I typically don’t try to analyze a particular draft class by the Pittsburgh Steelers until several years have passed and the players have had more of an opportunity to establish their body of work. but the Steelers have a large amount of rookies that are actually seeing significant time on the field this year, which is something that is so rare for the Steelers organization that I felt this analysis could actually be accurate.
First-round draft pick Jarvis Jones has been in a tough situation since day one. Steelers legend James Harrison departed for the Cincinnati Bengals, and suddenly the fan base is expecting this rookie to step in and be as productive as Harrison was. Those are unfair standards for the best of pass rushers to live up to, but even with those expectations, Jones has gotten one thing that most rookie outside line backers don’t get with the Steelers: experience.
Although his numbers are dismal, the experience he is getting is priceless. Jones is slowly learning that the moves that worked in college to get to the quarterback won’t work against the best of the best in the NFL. Its entirely too early to call Jones a bust within the complex Steelers 3-4 scheme.
Le’Veon Bell was hampered with injuries early in his rookie season, but has been turning it on as of late. He has shown the versatility to not only get the tough yards in the running game, but also catch the ball out of the backfield. Only 11 players in the NFL have accounted for 90 total yards every week, and Bell is one of them. He is a budding superstar in the league, and the three-down back will be the Steelers’ running back for years to come.
One player who hasn’t had such a showing is Markus Wheaton, who has struggled to crack the lineup. However, a big reason for that was a broken finger that required surgery and kept him out of the lineup for four weeks. Wheaton has the look of a bigger Antonio Brown as his route running is superb, but he needs to get acclimated to the big stage that is NFL football.
Wheaton has had his chances and is starting to cash in on them. His role will expand next season with Jerricho Cotchery departing and Emmanuel Sanders also a possibility to leave.
Fourth-round pick Shamarko Thomas has seen significant playing time as a rookie safety in the nickel and dime packages the Steelers’ defense deploys to help stop offenses of spreading them out. Thomas missed two games due to a high ankle sprain, but it is apparent that he is the future at safety for the Steelers. He has tremendous work ethic and will blossom when he can grasp and understand the concepts of Dick Lebeau‘s defensive scheme.
It wasn’t until the Steelers’ second sixth round pick that they selected Vince Williams, a rookie linebacker from Florida State. Williams has taken over the role of inside linebacker along side Lawrence Timmons, filling in for injured Larry Foote. Williams started off slowly, but has picked up his production as he gets more experience within the Steelers’ system. Williams was certainly a diamond in the rough for the Steelers’ 2013 draft class.
The biggest difference between this draft class and previous draft classes is the amount of playing time that this group is seeing. The top four picks have all gotten valuable experience this season, something that will only benefit this team in the future.
Jeff Hartman covers the Pittsburgh Steelers for RantSports.com and also contributes for the Penguins and Pirates. Follow him on Twitter @BnGBlitz