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May 1, 2013

STAIRWAY TO 7: Steelers had good picks, but some question marks

OPINION — WE ALL KNOW who the newest Pittsburgh Steelers are and I’m kind of excited about the guys that’ll be competing for the first time in Black and Gold over the next few weeks.

I love the picks of outside Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones (first round), Michigan State running back Le’Veon Bell (second round), Oregon State receiver Markus Wheaton (third round) and Syracuse safety Shamarko Thomas (fourth round).

I can definitely see Bell starting right away with Jones and Wheaton competing for the right to start, while Thomas will see more and more ‘PT’ as the season progresses — or when Troy Polamalu gets hurt whichever happens first.

Many draftniks and Steelers fans believe the Steelers took Bell a tad early — I mentioned him last week as a possible third round selection — but he was the highest rated running back on the team’s board, so that’s fine with me.

I know they could’ve had Alabama’s Eddie Lacy, but a fused toe apparently scared them off. My only wish is they had taken a second running back in the draft to push Bell, who had do most of his work with a suspect passing game in East Lansing and an equally atrocious offensive line.

I saw Wheaton and the Steelers placed together in some of the seven-round mock drafts I perused over the past few months, but I liked other receivers more than him — namely West Virginia’s Stedman Bailey who I thought was better than first round pick and teammate Tavon Austin — in the third round.

But you know what, Wheaton is taller than Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders, so that’s good. He’s fast and is a good route runner — definitely doesn’t sound like he’s a ‘one-trick pony.’

I also mentioned Thomas last week as a possible third round selection and to get him in the fourth round was a coup for the Steelers. If he pans out, Thomas will help ease the loss of Polamalu’s eventual retirement.

But that’s where my praise of this draft ends.

The rest of the picks are head scratchers to me.

I understand the logic of taking Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones — the team needs to groom a young quarterback to maybe take over for Ben Roethlisberger, but Tyler Bray and Zac Dysert were available in the sixth round and could’ve been had then.

Especially with running backs Jonathan Franklin and Marcus Lattimore, defensive end John Simon, receiver Quinton Patton and ballhawking safety Phillip Thomas still available when Jones was taken.

All of whom would’ve helped fill bigger needs than a third string quarterback that we’re hoping will never see the field, especially when there’s just as qualified quarterbacks to be had later in the draft.

OK so the Steelers wanted some more cornerbacks and Illinois product Terry Hawthorne was the best available corner left in the fifth round, but again, I would’ve liked to have seen them take running backs Oklahoma’s Joseph Randle, Florida’s Mike Gillislee or Florida free safety Josh Evans.

I don’t like the pick of former Penn State and Oklahoma receiver Justin Brown in the sixth round. Just to show how low on the totem pole he was Sports Illustrated didn’t even have him listed among the eligible receivers.

Fellow sixth rounder linebacker Vince Williams of Florida State will have a chance to back up Larry Foote and will compete with Stevenson Sylvester for a roster spot. Heck, there’s even rumors floating around that the team will move Jason Worilds inside in the wake of the Jarvis Jones selection.

No matter what happens, I don’t see Williams helping ease the problems at inside linebacker at any point in his career.

Utah defensive end Joe Kruger would’ve been a nice fit behind Brett Keisel, Cam Heyward and Ziggy Hood -- I heard he would’ve been a first or second round pick had he stayed in school one more year.

Samford defensive lineman Nicholas Williams was the team’s final pick and by all accounts, they’re hoping on a wing and a prayer that he can replicate Keisel’s rise to stardom, because he’s so freaking raw they could’ve waited until July to sign him as an undrafted free agent.

To me, this wasn’t the year to take guys like Landry Jones, Hawthorne, Brown and the Williamses when there were more NFL ready players available.

They have very little chance to contribute this year and the Steelers needed more than four rookies to see significant playing time.

I guess I just have to trust GM Kevin Colbert and head coach Mike Tomlin’s judgement to get us back into the playoffs this fall.

My Grade: B

Agree, disagree or just want to comment? Contact Corey at gcsportsguy@yahoo.com.

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