- Jamison Hensley, ESPN Staff Writer
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ESPN's Ashley Fox wrote a column Monday on how the Pittsburgh Steelers are no longer the pacesetters of the AFC North. They face the unusual position of trailing the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals as far as talent level.
Fox points out that the Steelers have been losing ground in the draft:
"(A)t some point between drafting Ben Roethlisberger and Jarvis Jones, the Steelers' first-round pick in April, Pittsburgh slipped. The Ravens saw it and came to believe that because of a superior scouting department and because of Ozzie (Newsome), they could draft better than the Steelers and thus have better results. And the Ravens were right."
The Steelers' drafts from 2008 to 2011 have taken a toll on the team's depth and ability to promote quality players into starting spots when losing key members in free agency. During that time, the Steelers have drafted 33 players and the only player who has gone to multiple Pro Bowls is center Maurkice Pouncey.
The Steelers have drafted four players who have been the primary starter for more than one season (running back Rashard Mendenhall, wide receiver Mike Wallace, defensive end Ziggy Hood and Pouncey) and eight players who played fewer than nine career games. Pittsburgh has missed on wide receiver Limas Sweed (2008 second round), offensive tackle Kraig Urbik (2009 third round) and linebacker Jason Worilds (2010 second round). Last year, the Steelers' draft class made headlines for injuries and off-the-field incidents (nose tackle Alameda Ta'amu and running back Chris Rainey).
If the Steelers want to bounce back from last year's disappointing 8-8 season, they're going to need to get production from recent draft picks like guard David DeCastro and offensive tackle Mike Adams as well as rookies Jarvis Jones and Le'Veon Bell.