For a team like the Pittsburgh Steelers, whose core is made up of older more experienced players, the draft is extra important to cover the gaps that injury and age may create. So how have the rookies of 2013 improved or regressed the Steelers as a team? Well, let's have a look.
This grading doesn't count the efforts of Brian Arnfelt (DE) Nick Williams (DT) Nik Embernate (OL) or Landry Jones (QB) who all didn't play, or played minimal snaps during the season.
Starting with the man the Steelers used their first pick on, Jarvis Jones, the outside linebacker out of Georgia. Jones' season started with a bang, with a huge tackle on the Tennessee Titans' Chris Johnson in the backfield. He then backed that showing up with an eight-tackle performance against the Cincinnati Bengals, then things went quiet for Jones, not putting in another good game until the final contest against the Cleveland Browns where he recorded nine tackles.
Jones definitely has the potential to be a starter for the Steelers, his only problem is that Jason Worilds is above him on the depth chart.
We move on to the second pick by the Steelers, and the one I believe has had the biggest imapct -- that is of course running back Le'Veon Bell from Michigan State. A nice statistic for you all, the Steelers were 8-3 when Bell had 16 or more carries.
Pretty hard to argue with that production. Bell has single-handedly transformed the Steelers' run game which is now 27th in the league; I know that is nothing to brag about but it is about a million times better than the past few years. Despite missing the first three games of the season Bell still put up over 800 rushing yards and eight touchdowns; the future of the Steelers' running game finally looks secure.
A brief mention of Terence Garvin, who delivered THAT hit on punter Kevin Huber. He has the menace of an old-fashioned Steelers linebacker that's for sure.
Another brief mention goes to safety Shamarko Thomas and receiver Markus Wheaton, two rookies who's snap count should increase next season, both have shown potential in the small amount of playing time they've received.
And now to the biggest surprise from the Steelers' draft, inside linebacker Vince Williams -- who was chosen in the sixth round out of Florida State. And has made 11 starts for the Steelers and totaled 53 tackles -- 13 more than Jarvis Jones who was selected in the first round. Another promising sign for the Steelers' defensive future.
Overall I would give the Steelers' class of 2013 a grade of B- Jones was bit quiet during the middle of the season but Bell has been outstanding.
I'm looking forward to the next few years and seeing how these players develop into stars for the Pittsburgh franchise.