Production From Jones, Bell, & Wheaton in 2013 = Successful Steelers Draft

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.

  • RW

    Always optimism at this point in the offseason. We’ll see how the draft picks pan out. Outside of Bell, I don’t expect any of them to have a significant impact immediately, but we’ll see!

  • dgh57

    Last years draft there were 3 players I really wanted to see play: DeCastro, Spence and Rainey!! To say I was disappointed in the out come would be a big time understatement!! Though I wasn’t expecting Spence to play much his rookie year I thought he was a intriguing prospect! It saddens me that he may never play football again foremost for him and I hope the best for him in his endeavors to recuperate from his injuries!!

    For this draft there are 4 players I’m anxious to see play!: Jones, Bell, Wheaton, and Thomas! Jones while I wasn’t crazy about the pick(because I wanted a trade down) I think I might warm up to him as time moves on. I like the Bell pick because he will inject some physicality into the offensive side of the line and I can’t argue with nearly 1800 yards rushing behind a average o-line in a shorter season to boot!! Wheaton was a good pick to me because should Sanders leave after next season we are covered though I hope he stays. Ah, my man S. Thomas I was hoping we would get him! He will do for the defense what Bell will do for the offense: inject some physicality! If you want to increase the turnover ratio to be more in our favor being physical(possible increase in sacks from Jones) is a start!


  • Stephen Dale

    Seeing is believing that more than 2-3 of this draft class will ever be much of a contributor to the team. I think Mike Tomlin dictated who was drafted and, while he may be a better than average coach, his selections starting with jason worilds have been poor… I graded this class a D+ and that may be overly generous. In fact, more help may be garnered from the UDFA’s than those drafted……

  • dgh57

    Are you pessimistic by nature or is this something that comes over you only when it comes to Steeler Football?

  • Mike.H

    My gut feel as to why Le’von Bell was chosen:

    The last 5-6 RB’s they took outside of fast Willie #39 pretty much disappointed ( they were all sort of 5’10” guys); Worley, Abercrombie, Barry Foster ( who had one good year) ( I can’t think of a few more chosen in the draft).

    Steelers figured let’s go BIG, work horse type and perhaps after the quasi/Bettis route, a change of luck, etc. Also, the opinion on Bell was creeping up during the draft, and perhaps Bell wouldn’t have lasted 8 more picks after Steelers’s pick… I hope Bell turns into another EDDIE GEORGE, 1400 YDS A SEASON — it’d make the offense much efficient, Big Ben sure hopes so.

  • alex

    so was Dwyer being dangled as trade bait instead of the 3rd round pick for the SHARK? i really dont wanna loose him…

  • RW

    I highly doubt it. Historically, only a small percentage of the UDFA’s have made a larger difference than their drafted counterparts. There are of course exceptions, but even those exceptions don’t make that large an impact in their first 3 years.

    Also, there is absolutely no reason for you to think that this draft deserves a “D+” grade. At worst, we miss on two-three of our picks. Also, don’t throw all the blame on Tomlin. We have a GM for a reason and the scouting department as a whole is responsible for grading prospects. Individual coaches have more weight than Tomlin does. Plus, the organization has hit on many prospects, particularly in the middle rounds where there is the most value, during Tomlin’s tenure.

    Your pessimism is unbearable this early in the offseason, by the way.

  • WilliamSekinger

    In my opinion Jones will be the starting ROLB at some point during the season, and be fairly productive. Will be immediately be a James Harrison in his prime as a rookie? Absolutely not. But, productive none the less.

    Bell hopefully will be the starting RB week 1. He will most definitely be more productive than all the RBs combined last year.

    Wheaton should be able to work his way toward the #3 receiver spot at some point this season. Not as fast as Wallace but better route running and better hands should make the receiving corp respectable again.

    Shamarko Thomas should get some playing time in relief of Troy or in special dime packages. Don’t expect much out of him this year except to gain valuable experience.

    I think this draft class will be viewed as a good not great class in the years to follow.

  • charles

    I totally agree with you Jeremy, if we can get production out of three of any of the draft choices you will see the Steelers being in SERIOUS contention for the Bowl! It seems clear from our offensive choices and the addition of Howling what Haley has in mind. Backs that can block AND catch the ball coming out of the backfield. Ithink that is going to put huge pressure on T Suggs and others around the league, further, while we don’ have as much of a deep threat, I just can’t get Wallace out of my mind when he made a half ass attempt at catching the last pass that Ben threw against GB in the Super Bowl. Wheaton seems to be the right mix of speed and across the middle passes. I think there is a real chance of a few slants to him going the distance. Also it is clear that the Steelers are comfortable with both Oline and Dline , I am very hopeful that both these units will gel, it seems others are blaming Dwyer and Redman for a poor running game and it is simply not the case.
    Jones is the key to this draft. We NEED production out of him NOW!!! I will go out on a limb: Jones gets 10 sacks then the steelers will be in 7th heaven.

  • steeltown

    man, you need a hug

  • steeltown

    Agreed. I think Bell is the most likely to contribute and in a big way… Wheaton could possibly be a contributor as well.. but Jarvis, Vince and Shark unless there is major injury at those respective positions they wont be asked to make too much contributions

  • steeltown

    Shark!!! I like the idea of this fast, physical kid learning from Polamalu and Clark

  • SteelerFanInMD

    I have a bad feeling about the Jarvis Jones selection. I’m afraid he will be like Cameron Hayward and spend 3 years on the bench as a #1 pick. Jones admitted that he was mainly a pass rusher and didn’t drop into coverage much. That is not something that I want to hear from the 17th overall selection. I expect someone drafted that high to be ready to play in year one.

  • JC

    Pretty bold statement. I think you’re definitely over reacting, but guys like yourself always do.

  • hergieburbur

    Would love to see it, but realistically, I think we mostly see production from Bell. LBs rarely start as rookies for us, though I do expect to see Jones in quite a bit and hope he takes the starting spot before the end of the year. Wheaton will get his snaps, but statistically only about 20% of rookie WRs have impact/productive seasons (based on gaining over 500 yards their rookies years), so odds are against him. Further, there are penciled in starters at both of their spots.

    Bell, on the other hand, like Hritz said. plays a position that is pretty much wide open, and also happens to be the easiest one for rookies to contribute at. I expect him to get a good amount of carries whether he starts or not.

    Considering our lack of depth at safety and that Troy has played 16 games once in the past 4 seasons, I fully expect to see Shark Thomas get a decent amount of snaps as well. And I hope to see big things from him.

    Long term, I expect a lot from Vince and Nick Williams, but not this year.

  • LucasY59

    I think reasonable/realistic expectations for the rookies are…

    Javis Jones to get some defensive snaps (10-20% mostly on passing downs) he has a gift for getting pressure on the QB so 4-6 sacks (one a sack/fumble) would be a good contribution for him as a rookie (injuries or poor play may give him more playing time, which I hope isn’t the case) ready to start 2014

    Le’veon Bell should be the #1 RB no later than the bye week and 1000 yards rushing and 2-3 catches out of the backfield per game would make it a solid contribution from the rookie.

    Makus Wheaton will hopefully compete with Cotchery as the 3rd WR (Cotch still on 3rd downs though, he knows how to make the catch to move the chains) 6 or so long plays or touchdowns is good. also with him helping to stretch the field on the 3 WR sets should help AB and Sanders get a few more TD’s as well. good to have if Sanders is gone next year.

    Shamarko Thomas should be a very good ST player on kick/punt coverage, and will hopefully not be required to do any more than learn from Troy this year so that in 2014 he can be a good Starter or Dime/nickel S.

    The best thing that could happen is they never need Landry Jones to do anything other than hold a clipboard (tough assignment for a 4th rd pick, hopefully he will do it well)

    Terry Hawthorne needs some work and will be a developed in case C. Brown doesn’t improve, can help on the ST coverage teams (something C.Brown and VanDyke already do well) possible PS member if Victorian continues to play well and only keep 5 CB’s on the roster

    Justin Brown (not a very good use of a draft pick even in the 6th IMO) has some size and looks/sounds to be a physical WR (more with blocking than fighting for the ball and getting open, so not much of a receiving threat) that could help on ST’s, but there are already DB’s that do that. If Hawthorne gets a roster spot it almost guarantees Brown is PS at best (Moye and Gilreath may be better PS WR’s) (Ben likes tall WR’s but I’m not sure Brown is really that guy)

    Vince Williams is more of the kind of ST’s type of player the Steelers need (over the WR/DB gunner types) He may take Sylvester’s spot or be the mack backup/ST guy behind Timmons (since Spence is unfortunately not gonna be that guy) he has competition with McFadden and Rolle as well as Sylvester so may be another PS guy. (He is one of my favorite picks so I hope he does well)

    Nicholas Williams is a good developmental DE (Arnfelt the UDFA as well, both could be very good depth if they are able to pick up the Steeler 3-4 way of playing DE) he is most likely PS until Keisel is gone next year.

    The UDFA’s I think have a shot of sticking around are…

    Brian Arnfelt DE (for the reasons I have above)

    Luke Ingram LS (younger, cheaper and healthier than Warren)

    Reggie Dunn KR FAAASSST!!!, can possibly take it for a TD every kickoff, but not sure he can make the team just as a returner, if they keep 6 WR’s he can be put in for 1-3 plays a game to really stretch the field for a TD or to open things up for the other WR’s(who needs Wallace when you can have Dunn?)

    any of the G/C’s to take Legursky’s role as inside swingman (or some may make the PS) Ivory Wade looks the most promising to me

    so that is 10 or 11 (maybe 13 at the most) of the 24 having a shot to make the Roster or PS not too bad of a Draft IMO, usually only 2-3 at the most will make a big contribution to the team in their careers (probowls, multi year starter, etc.) would be nice to have a draft were they get 4 Hall of Famer’s again, doesn’t look like its this year tho

    Sorry this is so long, Thanks for reading!

  • $19122620

    Yeah, me too. Pretty stoked about him.

  • $19122620

    While there were a couple things I would have liked to see them do different, I have to disagree. I think we addressed a lot of our needs and several players I believe were typical Steeler picks that simply just need some coaching up and should turn out to be great contributors. For example, and besides the obvious, I referring to Wheaton, Thomas, Hawthorne, V. Williams. All could bring a lot to the team eventually and some maybe sooner than later. Overall I think it was a pretty solid draft that I think has some good potential.