Steelers hope for fast learners from draft class
The Steelers will bring in their newly assembled rookie class for an orientation session this weekend, and it might be the only time some of them feel like brand-new NFL players.
The Class of '13 likely will be asked to do more, and do it earlier, than any other class in Mike Tomlin's reign as coach. And maybe back into Bill Cowher's tenure, too.
The Steelers are a team in need, and it is already being reflected in their depth chart.
Though he won't be listed as such on the official team-issued depth chart, outside linebacker Jarvis Jones, the first-round pick, likely will go into training camp in late July as a starter in waiting. His camp will determine how long that wait is. The same goes for running back Le'Veon Bell, the second-rounder, who will go up against a lot of bodies in camp but is already a strong candidate to start.
Shamarko Thomas, the Syracuse safety the Steelers traded up to get in the fourth round? He'll go into camp No. 2 behind Troy Polamalu. Markus Wheaton, the burst-of-speed wide receiver taken on the third round? He's probably a solid No. 2 on the depth chart, too, without yet stepping foot in Pittsburgh.
“We like these picks,” general manager Kevin Colbert said. “We just hope they're the right ones that help us win games.”
This draft was an important one for Colbert, whose picks since 2000 have helped the Steelers rank No. 2 in draft class production, trailing only the Packers. But the Class of 2008 five years ago was an effective washout, with no players remaining, and it is that failed class that, in part, created the urgency for this class to produce right away. With so many needs, the Steelers drafted experienced, proven players from big schools — Michigan State, Oklahoma, Georgia, Florida State, Oregon State — before making their one reach pick in seventh-rounder Nick Williams, a 320-pound defensive end from Samford. Only Williams and quarterback Landry Jones won't be expected to contribute this year.
Almost as soon as the Steelers made Jones the No. 17 pick — at one point during the offseason the former Georgia star was No. 1 overall on ESPN analyst Mel Kiper's board — linebackers coach Keith Butler issued the prerequisite caution that it's very difficult for a rookie linebacker to start in the Steelers' defense.
“Jarvis Jones has a wealth of talent, and I'm very fortunate to have him,” Butler said. “But he's not going to be given the position.”
But with James Harrison in Cincinnati, and Jason Worilds precariously penciled in as the starter after being a career backup, the Steelers almost certainly aren't bringing in Jones to sit. And they almost certainly aren't bringing in the most heavily used running back in major college football last season to stand idly one year after the Steelers ran for fewer yards than in all but one season since the NFL adopted a 16-game schedule.
Tomlin emphasized Jones and Bell must win their jobs, even on a team that could go into the season considered only the third best of the AFC North's four teams.
“I think it's a daunting task for rookies to start in any system and play and perform well,” Tomlin said. “(But) we're not going to close the door on anyone on earning an opportunity.”
Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Tomlin: Possible Steelers midseason surge won’t come easy vs. Colts
- Rossi: Steelers’ season all about going big
- Rookie Bryant sparks deep passing game for Steelers in victory
- Steelers notebook: Adams replaces concussed Gilbert
- For all but 2 minutes vs. Steelers, Texans played ‘pretty good game’
- Steelers-Texans game changers: Bell’s 43-yard catch provides spark
- Steelers use 3 late first-half TDs to stun Texans
- Snapshot in time: Comparing Cowher, Tomlin drafts
- Steelers looking for Spence to step up game at inside linebacker
- Texans coach O’Brien still cherishes time at Penn State
- Opposing defenses find success against Steelers by eschewing blitz