Now that the Pittsburgh Steelers‘ 2013 season has concluded and the team has already started their reconstruction for next season, it is time to evaluate. A season with both highs and lows ended with hoping a number of other teams would lose to get a chance to slide into the playoffs. So, how did the Steelers do overall? To be more specific, how did the rookies carry the load this year?
The Steelers relied on the 2013 rookie class more than any other in the last several years. Imagine the offense this season without Le’Veon Bell. The rookie running back helped carry the offense to great success in the second half of the season. Without a doubt, this rookie class was important to the black and gold, and that is why I broke down the rookie and their contribution to the team.
First round pick Jarvis Jones was a perfect example of how complex the Steelers’ defense is. The 17th overall pick from Georgia started eight games in Dick LeBeau’s 3-4 defensive scheme at right outside linebacker. Jones took over one of the best linebackers to ever put on a Steelers helmet, James Harrison. His numbers did not impress — just 40 tackles and one sack made up this rookie’s season. The future looks brighter for Jones once he gets his handle on the defense.
Like previously mentioned, Bell’s season was definitely a success. His 1,259 yards from scrimmage finished as a franchise record, beating out Hall of Fame running back Franco Harris. Bell proved he can be an every down back along with ability to catch the ball.
Third round wide receiver Markus Wheaton had one set back after another in his first season. Wheaton’s numbers read just six catches for 64 yards, but with two hand injuries and one that required surgery, Wheaton’s season was dedicated to the medical staff. The young receiver has much to prove in his second year, as he will most likely take on a bigger role.
Safety Shamarko Thomas did better than the stat sheet will show. He made two starts and made his way onto the field in the nickel packages on defense. His presence allowed Troy Polamalu to roam the field or stay in the linebacker position all year long.
Landry Jones did not see the field at all his rookie season, as he backed up quarterbacks Ben Roethlisberger and Bruce Gradkowski all season.
Cornerback Terry Hawthorne was released after the preseason and was not chosen to be signed to the practice squad.
Wide receiver Justin Brown spent the entire season on the practice squad, however, the rookie wide receiver did show potential in preseason.
Linebacker Vince Williams was forced to step into a starting role a lot faster than the Steelers would have liked. When Larry Foote went down with a torn bicep in Week 1, the sixth round rookie from Florida State had to step into the buck linebacker role. The Steelers have to be happy for what the future holds for Williams. He finished the season with 53 tackles and 11 starts.
Nicholas Williams spent 2013 on injured reserve, stopping his season before it really started. However, the potential and raw talent Williams possesses can be something the Steelers have been waiting for.
So, in a nutshell, here is how the rookies performed in 2013. All of their fates still have yet to be determined on this roster. All together, I give the Steelers an above average grade for finding late talent in Williams and the success of Bell.
Time will tell how they will finish, but for now, this is the final word.