Now that the Pittsburgh Steelers have a nine-man draft class in the books, the offseason shifts to another gear. It is time to negotiate contracts with the rookies, get them into the team's offseason program and integrate them into the plans for the 2013 season.
Mike Tomlin, Kevin Colbert and the rest of the Pittsburgh staff are hinging their futures on this draft class and how much they can get out of it. If they hit a few home runs, the Steelers will contend again soon and be able to finish reloading without much pain. If not, it could be bad news for the coaches and front office executives.
Here's a look at what experts from around the web are saying now that dust has settled on this year's draft class.
What He Liked: Pete Prisco is very high on third-round receiver Markus Wheaton and thinks that he could be the next mid-round receiver to be successful in Pittsburgh's system after Emmanuel Sanders, Antonio Brown, Mike Wallace and Hines Ward. He also liked late-rounder Terry Hawthorne and thinks he will "fit in nicely in what the Steelers want from their corners."
What He Didn't Like: Prisco was not a fan of second-rounder Le'Veon Bell, a running back from Michigan State. Prisco says he is "more of a plodder" and that he "takes too long to get to the line of scrimmage."
His Bottom Line: Prisco credits Kevin Colbert as "one of the best in the business" and thinks Jarvis Jones was another of Colbert's picks of "productive college players." He gives Pittsburgh a B- and highlights Bell as the reason for a lower grade.
Analysis: Prisco is spot on except for Bell, who should fit Todd Haley's offense nicely and mixes well with the backs they currently have under contract. The Wheaton pick will look like a steal within three years and Hawthorne will be productive even if he moves to safety.
Source: CBS Sports
What He Liked: Mel Kiper, ESPN's draft guru, was very high on the Jarvis Jones pick saying that outside linebacker was "the top need on [his] board" and that Jones is a great fit for Pittsburgh's scheme. He also highlights Syracuse safety Shamarko Thomas as a "great value pick in Round 4."
What He Didn't Like: Like Prisco, Kiper felt that second-rounder Le'Veon Bell was a bit of a reach, although he goes on to say that he was productive despite playing "behind some pretty awful blocking" during his final season.
His Bottom Line: "Not a bad draft at all" is Kiper's summation for Pittsburgh's efforts and grades them overall at a B. He gave them a B+ on meeting needs and a B for finding value.
Analysis: It's hard to argue with a legend like Kiper. The Thomas pick was a great get and Pittsburgh basically gave up nothing for it since they will recoup at least a third-round choice next year in compensation for Mike Wallace signing in Miami.
What He Liked: Chris Burke felt the Pittsburgh Steelers were a great landing spot for quarterback Landry Jones of Oklahoma. While surprising as a pick, he said that the team's passing game "plays to Jones' strengths" and believes he will get playing time because of Ben Roethlisberger's frequent injury issues.
What He Didn't Like: Like both Pete Prisco and Mel Kiper, Burke felt that running back Le'Veon Bell was not the best player for Pittsburgh to take with the 48th overall selection. He does feel that Bell fits the offense, however.
His Bottom Line: Burke says that Pittsburgh "hit on four needs with their first four picks" and grades them out at a B-plus. Beyond labeling Bell as a reach, he didn't have any negative comments on the early picks.
Analysis: The trend certainly seems to be that Bell was not the right back to select. Top-rated Eddie Lacy was still on the board as was Jonathan Franklin, but Pittsburgh saw something they evidently liked. Lacy's toe injury and the fact he played behind an NFL offensive line last year may have turned them off. As for Franklin, he's more of a speed back that doesn't fit Todd Haley's offensive plan.
Source: Sports Illustrated
What He Liked: Gerry Dulac gave kudos to Kevin Colbert and company for "sticking to the board and filling positions" of need. Colbert has always said, according to Dulac, that the team sticks to their initial draft board and doesn't get wrapped up in draft-day hype.
What He Didn't Like: Dulac didn't highlight anything that he didn't like and offered an explanation of the pick for Le'Veon Bell that has been panned elsewhere as a reach. He says that Pittsburgh didn't see second-round talent at wide receiver and that they were "scared off by the long-term health" of running back Eddie Lacy's toe. Bell had the highest grade, so he was chosen.
His Bottom Line: Dulac doesn't give a letter grade but is obviously very high on this draft class. He complimented Kevin Colbert for filling needs without reaching for players and finding nine guys who can contribute to the team if things break right.
Analysis: Dulac has been around the Steelers and Pittsburgh for a long time and he knows what makes the team tick. If he trusts in this draft class, there's every reason to believe it was a home run. He's the only analyst that didn't have something bad to say about Bell. In all, this is the most complimentary roundup of the team's draft. Whether that's homer-ism or simply a different viewpoint remains to be seen.
Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
What He Liked: Vinnie Iyer says that it was like Pittsburgh "had a checklist for their four biggest needs and knew the right players to fill all of them." He highlights the team's top four selections as evidence of this and also says that Pittsburgh was able to fill out their depth chart later in the draft.
What He Didn't Like: There were no complaints from Iyer, who graded the team extremely well for finding value and filling needs and depth with every pick. It sounds as if, to him, there were simply no bad picks.
His Bottom Line: Iyer gave Pittsburgh an A, one of five teams with that grade, and also highlighted Landry Jones as a great depth pick after the team filled their biggest needs with four consecutive picks to open their draft.
Analysis: Iyer's exuberance is heartwarming to fans that know how important this draft class is to Pittsburgh's future prospects. He's spot on with his analysis of filling needs and with the value of Jones, who could end up as a trade chip or as the eventual successor to Ben Roethlisberger if things work out like Kevin Colbert probably intends.
Source: Sporting News