelers according to defensive line coach Jon Mitchell is a ‘project.’ Nicholas Williams of Samford is a former basketball player who played just one year of football in high school. His basketball quickness paid off in many of the combine-type drills where he was quicker than even top prospects.
He will more than likely be a practice squad guy but with his size (6’5″ 320lbs) he was easily worth the seventh and final round pick if he pays off down the road.
As was the case in 2012, the Steelers have had a nice draft loaded with players who can contribute immediately and some who will take time to develop. Each must be taken with a grain of salt however because injuries can happen at any time making this draft look all too much like it’s older brother.
Marc Uhlmann writes for and co-owns www.steelcityblitz.com. Follow him on Twitter @steeldad and follow the website at @SCBlitz. He can be heard Mondays on Trib-Live Radio at 4pm ET talking Steelers.