By Jeremy Hritz
The optimism following the 2013 NFL Draft is always electric. In a perfect 2013 NFL season, Jarvis Jones would lead the league in sacks, Le’Veon Bell would rush for 1500 yards, and Markus Wheaton would make Steelers fans even happier that Mike Wallace left for Miami. The reality is, however, nobody knows how these players will turn out, and whether or not they all will make the roster.
The 2013 NFL Draft saw the Steelers address several areas of need, although Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert will have you believe that their picks fell according to their draft board.
Jones was at one time Mel Kiper’s top rated prospect heading into the draft until an average workout at his pro day caused his stock to descend. His production and instincts were enough for the Steelers to overlook his workout numbers, and if he can produce like he did at Georgia, the Steelers defense could regain the moniker of Blitzburgh. The other red mark on Jones was his spinal stenosis, which has shortened the career of NFL players before. However, it would be difficult to believe that the Steelers would burn their first round pick on a player without getting the necessary medical clearances from their doctors.
The drafting of Jones also raises the question that was floating around last year around this time, which was will Jason Worilds move inside? Undoubtedly, Jones has a long way to go before he becomes a starter, yet if he can learn the defense and produce, would it not seem fitting to shift Worilds? While it is unlikely to happen, this will be something worth monitoring moving forward.
Bell has the greatest chance to start next season, and many would be surprised if he did not come week one in Pittsburgh against the Tennessee Titans. Many want to compare Bell to Jerome Bettis, but let’s not get carried away. While he is a big, physical back with good hands, will he be able to continue his production against NFL defenders? If Bell does in fact start and does produce, it will alleviate some of the pressure on Ben Roethlisberger and the passing game and make the offense better. The Steelers must get production out of Bell to improve in 2013. As a result of this pick, it will be interesting to see what happens with Jonathan Dwyer in the coming months, as it was rumored he was on the trade block yesterday.
Wheaton won’t have as much pressure on him as will Jones and Bell because he is not going to be expected to be the featured receiver. Wheaton will be a role player and will be given opportunities to stretch the field. If he can show that he can haul in a few bombs or take a slant or two all the way for a score, then he will have fulfilled expectations in 2013.
Outside of our top three picks, we shouldn’t expect much production out of our other picks, except maybe for Shamarko Thomas later in the season on some passing downs. Landry Jones, Terry Hawthorne, Justin Brown, Vince Williams, and Nicholas Williams are all developmental players who may or may not make the roster and will be counted on for depth.
Now begins the process of refining and molding a roster that can compete for a championship. With a little over four months before the first regular season game, the Steelers have a lot of work to do, and after this weekend, there is much optimism to get started.