Re-Drafting Pittsburgh Steelers' 2013 Draft
The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2013 draft class has already shown some promise after just one season. Three of their nine selections entered the starting lineup, but only one has shown star potential.
A disappointing workout and injury concerns caused Jones to fall to the 17th selection, where the Steelers quickly snapped him up. The fact that Jones earned a starting job as a rookie was impressive, but his 40 tackles and one sack leave a lot to be desired.
Instead, Pittsburgh could have addressed needs at wide receiver or cornerback. In fact, the same could be said about each of the selections that were made in 2013. Did the Steelers make the best use of its draft picks, or could they have done a better job at improving the team?
It is easy to second-guess decisions that Pittsburgh’s front office made a year ago, but with better choices, they could be in better position today.
This article will examine what the front office could have done if they had the chance to redo the 2013 draft. Not only will the new choices take into consideration their performance as rookies, but also how they would have fit into Pittsburgh’s long-term plans.
So if the Steelers had a second opportunity at the 2013 draft, what would they do differently? Here is a look at how the draft would have changed after watching the 2013 season play out.
Round 1, 17th Overall
Original Selection: Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
Re-Draft Selection: Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
The Steelers enter the 2014 season with a major hole at cornerback. Ike Taylor is likely in his final year with the team, and Cortez Allen will be a free agent next season.
Even if Allen is re-signed, the Steelers need another starting-caliber cornerback. Desmond Trufant would have been a fantastic player to fill that role.
The 2013 season would have provided Trufant an opportunity to get experience on passing downs. He proved that he was more than up to the task with 70 tackles, 17 passes defended, two interceptions, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.
His performance earned him the Defensive Rookie of the Year award from Pro Football Focus. Only 53.4 percent of the passes thrown his way were completed, and he had PFF’s eighth-highest coverage rating.
Though Trufant may not have started as a rookie, he would have entered the 2014 as a favorite to enter the starting lineup and would have allowed the Steelers to part ways with Taylor if they did not want to bring him back at a reduced cap hit.
Trufant and Allen would have provided the Steelers with two quality young cornerbacks to carry the secondary into the future. With the talent in place, they would have been able to wait until Day 3 to address depth at the position.
Jarvis Jones may develop into a very good outside linebacker one day, but unless he proves that he can be an elite pass-rusher, Trufant would have provided better value in the first round.
Round 2, 48th Overall
Original Selection: Le'Veon Bell, RB, Michigan State
Re-Draft Selection: Sio Moore, LB, Connecticut
Pittsburgh had problems at both inside and outside linebacker last season, and Sio Moore would have provided the team with a versatile option.
At 6’1” and 240 pounds, Moore has the size to play inside or outside for the Steelers, but he likely would have found a home as an edge-rusher. He is still developing as a pass-rusher, but he has the ability to step up and defend against the run as well.
Moore would have been a contributor on special teams and played in a reserve role on defense as he learned Dick LeBeau’s complex system. After a year of experience, he would have been in position to enter the starting lineup as a second-year pro.
The change to Moore is by no means indicative of Le’Veon Bell’s play as a rookie. He got better as the season progressed, but the Steelers could have found a quality running back later.
Round 3, 79th Overall
Original Selection: Markus Wheaton, WR, Oregon State
Re-Draft Selection: Jordan Reed, TE, Florida
One of the reasons that the Steelers have finished 8-8 in each of the last two seasons is due to the lack of good football players. They are an average team because they have average players.
While Markus Wheaton can develop into a dangerous deep threat, he was a non-factor as a rookie and still must prove himself as a viable option for Ben Roethlisberger. That would not have been a problem for Jordan Reed.
Reed was a member of the Pro Football Focus All-Rookie Team, as he caught 45 passes for 499 yards and three touchdowns. He was able to accomplish this all while playing in just nine games before his season ended due to a concussion.
He would still need to develop as a blocker, but he showed signs in that area and would have provided the Steelers with a very good No. 2 tight end for the present and eventual starter once Heath Miller retires.
Round 4, 111th Overall
Original Selection: Shamarko Thomas, S, Syracuse
Re-Draft Selection: Shamarko Thomas, S, Syracuse
Shamarko Thomas did not show much as a rookie with just 29 tackles in 14 games played. While that will concern some, it takes time for a safety to adjust to Dick LeBeau’s defense.
There are few players that train as hard as Thomas, and this is reflected by his athleticism on the field. He has the ability to play in deep coverage, as a slot defender or step up against the run. In addition to this, he can be a quality player on special teams.
Thomas will once again play as a reserve in passing packages, but LeBeau should be able to expand what he does on the field this season and move him around more. He is the heir apparent to Troy Polamalu, and it is only a matter of time before he realizes his potential on the playing field and not just the weight room.
Round 4, 115th Overall
Original Selection: Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma
Re-Draft Selection: Kenny Stills, WR, Oklahoma
Besides cornerback, wide receiver remains as one of the biggest needs for the Steelers in 2014. Outside of Antonio Brown, they lack any significant weapons for Ben Roethlisberger.
Stills has some developing to do, but he has all of the tools to be a successful receiver in the NFL. At 6’0” and 194 pounds, he would instantly be one of the tallest receivers on the team, and his 4.38 speed makes him a deep threat.
According to Pro Football Focus, Stills had an average depth of target of 16.9 yards and still managed to have a catch rate of 70 percent with just one drop all season. In total, he had 32 receptions for 641 yards and an eye-popping 20 yards per reception. He added five touchdowns as well.
The Steelers could have used Stills as a deep threat during his rookie season, similar to how they used Mike Wallace in his first season. By limiting his responsibilities, he would have been able to put up similar stats in Pittsburgh that he did in New Orleans.
Unlike his Oklahoma teammate the Steelers selected, Stills not only would have found a role on the offense as a rookie, but has starting potential in the future, whereas Landry Jones may be nothing more than a No. 3 quarterback.
Round 5, 150th Overall
Original Selection: Terry Hawthorne, CB, Illinois
Re-Draft Selection: Zac Stacy, RB, Vanderbilt
Quality running backs can be found late in the draft, and that is exactly why the Steelers could have waited until the fifth round to select Zac Stacy.
Stacy had 973 yards on 250 carries and seven touchdowns on an offense devoid of weapons in St. Louis. He proved that he could be a multidimensional threat with 26 receptions for 141 yards and one receiving touchdown as well.
Terry Hawthorne was a disappointing selection for the Steelers and did not make the final 53-man roster. It is very easy to see why Stacy would have been a much better selection.
Round 6, 186th Overall
Original Selection: Justin Brown, WR, Oklahoma
Re-Draft Selection: Andre Ellington, RB, Clemson
When it comes to late-round draft picks, finding a player that can stick on the roster can be considered an accomplishment. That wasn’t the case with Justin Brown.
Even though in this re-draft the Steelers took a running back in the fifth round, going back to the position with the very next selection is more than worth it. Andre Ellington proved to be one of the best late-round values in the entire draft.
In 15 games, Ellington ran for 652 yards on 118 carries. That equates to an impressive 5.5 yards per carry. He was a strong asset in the passing game as well with 39 receptions for 371 yards.
Despite his small stature (5’9” and 199 pounds), Ellington proved that he could make yards after contact. He ranked ninth in the league with 2.47 yards after contact when running inside and was the best in the league with 4.62 yards after contact when carrying the ball outside, per Pro Football Focus.
Ellington is a true big-play threat from the running back position who would have provided the Steelers with a very dangerous change-of-pace option.
Round 6, 206th Overall
Original Selection: Vince Williams, ILB, Florida State
Re-Draft Selection: Vince Williams, ILB, Florida State
When the Steelers drafted Vince Williams, he had the look of a solid special teams player and the upside of a two-down player on defense. After one season, Williams has lived up to his billing.
The fact that he earned a starting job as a sixth-round rookie is very impressive. Even though he was often taken off the field for an extra defensive back, Williams was still able to make 53 tackles. He would start 11 of the 15 games that he played in.
Williams has a chance to get stronger and improve as a run-defender, and a year of experience in the defense will serve him well moving into the 2014 season. The fact that he was able to start as a rookie makes him a keeper for the Steelers.
Round 7, 223rd Overall
Original Selection: Nick Williams, DE, Samford
Re-Draft Selection: Nick Williams, DE, Samford
If a player selected in the seventh round makes the final roster, it should be considered a pretty good selection. Nick Williams did not have an opportunity to show what he was capable of after being placed on the injured reserve due to a knee injury, but he is motivated to come back stronger than ever.
At 6’4” and 309 pounds, Williams already has the frame to play defensive end in the 3-4 defense. His pure physical skills were one of the reasons the Steelers selected him in the draft. He has limited experience playing the game of football and played at Samford, which is not exactly known as a football powerhouse.
Considering that Williams essentially had a redshirt year to start his career, he should be poised to make a run at a backup job in his second season. The tools are in place, and Williams just has to put it together on the field and produce.