Aug 10, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Jarvis Jones (95) looks on from the sidelines against the New York Giants during the fourth quarter at Heinz Field. The New York Giants won 18-13. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh Steelers: What type of impact will the 2013 rookie class have?

Part of the downward trend of the Pittsburgh Steelers has to do with the fact that they simply have not drafted well over the course of the past four or five years.

Coming into the 2013 NFL Draft, there was a lot of pressure on Steelers’ general manager Kevin Colbert to hit more than one or two home runs in an effort to not only get younger, but also to add more than one or two players who could impact the Steelers future in a big way for the next five or six seasons.

Aug 10, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Markus Wheaton (11) runs a play against the New York Giants during the first half at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

On paper at least it looked like Colbert accomplished that goal.

But now that the preseason has come and gone, you have to ask the question of if this draft class will have a bigger impact than those of the recent past?

First off all, those answers really won’t become definite for the next three years or so, but judging by what we have seen so far you have to like the chances that this draft class can become one of the better ones in recent memory.

Sure the likes of Terry Hawthorne and Justin Brown didn’t make the team and the pick of Landry Jones in the fourth round still seems like a bit of a wasted pick, but it looks like Colbert did very well at the top of the draft.

Traditionally, Mike Tomlin has not been a coach to throw many rookies into the fire, but given the talent of this rookie class, he may not have much of a choice.

Outside linebacker Jarvis Jones clearly outplayed Jason Worilds in the preseason and looks to be the playmaker off the outside that this defense really needs. A chest injury may have delayed his arrival in the starting lineup, but it is clear that Jones needs to be on the field a lot.

Second-round pick Le’Veon Bell looks to be the featured back the Steelers’ offense really needs. His foot injury means that Steelers fans won’t get to see what he is made of for a few more weeks, but given the state of the Steelers backfield, it looks as if Bell will have every opportunity to stake claim to the No. 1 job for years to come.

Then there is third-round pick Markus Wheaton, who opened some eyes in the preseason.

While he won’t be in the starting lineup off the bat, nor will he replace the loss of Mike Wallace, Wheaton has shown signs of being a very productive weapon down the road.

The same can be said for safety Shamarko Thomas, who will see the field this season in passing situations.

That alone gives you good feelings about this draft class for the future.

While it looks like Colbert didn’t do very well in the later rounds of the draft, it certainly looks like he did extremely well with his first four selections as Jones, Bell, Wheaton and Thomas have the look of four players who can be really productive at the NFL level.

Of course only time will tell, but at least on paper the 2013 draft class looks a heck of a lot better than those of recent memory.

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Tags: Jarvis Jones Le'Veon Bell Markus Wheaton Pittsburgh Steelers Shamarko Thomas

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