Steelers 2013 Draft Class Rookie Season Expectations

The 2013 NFL draft is now behind us and the nine Pittsburgh Steelers draft picks will be present for rookie camp this coming weekend in Pittsburgh. Now that things have settled down, here isĀ  my look at what I expect this upcoming season for every member of the Steelers 2013 draft class.

Round 1 – OLB Jarvis Jones – At the very least, Jones should dress for every game and have a prominent role on special teams just like every first year linebacker that plays for the Steelers. As far as Jones seeing the field on the defensive side of the ball goes, that is all up to how fast he picks of the Steelers defense combined with how Jason Worilds plays ahead of him. Should Worilds finally live up to his potential, and both he and LaMarr Woodley stay healthy and productive, Jones might only wind up with right around 100 snaps of playing time in his rookie season. Of course if the two linebackers that are ahead of Jones get bitten by the injury bug again or Worilds gets off to a slow start, Jones very well could exceed the 500 snap mark on defense.

Round 2 – RB Le\’Veon Bell – The Steelers most certainly will not just hand Bell the starting job, he\’ll have to earn it in training camp. His ability to adapt his game to Steelers offense, combined with his ability to pick up the offense, will determine everything with him. The Steelers will be itching to get their second round draft pick on the field as soon as possible so he might start off with limited playing on both special teams and on offense with an eye towards becoming the starter by the middle of the season. Whatever backs remain ahead of him on the depth chart by the time the season rolls around shouldn\’t be too hard for him to pass. Somewhere right around 500 offensive snaps is not out of the question for the Michigan State product.

Round 3 – WR Markus Wheaton – I really don\’t expect Wheaton to wind up being in the running for the return job, nor do I expect that he will win a gunner job on special teams. While he learns the ins and outs of the Steelers offense, it would not be surprising to see him inactive for the first couple of games, depending of course on how the bottom of the wide receiver depth chart shakes out at the end of training camp. Should Wheaton wind up being fourth on the depth chart behind veteran wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery, he will more than likely have to indeed play on a few special teams units. As the season progresses, I fully expect his role and playing time will increase. Baring any injuries to the wide receivers ahead of him, I can see Wheaton having a bigger role later on in the season and playing as many as 200 snaps on offense. With him, it all depends on how long it takes him to pass Cotchery. The main goal in 2013 is to have Wheaton ready to be a full-time player by 2014.

Round 4 – Shamarko Thomas – Thomas should be able to dress for all 16 games during his rookie season and contribute on special teams. As far as defensive snaps go, he will be hard pressed to see the field for 100 snaps, baring injuries of course. The Steelers want to cross train Thomas at both the strong and free safety positions and it will take time to get him acclimated to the NFL game. It\’s all about the long-term with Thomas, who should garner his share of special teams tackles as a rookie.

Round 4 – QB Landry Jones – Outside of mopping up games during the preseason, I expect that is all that we will see of Jones in his first two seasons. At least that is what I am hoping for, because if he sees the field, it likely means that something drastic has happened to Ben Roethlisberger. Let\’s not even go there. Clipboard city for Landry.

Round 5 – CB Terry Hawthorne – I suspect that Hawthorne will easily make the 53 man roster and be an instant contributor on special teams, perhaps even as a gunner, if he can\’t win the job as a return man, which I think he will get a shot at. His first target on the depth chart will be Curtis Brown, but even getting past him will garner less than 50 snaps worth of playing time in dime looks, which the Steelers haven\’t used a lot of the last few seasons. Hawthorne has some work to do in the lab of defensive backs coach Carnell Lake, so like Thomas, it is all about the long-term with him.

Round 6 – WR Justin Brown – Brown, in my opinion, really has his work cut out for him. At this point I consider him a long-shot to make the 53 man roster and that means he will have to show enough long-term upside in order to make the practice squad out of training camp. In other words, don\’t rush out and buy his jersey just yet.

Round 6 ILB Vince Williams – Williams will have to show first that he can cover in training camp and thus prove that he can be a three-down linebacker with the Steelers. Assuming he shows promise as a BUCK linebacker, he will then have to show that he can be a special teams demon in order to secure a spot on the 53 man roster. Assuming he does make the roster, it\’s all special teams for him during his rookie season. If he doesn\’t crack the 53, he could be a candidate for the practice squad, assuming he has long-term potential.

Round 7 – DE Nick Williams – Judging by everything that defensive line coach John Mitchell has told us about Williams, combined with my extensive breakdown of his play in two games, Williams is a long-term defensive end project that is more than likely already being penciled in for the practice squad. Williams will be making the transition from defensive tackle in a 4-3 defense to a defensive end in the Steelers 3-4 defense and this could take a little while to happen.

  • Garrett Hunt

    The biggest possible contributors I see for 2013 are Le’Veon Bell and Vince Williams on offense and defense respectfully. Bell is obvious, but I think that WIlliams has enough upside to push for some legitimate playing time if he can pick up the defense. That of course is a big if, and I have no idea how intelectual he is.

  • hergieburbur

    Great writeup, I agree with pretty much all of it.

  • Kolie Oak

    I agree with most of this, I’m gonna be the first to say the one rookie who has the best chance to get a starting position is…….
    Wheaton, he will beat out Sanders and Cotchery for the 2nd WR.

  • steeltown

    I agree with all of that.. look for Le’veon to make an immediate impact and possibly Jarvis Jones and Wheaton if injuries occur…. all others are special teamers and practice squad players in 2013

    Special Teams should get a boost this season, with guys like Shamarko, Vince Williams, Hawthorne, Curtis Brown, Sylvestor, M.Mcfadden, William Gay and others we should be pretty stingy on returns

    Would be so nice if Hawthorne can be eventual #2 in a year or two.. obviously we need Cortez to be productive this season as well. I hope Hawthorne starts training with Taylor and Cortez in Orlando with Tom Shaw

  • David Edward

    Agree with your assessment for the most part. Not sure Hawthorne will be a leading candidate in the return game. I think LaRod is the favorite there with Dunn being a sleeper pick to make the team. Even so, after Ike, Allen and Gay, it’s wide open at CB for what I think will be two spots…Brown, King, Victorian, Hawthorne. I do think one of those spots will go to Hawthorne though. With Vince Williams, I think he has a decent shot of pushing Sylvester off the roster. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him and McFadden make the team as the ILB backups.

  • steeltown

    I agree about Stephens-Howling returning kicks.. also I for one would be using Emmanuel Sanders for returns as well, get your monies worth out of him. I think Hawthorne makes the Team.. and I agree I could see M.Mcfadden and Vince Williams as the backup ILB’s in 2013

  • TheBlitz

    I don’t agree with the assessment of Vince Williams. I think he will make the 53 man roster.

  • steeltown

    I know this is a minor storyline and might not make any difference come regular season, BUT the undrafted LS we signed Luke Ingram from Hawaii looks pretty impressive, he had a great pro day. In 4yrs he started all 52 games and snapped every PAT, field goal and punt attempt during his career, did not have one bad snap that led to a blocked kick or mishandled placement and was named ST player of the year in 2012

    I know when it comes to LS, pro experience usually wins out, but Warren isnt getting any younger, he’ll be 32yrs old this season and has had multiple serious knee injuries

    Just something to think about

  • Shelob9


  • TheBlitz

    There is not enough depth at ILB behind Foote. I can see him contributing in a limited number of snaps if he shows he has more upside than Sly and McFadden.

    But more importantly he will be a good ST player to begin with. Hard hitter, sure tackler. That’s a good recipe for a spot on the 53.

  • moderatelysane

    I’m on the record as betting that jarvis pushes world’s out by mid season. Worlds has never really flashed, and he’ll get set back by his next pinky cramp long enough for jarvis to take over. Guessing that Wheaton will be forced to be wr3 by mid season due to injuries. Bell starts week 1. Vince Williams and brown struggle to make the roster. Otherwise I agree.

  • NW86

    I agree that it’s a possibility. You need 2 backup ILB’s behind Timmons and Foote. It sounds like Spence won’t be healthy. That leaves Sly, who they didn’t think highly enough of to give him a RFA tender and then got him back later at league minimum – that doesn’t sound like a guy who is guaranteed his spot on the roster. Then there are McFadden and a couple other guys who were on the street last year. It sounds like a wide open competition for the 2 backup ILB spots to me.

  • David Edward

    Yep, I’d put Sanders back there on punts and even have him doing the teams laundry

  • NW86

    Interesting, thanks for the tidbit! Warren has been solid over the years and I wouldn’t mind keeping him around for another year, but they will have to move on from him sooner or later, so if this kid looks solid in the preseason, I wouldn’t be upset to see them choose youth at that position.

  • steeltown

    Exactly, most likely Warren wins out just because they are more comfortable with him, but if there was ever a year to transition to youth at the position, this may be it… but again, its unlikely

  • Jefferson_St_Joe

    Look for Wheaton to get some of the snaps they gave to Rainey last year lining up in the backfield in addition to whatever he can earn for himself out wide.

    I think they’ll do everything possible to have Bell start day 1.

  • TheBlitz


  • steeltown

    Agreed.. and add to the equation that Sly, McFadden, Rolle and Vince Williams are all known for good special teams play and it really makes for an interesting training camp /preseason

  • Alexander Sebastian Heath

    Actually I say Shamarko Thomas get the most PT. Too good to not get PT and will be used exclusively at nickel packages too.

  • Alexander Sebastian Heath

    But even Worilds at this point has more upside compared to Jones. Not only that, he has 3 years of learning curve on playbooks. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Jarvis Jones playing some snaps from both position inside and outside linebackers but naw, he won’t start. Even our back-up Adrian Robinson is a overall better athlete who likely will give Worilds some ice under the feet because he has shown he can play in coverage.

  • SteelSpine

    JarvisJ at inside LB? Robinson better than JarvisJ? Wow.
    I like Robinson, last year I wanted them to get him a few snaps, I still look forward to Robinson. But Colbert & the Steelers staff disagree with you that Robinson is better than Jarvis, or even better athlete, otherwise they wouldn’t have spent our only #1 draft pick on Jarvis Jones. Amazing some fans still only look at a combine time despite the many exceptions there’s been over the years.

  • SteelSpine

    Yep too.

  • charles

    Possible we can get a snapshot of the 15 undrafted rookies that we signed?

  • Shelob9

    Sure, I don’t see them letting someone sign him off of the practice squad, but I don’t see them going with someone with no experience as their top backup. It’s going to take time for him to learn this defense. If he was the second coming of James Farrior he wouldn’t have been a sixth round draft pick and he’d still need a year or two to learn

    And i live in Tallahassee, so I should love this guy. Not that I give a shit about college football or go to FSU, but still…

  • Shelob9

    I think the number three spot is McFadden’s to loose.

  • Alexander Sebastian Heath

    Read again. I said “better overall athlete” not better player. ANYONE who already have a head-start on playbook will get PT, that’s how our defense always have been. I’m not even disregarding that Jarvis Jones will be a started in 2014. I’m talking about the impact of NOW.

    That’s the same reason Antonio Brown didn’t get much or really ANY playing time during his rookie year.

    Some teams want to play their rookies now, we don’t.

  • TheBlitz

    I see your point. Yes I agree. Knowing the system is a big plus.

    But let’s not forget Sly has only been a great special team player. Not the same can be said about him as an ILB although he’s been in the system for 3 years.

    The Steelers were not afraid to let him walk at the end of the season. As expected, he did not garner any interest in the open market. Keith Butler put Sly on notice during his press conference after the draft telling the media this is his last shot. That’s pretty telling if you ask me.

    McFadden is an undrafted prospect at ILB and has been cut before. He wasn’t miss very much.

    If Vince can show he is ready to play he will get a shot on a limited basis. They will not risk putting him on the practice squad just to see another team come and grab him. At least not in his rookie year. They would want to see what he’s made out of first.

    They know already what they have in Sly and McFadden. That’s why they’ve been cut in the past or allowed to walk.

    There is less of a risk cutting Sly or McFadden since it’s quite possible they could clear waivers and be re-signed again. You don’t wanna risk that with your 6th round pick unless they know for sure he’s not the future at ILB.

  • Shelob9

    OK. I sort of agree about not putting Williams on the practice squad. Then again he is a sixth round draft pick. Depends on what kind of training camp he has.

    At this point I really doubt that Sylvester is making the team, especially if Williams is good on special teams, which I bet he is, at least on kick coverage. Better to give McFadden a chance, then stick with Sylvester.

    That said, if there is an injury at ILB and McFadden fails, I think they are going to be more likely to put Jones in at OLB and move Worlids inside then put Williams in. If they’re forced to use a rookie LB, you got a figure they will go with a first round draft pick over a sixth.