So, in case you haven't heard, though I'm sure you did if you're reading this right now, the 2013 NFL draft took place this past weekend. The Pittsburgh Steelers welcomed a bunch of new players in order to replace some extremely valuable "older" ones who left during the off-season. Mike Wallace and Rashard Mendenhall are gone. As are Casey Hampton and James Harrison. SOME PRETTY IMPORTANT GUYS. You can argue that they were getting up there in age, sloppy, not dependable, horrific attitudes, whatever -- these are still some pretty big names to lose in a short period of time.
That's why the draft was so important in 2013, seemingly more so than in recent years. Many fans have been calling the next season a "rebuilding" one -- aka we're not going to be able to do shit this year -- but who knows. The Steelers tend to do rather well when no one believes in them. With hated rivals the Baltimore Ravens winning last year's Super Bowl and the Steelers not even making it to the playoffs, maybe this shakeup is just what the team needs to not have another 8-8 record. Sorry to sound so gloom-and-doom, but I think every Steelers fan most likely has a healthy dose of pessimistic paranoia when it comes to their favorite team. There's a lot at stake here, people! Like, you know, happiness and livers.
So can these newcomers help at least get us to the playoffs this year (I'm still bitter at how quickly our last season ended)? Here is the entire list in all its black and gold glory:
1 (17) - Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
2 (48) - Le'Veon Bell, RB, Michigan State
3 (79) - Markus Wheaton, WR, Oregon State
4 (111) - Shamarko Thomas, S, Syracuse
4 (115) - Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma
5 (150) - Terry Hawthrone, CB, Illinois
6 (186) - Justin Brown, WR, Oklahoma
6 (206) - Vince Williams, LB, Florida State
7 (223) - Nick Williams, DT, Samford
Most everyone agrees that Jarvis Jones, one of the best OLBs in the draft, was an excellent first choice. Especially with the departure of Harrison and Troy Polamalu's status always in doubt due to him constantly injuring himself, they need to continue to build their linebacking corps with some new blood, plain and simple. LaMarr Woodley is fantastic, and Lawrence Timmons is pretty good, but they really need someone young to make up for Harrison. It felt like Harrison's plays were some of the only highlights last season when the defense really struggled and lost a bunch of leads. It's going to be SO STRANGE to see him in a Cincinnati Bengals uniform. I don't think I'm really looking forward to that.
Also, a new wide receiver is crucial after losing Mike Wallace (you can argue all you want that he had a bad attitude and his productivity was decreasing, but the dude made some pretty big plays for the Steelers during his tenure there). Well, now that he's made headlines yet again recently for all the wrong reasons, I say good riddance -- so not worth it. Obviously Bell is a big power back who can hopefully take the place of Mendenhall. Thomas most likely will step in Polamalu's shoes -- though I don't know if anyone can really replace Troy's versatility and presence on the defense. Still, the defense can't keep depending on Troy -- just like with QB Ben Roethlisberger, the way they play, they're just bound to get injured a lot.
There were a few grumblings that the Steelers shouldn't have passed on linebacker Arthur Brown and that they picked Bell over RB Eddie Lacy. Clearly the Steelers higher-ups know more than we do, so let's give them the benefit of the doubt. Plus, it looks like the Steelers passed on Lacy due to an injury. I guess we'll never know about fan-favorite Brown, but I still have faith in Kevin Colbert and am hoping he passed on him for a legitimate reason.
And there are so many basic needs this team has to address, it's a little scary. The secondary has been struggling (Keenan Lewis is gone too), who knows how the linebackers will react to Harrison leaving, the O-line was riddled with injuries last season, and it didn't go all that well when Roethlisberger was injured for a few games (though watching Charlie Batch win against the Ravens was a season -- if not a lifetime -- highlight). Though some Steelers fans' eyebrows have been raised after using a draft pick to choose what they think is a "backup" QB, the QB situation was rather dire last season -- they probably felt like they had to do something. A bit of a surprising pick, so we'll see how that works out.
With all this said -- no, I didn't watch the draft this year. I actually find it to be incredibly boring; there is just way too much lag time between rounds. Plus, I really only care about who goes first and who the Steelers pick. Does that make me a terrible fan? Probably. Anyway, I've seen reports give the Steelers' draft everything from a B to a C grade, meaning overall it was a rather average group in the minds of the "experts". But it's next to impossible to tell how any of this will shape up until the season starts. The speculation is pretty pointless. In some cases, chemistry with the team and leadership trump innate talent (and some big egos). Still, it's fun to question everything the Steelers do -- what else would we do with our day? There will always be disappointments, but let's hope there are also a few surprises along the way with these young guys.
I'm curious to see what other Steelers fans think of the draft this year. I am a healthy dose of nervous about this upcoming season, with so many big departures, but we'll just never know how everyone fits together until the fall. As of now, time to root for the Penguins -- at least Pittsburgh has one team that's made it to the playoffs!