No matter what decade or who is the team’s head coach, the one thing the Pittsburgh Steelers have been able to do better than most of the teams in the NFL is scout talent and draft players.
Whether it was the famed Draft of 1974 (Lynn Swann, Jack Lambert, John Stallworth, and Mike Webster) or the 1987 Draft the produced Rod Woodson, Pittsburgh puts a premium of building its franchise through the Draft.
This season is no different.
Of the players drafted and signed as rookie free agents, head coach Mike Tomlin and his staff assembled a core of young players who could make this team and contribute. There are some who won’t make this team, but will be contributors with other franchises.
This year, especially, is an important season for these Steelers. Age is now a factor. James Harrison is no long on the team. The running game must step forward and the receivers must attribute for the loss of Mike Wallace.
As a group, this may be the most important rookie class in a decade and here are somethings and how rookies looked so far in Rookie mini camp and OTAs.
Jarvis Jones: The top pick has a lot to learn. As Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh News-Gazette wrote, Jones was undersized and look out of sorts. While the rookie is signed to a contract, which according to NFL.com is "a four-year deal worth $8.705 million with a $4.7 million signing bonus. Jones' contract also is fully guaranteed."
Jones will need to bulk up and continue to work through training camp to earn a starting spot on the roster.
Le'Veon Bell: He has been quicker than some would have thought and has been a pleasant surprise in camp. I liked Bell coming out of college and fits the mold of traditional Steelers' backs. I think if he continues to produce in training camp, he might be the opening game starter for this franchise.
Mike Golic, Jr.: Take away the fact his father played in the NFL and is a well-known ESPN personality. Golic has a chance to make this team as a defensive lineman. He has been a nice surprise so far and could see time on special teams. If he does not make the 53-man roster, I certainly think he makes the practice squad as an undrafted rookie free agent.
Landry Jones: Remember two seasons ago, we all thought Jones was the can't-miss prospect from Oklahoma? The next Troy Aikman? Now, it looks like he is lost on an NFL training camp and may not make the 53-man roster. His mechanics need work.
Terry Hawthorne: According to behindthesteelcurtain.com, "The day after having a procedure to remove bone chips from his knee, Hawthorne signs a four year deal with Pittsburgh."
Cornerback is a key need for this team. The Steelers want Hawthorne to earn the spot and be a new starter and the eventual replacement for Ike Taylor.
Grade C (but this is due to injury)
OVERALL GRADE: C+