2023 NFL Draft

Steelers Depot Draft Discussion VII: Fixing One Mistake Of Mike Tomlin Era

This is the seventh in a 10-part series that concludes on April 26, the day before the 2023 NFL Draft starts. Each day Depot staff members offer their spin on a Steelers-related draft question.

You get one mulligan (a do-over for non-golfers) in Mike Tomlin-era drafts. The mulligan is one pick, not entire drafts. How are you using it?

Dave Bryan: Yes, this is a tough one and there are so many directions I could go in. I can’t help but think what would have happened had the Steelers not selected OLB Jarvis Jones in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft at 17 overall and instead picked WR DeAndre Hopkins. Sure, the Steelers had wide receivers Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders at the time, but the latter was in the final year of his rookie contract. He was gone via free agency in 2014. Remember, the Steelers selected WR Marcus Wheaton in the third round of that 2013 draft and yet another wide receiver in the sixth round in the form of Justin Brown.

Selecting Hopkins instead of Jones would have had a trickle-down effect. Maybe that would have resulted in John Simon being the outside linebacker selection for the Steelers a round earlier than he went. Who knows? All I know is that the Steelers’ active wide receivers in Week 1 of the following 2014 season were Antonio Brown, Wheaton, Justin Brown, and Darrius Heyward-Bey as then-rookie Martavis Bryant wasn’t active yet. Just imagine having Antonio Brown and Hopkins in that offense from 2013 and on. The Steelers 2013 draft class wound up with just two hits in RB Le’Veon Bell and ILB Vince Williams. It would have been three had Hopkins been picked instead of Jones, whom I warned ahead of that draft was very overrated.

Josh Carney: Artie Burns is the most recent answer, but I still can’t get over the Jarvis Jones selection. Outside of production at the SEC level, nothing screamed “Steelers outside linebacker” with Jones. The former SEC Player of the Year certainly had the resume coming out of college: two straight years of being named a consensus All-American and winner of the Jack Lambert Trophy and the Premier Player of College Football Trophy.

What he didn’t have was the testing numbers. They were dismal and raised a number of questions ahead of the 2013 NFL Draft — and had a number of teams dropping him off their boards completely. Many, that is, outside of Pittsburgh. It’s always fun to look back at the 2013 draft and see who the Steelers could have had in the first round other than Jones. Names include tight end Tyler Eifert, cornerbacks Desmond Trufant and Xavier Rhodes, and receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Jones had bad testing numbers, poor measurables and some medical red flags. It was a terrible decision.

Jonathan Heitritter: If I got a mulligan on one pick, I’m using it on the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft and switching out Artie Burns for Chris Jones of the Chiefs. Burns was seen as a bust in just his second season in the league whereas Jones has become a perennial All-Pro in Kansas City. While he profiles as a prototypical 3-4 DE in Pittsburgh’s scheme, imagine having a rotation of Cam Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, and Chris Jones up front before Tuitt’s injury and currently having Jones and Heyward in the middle of the Steelers defense. The thought is absolutely absurd.

Alex Kozora: I’m sure the comments below will have a field day with this one. Honestly, I have a tough time with this one. I’m in the minority opinion that this team has drafted better than people think over the years, especially if we’re talking specific players and not overall team philosophy. The worst thing a team can do in a draft is panic. In taking CB Artie Burns in 2016, the Steelers needed to pop a Xanax. William Jackson III goes off the board, forcing the Steelers to pivot to Burns. It’s just bad process.

Now, there wasn’t an incredible player immediately taken after they passed over (Kenny Clark sure would’ve looked nice in a Steelers’ uniform though, ditto Chris Jones) but the process of “we need a CB, we’re taking a CB” is how you get picks like Burns. Guys who were raw and not great scheme fits, Kevin Colbert admitted as much, become the biggest eyesore on your drafting resume.

Matthew Marczi: Artie Burns would be an easy answer, but I will go with Jarvis Jones. He was a bad evaluation, quite possibly a lazy one, and it pretty much forced the Steelers to double dip at outside linebacker position two years later with Bud Dupree, who took a long time to develop. Unfortunately, the 2013 draft wasn’t a very good one in general, and for pass rushers specifically, so I can’t go back to the well. This being the benefit of hindsight, I take wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and I sign him to a long-term deal when the time comes. Saves some headaches, and maybe some draft picks, at that position down the road. And they probably escape some of the late-stage Antonio Brown madness.

Thank you for reading and please drop your answer to the question below.

Previous Depot draft discussions:

Two draft scenarios

The Steelers and RBs

Best draft pick in Steelers history

Buyer beware for Steelers

On the nose (tackle)

What if…Steelers and WRs

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