Steelers 2013 Draft Class Review – CB Terry Hawthorne

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)

Snaps: 0

Starts: 0

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

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • blackandgoldBullion

    good risk/reward pick. If he ends up being as good as the previous year, he would have been a steal. As it turned out, the knee injury probably ended his career. These things can happen, so no big deal.

  • Rick M

    I’m kind of surprised by how easily the Front Office is let off the hook in this article for picks like this. The team just isn’t strong enough depth-wise to take gambles on players who have multiple-year injury problems in college and who may not have recovered from the most recent, a severe knee injury.

    You can find decent football players in the 5th round. It’s unusual yes, but Richard Sherman was a 5th round pick in 2011. Respectfully, how can you ‘have a hard time’ calling Hawthorne a “bust”? He didn’t make it beyond training camp and no other NFL team has signed him. That seems like an obvious bust/wasted pick to me, but I guess our definitions are different.

  • Gregg Edwards

    I totally agree. There is too much carelessness in the current (last 5-6 years) Steeler draft process.

  • JT

    I agree. I’m not about to run Colbert out of town for this, but it’s without a doubt a wasted pick. You have to get something, anything out of the 5th. Even a career ST would have helped. The team needs capable depth almost across the board. Can’t afford to swing and miss like that when it’s not the 7th or late 6th.

  • CW

    No where near a good pick. Could of drafted Micah Hyde here and added a return and corner man.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    Funny thing was he was going into his senior year as a potential 1st rounder to where he has no interest from any NFL team.

  • Luke Shabro

    I would disagree. Yes you want every draft pick to count and contribute but that’s just not the reality of it. Go look at previous drafts and tell me if even half the players from the entirety of the draft contributed in a significant way. This happens on every team around the league. He’s not saying that Hawthorne wasn’t a bust he’s basically saying it’s hard to call any fifth round pick that doesn’t pan out at all a bust. People talk about carelessness in the draft but our starting LT was a 7th round pick. They must’ve seen something there. The three biggest picks I have a problem with are Ziggy Hood, Mike Adams and Jarvis Jones. I feel like Ziggy was never a great 3-4 DE prospect but they liked his ability enough to try and force the issue. Mike Adams was off their board for a reason but they let him sweet talk his way back on somehow and Jarvis just seemed like a guy that was over hyped but I really hope I’m wrong on that.

  • dgh57

    A costly miss here as now we need to draft 2 CBs in this years draft! With Curtis Brown not panning out,Taylor taking a step back, and the loss of Keenan Lewis this past season this is something we could ill afford to let happen.

  • Matthew Marczi

    I think “bust” is an immensely strong word to use when you consider that 149 players were drafted before him. There are only 704 starters in this league and they add a couple hundred players to the pool every year. When you’re talking about a guy that was passed over well over a hundred times, you can’t be that surprised if he doesn’t make the team. Ras-I Dowling was a bust. Hawthorne was a miss. But like you said, our definitions are different, or at least the way we use the word. Semantic differences. I think he wasn’t retained more for attitude problems than his knee anyway. If they really wanted to keep him they could’ve stashed him on IR like they did with Nick Williams.

  • ATL96STEELER

    PIT took a chance on a kid with a bad knee, in the 5th round, thinking what if…deciding not to keep him on the practice squad was telling, and 31 other teams backed off…more telling.

  • ATL96STEELER

    Certainly 1, but I can see 2 being picked…imo the bigger miss was C. Brown…a lot of people were high on him and he’s had opportunities.

  • Ike Evans

    When landry and hawthorne were picked there were so many good players left….micah hyde, larry watford, jordan mills, jonathan franklin, and baccari rambo just to name a few….and dont say hindsight because they were peculiar picks when they happend…this is what seperates the talent on our team opposed to teams like seattle and sf. Those teams hit on. This mid round guys, they have been hitting on these late round guys more consistently

  • Reg Sayhitodabadguy Hunt

    Im not mad about the hawthorne pick we took a gamble that we thought was gonna pay big we lost he may have had upside but re-injured his knee in preseason is probably why he didn’t pan out happens to all teams eventually BUT whats got me heated is this has happened to us in back to back seasons with like we’re jinxed with the injury bug

  • MP34

    I think it’s a little ridiculous to pin not only the ‘bust’ label, but the future of the defensive back corps on a 5th round pick who simply didn’t pan out. I also don’t get the “coulda had this guy” at the same pick. I saw Zac Stacy’s name pointed out in one of the comments. It’s an overused statement, but 31 other teams could have had him earlier, so it’s really the time of the draft for high risk/high reward picks. You hit, you miss. All teams go through this.
    The Rams also drafted Steadman Bailey in Round 3, and he caught 17 passes & 0 TDs. So he’s a bust?
    And for all the love heaped on Tyler Eifert on this board, he only caught 39 passes and 2 TDs last year. The Bengals chat boards mostly call him a ‘non-factor’, and they’d likely give him to us at this point.

  • LayDownTheHammer

    I’d like to see him back competing in training camp later this year with this injury hopefully out of the way. And because there might be an open CB spot if we FINALLY let Curtis Brown go…

  • Lee Young

    And you Could Have learned how to spell “could’ve”. You didn’t, Steelers didn’t, c’est la vie. :) :)

    As you said, it was a gamble worth taking in the 5th.

  • CW

    Should have not been multitasking while writing a response.

    I always make grammatical errors when working through five or six different actions at one time.

  • John A Stewart

    In 2009 the Steeler’s drafted Joe Burnett out of Central Florida he was pretty good when he blocked a field goal I said he was a keeper guess what they never gave him a shot and Gay has more lives than a cat.