Steelers don't expect instant 'impact' rookie

April, 22, 2013
4/22/13
2:00
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Recent history says first-round picks don't start right away for the Pittsburgh Steelers. That's not likely to change even though the Steelers have needs at outside linebacker and tight end.

"Quite honestly, I don't envision anybody coming in and being an impact in Year 1," Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said at Monday's pre-draft news conference. "I never do because I think there is always a growing process that has to occur."

The Steelers have been heavily linked to Georgia's Jarvis Jones, who many thought would supplant Jason Worilds at outside linebacker. Others predicted Pittsburgh would take Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert because of the uncertain status of Heath Miller (Colbert and coach Mike Tomlin said there is "no new news" on the status of Miller, who tore knee ligaments toward the end of last season.)

Still, when asked if he thought this was a big draft for a Steelers team looking to rebound from an 8-8 season, Colbert repeated his expectations of rookies.

"(The draft is) really no more critical than any other year because I don't see any player coming and being an immediate impact player," he said. "I think if we lined up today with what we have, we'll have a chance. Now, we want to continue to add to that and let these players develop at their own pace. If they exceed that and come in and start like a (Maurice) Pouncey did or a Casey Hampton, great. But we've had great players who had to sit and learn. Quite honestly, I would expect this group to be like that. If they exceed that, that's a bonus for us."

The two positions where I could see a rookie making an immediate impact for the Steelers is outside linebacker and tight end. I believe Jones, if healthy, can provide more of a pass rush than Worilds, and Eifert is an upgrade over Matt Spaeth.

Speaking of Jones, the Steelers were asked about the medical red flags with the draft's pass-rushers. Jones was once diagnosed with stenosis, the narrowing of the spinal column.

"Obviously, some things we look at hardcore is medical and character issues and we deal with those on a case by case basis," Tomlin said. "But really no more than we have any other position. We give it all its due diligence."

Colbert said he feels there are six to eight special players in this draft, but he doubts the Steelers will trade up in the first round.

"I think the more picks we have, the better in this draft particularly," he said. "There will be a good player at 17, there's no question about that."

Since the Steelers selected Heath Miller eight years ago, only one first-round pick (center Maurkice Pouncey) was an immediate starter for the Steelers. That group includes wide receiver Santonio Holmes, linebacker Lawrence Timmons, running back Rashard Mendenhall, defensive linemen Ziggy Hood and Cameron Heyward and guard David DeCastro. But DeCastro was projected to start as a rookie before suffering a knee injury in preseason.

Jamison Hensley

ESPN Ravens reporter

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