2013 NFL Offseason: Pittsburgh Steelers
Draft Grades, Season Previews, Team Needs, Free Agents
Pittsburgh Steelers (Last Year: 8-8)
2013 NFL Draft Grade: A-
Please note that the overall grade is not an average of all the individual grades. Other things are taken into account like team needs and goals.
Goals Entering the 2013 NFL Draft: The Steelers lost a number of key veterans this offseason like James Harrison, Keenan Lewis, Willie Colon, Rashard Mendenhall and Mike Wallace. They need to replace those departed players. Of course, they won't reach to fill these holes; Pittsburgh, as it always does, will take advantage of the dumb teams drafting in front of them and catch falling prospects.
2013 NFL Draft Accomplishments: Sure enough, Pittsburgh's front office laughed as the top pass-rusher in this class, Jarvis Jones, fell right into its lap at No. 17. It's amazing that despite being designed to help the lesser teams, all the NFL Draft does is strengthen the superior ones.
The Steelers had a number of outstanding selections. Markus Wheaton, considered a second-round prospect, could be a worthy replacement for Mike Wallace despite being chosen at No. 79. The next pick (No. 111), Shamarko Thomas, was also snagged off the board a round later than projected. Thomas won't start right away, but will eventually be pushed into the starting lineup once Pittsburgh's aging safeties move on or get injured.
Pittsburgh addressed some needs late with some sound selections, but two picks weigh this class down. I'm not a fan of Le'Veon Bell as a second-rounder because he's yet another slow back out of the Big Ten. The Landry Jones choice was even worse. There were undrafted free agent quarterbacks who are better than him - Matt Scott and Tyler Bray, for example.
Despite these two picks, the Steelers still deserve a high grade for yet another successful draft class.
2013 NFL Draft Individual Grades:
17. Jarvis Jones, DE/OLB, Georgia: A+ Grade
This is why the same group of teams make the playoffs every year and why another group of teams always draft in the top 10. One selection after the Bills chose the No. 4 quarterback in this class, the Steelers nabbed arguably the top pass-rusher. As mentioned in my mock draft, dumb groupthink would cause Jones to fall. Pittsburgh landed a steal.
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48. Le'Veon Bell, RB, Michigan State: C Grade
The Steelers needed a running back, so they're filling a need. But Le'Veon Bell over Eddie Lacy? That's a very questionable decision, especially considering the poor success of Big Ten backs over the years. Bell is more than a Big Ten plodder because he can block and catch the ball out of the backfield, but I wouldn't have taken him this early.
79. Markus Wheaton, WR, Oregon State: A- Grade
Surprise, surprise, another steal for Pittsburgh. Markus Wheaton was a consensus second-round prospect who shouldn't have fallen to the middle of the third frame. He'll fill a big need as a downfield receiver in the wake of Mike Wallace's departure.
111. Shamarko Thomas, S, Syracuse: A Grade
I'm pretty sure I mocked Shamarko Thomas to the Steelers in the third round, so I obviously like his value. Thomas is small, but he's a good player and should be able to start down the road once Pittsburgh's aging safeties move on.
115. Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma: C- Grade
I usually like Steelers picks, so it feels weird to give them a bad grade. They needed a backup quarterback, but Landry Jones is barely functional. Many people I trust believe that Jones should have gone undrafted. After all, he wasn't even used in the red zone at Oklahoma.
150. Terry Hawthorne, CB, Illinois: B+ Grade
The Steelers lost Keenan Lewis in free agency to the Saints, so it's no surprise that they used a mid-round pick on the cornerback position. Terry Hawthorne definitely fits the range.
186. Justin Brown, WR, Oklahoma: C Grade
I'm not sure I would have considered Justin Brown draftable if the draft were 10 rounds, so this is a reach. However, it's the middle of the sixth round, so that's not a huge deal at this juncture.
206. Vince Williams, ILB, Florida State: A Grade
Leave it to the Steelers to find a steal with the final pick in the sixth round. Vince Williams is pretty talented, and it wouldn't shock me at all if he eventually emerged as a starter.
223. Nick Williams, DE/DT, Samford: A- Grade
I thought Nick Williams would go a round or two earlier, so it's no surprise that Pittsburgh landed another value selection. There are some disappointing defensive ends on Pittsburgh's roster, so it wouldn't surprise me if Williams eventually was considered to be a starter.
*** 2013 NFL TEAM NEEDS BELOW COMMENT BOARD ***
Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers have been known to thrive in the clutch and pull games out late in regulation, but that was not the case in 2012. In fact, the complete opposite occurred. Roethlisberger was either throwing costly picks, or the running backs were fumbling balls at a ridiculous rate, or the receivers were dropping key passes. Something always seemed to go wrong. Unlike the current Cowboys and Lions' regimes, Pittsburgh has won before, so it has a good chance of turning things around.
- Rush Linebacker: The Steelers tied for just 15th in sacks in 2012. That would help explain why their defense couldn't force any turnovers. James Harrison was cut. Luckily, there will be plenty of pass-rushers available at No. 17 in the 2013 NFL Draft. Drafted Jarvis Jones
- Wide Receiver: Mike Wallace cost his team with so many drops this past season. He's a free agent, so he'll likely move on to another venue. Retained Emmanuel Sanders; re-signed Plaxico Burress
- Strong Safety: How many more years can Pittsburgh keep relying on Troy Polamalu? He's always hurt. The front office needs to start thinking about bringing in a successor. Drafted Shamarko Thomas
- Offensive Tackle: Second-round rookie Mike Adams struggled in his first NFL campaign, but maybe he'll improve. The Steelers should bring in veteran competition just in case he doesn't. Signed Guy Whimper
- Defensive End: Pittsburgh got absolutely no pass rush out of its young defensive ends, Ziggy Hood and Cameron Heyward. Hood was especially terrible.
- Running Back: Rashard Mendenhall is a free agent. He probably won't be back. Some competition will have to be added for the mediocre Jonathan Dwyer. Re-signed Jonathan Dwyer; tendered Isaac Redman; drafted Le'Veon Bell
- Inside Linebacker: Larry Foote is coming off an abysmal season, but Pittsburgh may opt to bring him back just in case Sean Spence isn't ready to start. Re-signed Larry Foote and Stevenson Sylvester
- Cornerback: The Steelers will need some cornerback help if Keenan Lewis leaves via free agency. Signed William Gay; drafted Terry Hawthorne
- Tight End: Heath Miller suffered a brutal knee injury in late December, tearing his ACL, MCL and PCL. A mid- or late-round pick could be used on a tight end. Signed Matt Spaeth
- Interior Offensive Linemen: With Ramon Foster and Doug Legursky heading for free agency, Pittsburgh will have to replenish depth. Re-signed Ramon Foster
- Quarterback: Charlie Batch and Byron Leftwich are both free agents, so the Steelers will have to find a backup quarterback. Signed Bruce Gradkowski; drafted Landry Jones; claimed John Parker Wilson
- Punter: Drew Butler ranked 25th in net punting average.
2013 NFL Free Agent Signings:
William Gay, CB, Cardinals. Age: 28.
Signed with Steelers
William Gay played well in 2011, but was torched consistently this past season. Gay (not that there's anything wrong with that) is just 28, so he could turn his career around. The Cardinals had no choice but to cut him, however, given that he was due $3.2 million in 2013.
Matt Spaeth, TE, Bears. Age: 29.
Signed with Steelers
Matt Spaeth is an awesome blocker, but doesn't offer much as a receiver.
- Guy Whimper, OT, Jaguars. Age: 30. -- Signed with Steelers
- Plaxico Burress, WR, Steelers. Age: 36. -- Re-signed with Steelers
- Bruce Gradkowski, QB, Bengals. Age: 30. -- Signed with Steelers (3 years)
- John Parker Wilson, QB, Jaguars. Age: 27. -- Claimed by Steelers
Pittsburgh Steelers Free Agents:
Salary Cap: TBA.
Keenan Lewis, CB, Steelers. Age: 27.
Signed with Saints (5 years, $26 million; $11 million guaranteed)
Keenan Lewis played very well in his first season as a starter in 2012, surrendering a solid 52.7 completion percentage and just three touchdowns.
Mike Wallace, WR, Steelers. Age: 27.
Signed with Dolphins (5 years)
Mike Wallace is overrated. He has blazing speed, but he's a horribly inefficient receiver. He dropped tons of passes and ranked near the bottom of the NFL in terms of catch percentage among starting wideouts.
Willie Colon, G/OT, Steelers. Age: 30.
Signed with Jets (1 year, $1.2 million)
Willie Colon can play both guard positions as well as right tackle. He's a very powerful blocker, and he would be rated much higher if he didn't have a troublesome knee that has forced him out of multiple games over the past several seasons.
James Harrison, DE/OLB, Steelers. Age: 35.
Signed with Bengals (2 years)
James Harrison can still put good pressure on the quarterback, but given that he turns 35 in May, it's fair to wonder how long that'll last. He's also injury-prone, so that doesn't help his cause.
David Johnson, FB, Steelers. Age: 26.
Re-signed with Steelers (1 year)
David Johnson is a solid, run-blocking fullback, but is coming off a torn ACL that he suffered in August.
Jonathan Dwyer (RFA), RB, Steelers. Age: 24.
Re-signed with Steelers (1 year, $1.3 million)
Jonathan Dwyer has some nice running ability - he averaged four yards per carry behind a beat-up offensive line - but he'll have the occasional mental lapse, whether it's a fumble or a dropped pass.
Ramon Foster, G, Steelers. Age: 27.
Re-signed with Steelers (3 years)
Ramon Foster is a quality starter. He pass protects well, but struggles in terms of run blocking.
Steve McLendon (RFA), NT, Steelers. Age: 27.
Re-signed with Steelers (3 years)
Steve McClendon looks like a solid replacement for Casey Hampton. He performed well in the playoffs against the Broncos in January 2012, and that carried over into this season when he saw the field briefly.
Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Steelers. Age: 26.
Signed with Cardinals (1 year)
An injury-prone Big Ten plodder with some talent, but not enough to make him very appealing.
Emmanuel Sanders (RFA), WR, Steelers. Age: 26.
Steelers match tender offer
Emmanuel Sanders caught 44 balls for 626 yards and a touchdown in his third season. He could be thrust into the starting lineup if Mike Wallace leaves.
Casey Hampton, NT, Steelers. Age: 35.
Casey Hampton is still a quality run-stuffer despite his age (36 on Sept. 3).
Isaac Redman, RB, Steelers. Age: 28.
Tendered by Steelers (original)
Isaac Redman is solid in goal-line and third-down situations, but he should not be carrying the ball on normal downs.
Larry Foote, ILB, Steelers. Age: 33.
Larry Foote is an asset because he's a smart leader on the field, but his skills have eroded. He was ranked near the top among linebackers in terms of missed tackles and touchdowns allowed. He said he's considering retirement.
- Will Allen, S, Steelers. Age: 31. -- Signed with Cowboys
- Max Starks, OT, Steelers. Age: 31. -- Signed with Chargers
- Doug Legursky, G, Steelers. Age: 27. -- Signed with Bills
- Ryan Mundy, S, Steelers. Age: 28. -- Signed with Giants
- Charlie Batch, QB, Steelers. Age: 38.
- Byron Leftwich, QB, Steelers. Age: 33.
- Stevenson Sylvester (RFA), ILB, Steelers. Age: 25. -- Re-signed with Steelers
- Leonard Pope, TE, Steelers. Age: 29.
- Brandon Johnson, ILB, Steelers. Age: 30.
- Plaxico Burress, WR, Steelers. Age: 36.
- Justin King, CB, Steelers. Age: 26.
2013 NFL Free Agent Positions:
QB | RB | FB | WR | TE | OT | G | C | DE | DT | OLB | ILB | CB | S | K/P | FA Grades
Charlie's 2014 NFL Mock Draft - June 17
2013 Fantasy Football Rankings - June 16
2014 NFL Mock Draft - June 11
2013 NBA Mock Draft - May 22
NFL Picks - Feb. 3
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