Even though the Pittsburgh Steelers have a reputation of not starting rookies, the nine players that the organization selected in this year’s draft could have a major impact on the team’s 2013 season. The likelihood of all nine of the Steelers’ draft picks making the 53-man roster is highly possible. In addition, three or four of these rookies could have significant roles very early in the season.
Linebacker Jarvis Jones, running back LeVeon Bell and wide receiver Markus Wheaton were selected in the first, second and third rounds of the draft respectively. Both Jones and Bell have chances of being starters at their respective positions, as well as being candidates for the defensive and offensive rookie of the year awards.
In order for Jones and Bell to be named starters, they have to prove that they are worth it by beating out savvy veterans in training camp and during the preseason.
As for Wheaton, it’s pretty evident that he’ll be the offense’s third receiver behind Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders. However, Wheaton’s versatility should add a dimension to the passing game as well as help compensate for the potential absence of tight end Heath Miller.
The chances of the Steelers’ two fourth-round picks seeing a lot of playing time are slim, but the way injuries plagued the team last year proves that anyone’s number can be called at any time. Safety Shamarko Thomas and quarterback Landry Jones have the privilege of learning behind two future Hall of Famers in safety Troy Polamalu and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Polamalu’s age (32) and recent health issues could place some doubt in Steelers nation about their secondary. Thomas’ ability to quickly step to the learning curve will be essential. Jones, on the other hand, hopefully won’t be needed this season. He’ll learn not only from Roethlisberger, but also from another veteran quarterback in Bruce Gradkowski. This learning experience will benefit Jones and Pittsburgh in the long run.
Cornerback Terry Hawthorne, wide receiver Justin Brown, linebacker Vince Williams and defensive end Nick Williams were Pittsburgh’s final selections of this year’s draft. All of these players will add much-needed depth to the Steelers roster, as well as be great contributors to special teams.
Pittsburgh’s season will be highly dependent upon the performance of their 2013 rookie class. Just like the veterans, the Steelers’ rookies will be looked upon to make huge contributions to help the team rebound from last year’s disastrous campaign and once again become frontrunners for the Lombardi Trophy.
Clyde A. Speller is an NFL writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @ClydeASpeller, or add him to your network on Google+