Every draft class for every team in the National Football League is important. Just about every year feels to some as though it’s the most important draft for their favorite team in recent memory. We hear that already about the 2014 draft for the Pittsburgh Steelers…we also heard that about 2013, 2012, 2011, and 2010.
In other words, there is always constant scrutiny and evaluation when it comes to draft picks, whether it’s early reports in their first minicamp or breaking down game tape from their fourth professional season.
I’m not looking to re-evaluate the Steelers’ 2013 draft picks, or their decisions, and provide a draft grade after just one year. In this series, my only intention is to provide a recap of each draft pick’s 2013 season. You may do with that information what you wish.
Before we begin discussing the individual seasons of each player, however, I think it’s worthwhile to step back and take a broader view of what we saw out of the 2013 draft class of the Pittsburgh Steelers, which was actually fairly out of the ordinary for a variety of foreseen and unforeseen circumstances.
The Steelers entered the 2013 draft with eight selections, which included a compensatory pick in the sixth round for having lost William Gay in free agency the year prior. They acquired an additional fourth-round pick by trading away their third-round pick that they were to have for this upcoming draft.
They used their first selection on outside linebacker Jarvis Jones after parting with James Harrison and having questions about the unproven Jason Worilds and the oft-injured LaMarr Woodley. With Rashard Mendenhall gone, they drafted what they hope to be their running back of the future in Le’Veon Bell.
The departure of Mike Wallace left a depth issue at wide receiver, which they addressed with Markus Wheaton in the third round and Justin Brown in the sixth. Losing both of their backup safeties, they drafted Shamarko Thomas in round four, and added a backup quarterback in Landry Jones as well.
Filling out the draft class was a trio of defensive players: inside linebacker Vince Williams, defensive end Nick Williams, and cornerback Terry Hawthorne.
Six of these nine players made the 53-man roster. Nick Williams battled injuries during the preseason and ended up on injured reserve. Hawthorne was released outright, and nobody ended up signing him, while Brown lost out to Derek Moye and wound up on the practice squad.
After battling injuries, Bell went on to start 13 games, accumulating over 1200 total yards and scoring eight touchdowns. Jones began the season as a starter before losing his job to Worilds. He was forced back into the starting lineup with Woodley going on injured reserve late in the year.
The biggest surprise was the amount of playing time Vince Williams and Thomas played. Thomas ended up playing a lot early on, first as a slot cornerback and then as a dime safety, until he got injured and was replaced by the recently re-signed Will Allen.
Williams, meanwhile, eventually leapfrogged Kion Wilson as the replacement for the injured Larry Foote. Though he technically started most of the season, his snaps were still limited due to the amount of time the defense yielded six defensive backs.
At last, there was Wheaton, who struggled to find a role as he battled two hand injuries. He was just beginning to come on when he first injured his hand, which caused him to miss several weeks, and he never got back into the rotation with the success of Jerricho Cotchery and the return of Matt Spaeth.
All in all, the 2013 season was unique, given the amount of starts that the Steelers got out of their rookies, with 13 alone coming from Bell. The defensive starters, of course, are far more rare.
Many rookies, including the undrafted rookies Terence Garvin and Brian Arnfelt, did see some playing time this year, however, and the total snaps played by rookies likely far exceeds any other in recent memory.