by Adam Fournier, Ourlads’ Intern
Following back to back playoff appearances in 2010 and 2011 including a Super Bowl appearance, the Pittsburgh Steelers put in back to back mediocre seasons in 2012 and 2013 that both finished 8-8. However in 2014, they came roaring back with an eleven-win season and won one of the toughest divisions in the NFL. The Steelers’ resurgence is thanks in part to a great crop of young talent acquired over the last five drafts.
Most of the Steelers’ successful draft picks have been on the offensive side of the ball, producing multiple Pro Bowl players. The most notable is Antonio Brown who looks to be the best value pick in the last five years as the Steelers grabbed him in the sixth round. Brown has been contributing as a returner and receiver in all five years making the 2011 Pro Bowl as a return man. However in the past two years, Brown has emerged as one of the best receivers in the league after his historic 2014 season. He is considered one of the best overall players in the NFL for the 2015 season. Joining him at the receiver position are 2013 3rd round pick Markus Wheaton and 2014 4th round pick Martavis Bryant. With Brown as the star and the other two as contributing factors, the Steelers potentially have one of the best receiving corps for 2015.
Other Pro Bowl selections drafted in the past five years are 2010 1st rounder Maurkice Pouncey and 2013 2nd round pick Le’Veon Bell. Following a decent rookie campaign, Bell had an incredible break out season in 2014. He was one of the best running backs in the league. With Bell on offense alongside Antonio Brown, Ben Roethlisberger has two of the best offensive weapons for 2015. He also has one of the best centers hiking him the ball in Pouncey. Pouncey has been a Pro Bowl selection four times in his five years and is the anchor on one of the best offensive lines in the league. Also joining Pouncey on the line from the previous five drafts are 2011 2nd round pick Marcus Gilbert, 2012 1st round pick David DeCastro, and 2012 7th round pick Kelvin Beachum. With Roethlisberger being protected by this offensive line with Brown, Bell, Wheaton, and Bryant as his weapons, the Steelers could have one of the most dangerous offenses in 2015 thanks to their recent drafts.
The draft picks on the defensive side of the ball have not been up to par with the offense. The 2010 2nd rounder Jason Worilds never did much to live up to his 2nd round selection. He was a contributor as a reserve in his first three seasons and a starter in his last two. However he retired from the NFL after only five years in the league. The 4th round pick from the same year, linebacker Thaddeus Gibson, did not even last through his rookie season. Sean Spence from the 2012 draft has had trouble staying healthy so far playing only one out of three seasons. The 1st round pick in 2013, Jarvis Jones, has yet to live up to his huge hype. He has only started eleven games in his two years and had injuries issues. Jones is projected to be a reserve in 2015. He still has the chance to turn it around but will need to step up big time to do so. The Steelers did get a starter on the defensive line in Cameron Heyward, but he is nothing spectacular. Also projected to started on defense in 2015 but still have a lot to prove are 2011 pick Cortez Allen, 2013 pick Shamarko Thomas, and 2014 picks Ryan Shazier, and Stephon Tuitt. These players will get their chance to shine in 2015.