By Matthew Marczi
It has been a theme for many years that, aside from the occasional special teams contributions, rookies on the Pittsburgh Steelers, including even first-round draft picks, rarely contribute during their first season. That has been especially true over the years on defense, though less so on offense.
That pattern changed somewhat in 2013 due to a variety of circumstances, both foreseen and unforeseen, as many rookies—even undrafted players—got a good chunk of playing time on both sides of the ball. Therefore, there’s more to go on than usual when speaking about how their rookie seasons went.
Player: Terry Hawthorne
Draft Status: 5th round (150th overall)
It’s probably fair to say that fifth round cornerback Terry Hawthorne was a disappointment, although I have a hard time using the word ‘bust’ with a straight face when describing a fifth-round draft selection.
Never the less, Hawthorne was the only draft pick out of nine in total that was released from the team outright. Fellow rookie draft picks Justin Brown and Nick Williams—picked in the sixth and seventh rounds, respectively—did not make the final roster, but the former spent the year on the practice squad, while the latter was placed on injured reserve.
The Steelers had just lost a starting cornerback in Keenan Lewis, though they did bring back William Gay, who ended up starting most of the season. Meanwhile, Curtis Brown, a former third-round draft pick, had yet to show anything.
After running into depth concerns last year, which resulted in an undrafted free agent new to the team being forced to start a game, it seemed important for the Steelers to address the cornerback position at least some point during the draft.
Hawthorne was that man, and he was a player that defensive backs coach Carnell Lake spoke highly of after the draft. He was portrayed as a very talented but raw prospect with a chip on his shoulder for falling so far in the draft.
Hawthorne suffered a significant injury in his final year of college, and he missed virtually all of the offseason training that he so desperately needed as a rookie because he was dealing with a recurring knee injury.
Therefore, it wasn’t that great of a shock that he didn’t end up making the final roster—that spot was given to Isaiah Green, an undrafted free agent—but many were surprised that he wasn’t given a spot on the practice squad. That spot went to Devin Smith, another undrafted free agent.
While this move seemed perplexing at the time, evidence after the fact may be even more compelling. Not a single team felt he was worth even adding him to their practice squad throughout the entire season. He has yet to draw any interest this offseason as well.
The New England Patriots briefly kicked his tires before declining to sign him. The Steelers have clearly decided that they don’t wish him to be part of their organization, and, evidently, so has the rest of the league.
Previous Articles In This Series
Steelers 2013 Draft Class Review – LB Jarvis Jones
Steelers 2013 Draft Class Review – RB Le'Veon Bell
Steelers 2013 Draft Class Review – WR Markus Wheaton
Steelers 2013 Draft Class Review – S Shamarko Thomas
Steelers 2013 Draft Class Review – QB Landry Jones