By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH — The 2013 NFL Draft ended for the Pittsburgh Steelers about the same way that it began, with much promise for the franchise’s future, as they made nine selections during the three-day event and also signed unrestricted free-agent running back LaRod Stephens-Howling to the roster.
“We’re happy that the process went, we think, very well for us,” Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said. “We think we’ve added some good, young players who can come in and hopefully make us a better team.”
The Steelers took Georgia outside linebacker Jarvis Jones in the first round Thursday and added Michigan State running back Le’Veon Bell and Oregon State wideout Markus Wheaton in the second and third round, respectively, Friday.
Rounds 4-7 Saturday produced Syracuse strong safety Shamarko Thomas and Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones in the fourth round. Thomas gave the Steelers a top-four group who should get considerable playing time this season, but Jones was intriguing to Colbert.
“We thought there were some good, young quarterbacks in this group, and when you have a franchise quarterback like we do, you really don’t get a lot of opportunities to add another young quarterback into the mix,” Colbert said.
“Hopefully, we’re never in a position where we’re picking a top quarterback high, but when you look at the Landry Joneses of the world, this kid was highly regarded as an underclassman. Of course, he decided to stay (at Oklahoma), and he was available to us in this fourth round.
“And we just thought it was a great opportunity to add a good, young quarterback,” Colbert added. “It’s a critical position, and you better keep adding young folks to that spot.”
The remaining four picks aren’t likely to push for playing time immediately, but they could develop quickly. Illinois cornerback Terry Hawthorne was the team’s fifth-round pick, while Oklahoma wideout Justin Brown and Florida State inside linebacker Vince Williams were the sixth-round selections. And in the seventh round, the Steelers picked up Samford defensive end Nick Williams, a project who likely will need a couple years to develop.
“With the nine picks, we’re at 74 (on our roster), so we can add 16 free agents once the draft is over,” Colbert said. “We just counted this up and I didn’t even know what the breakdown was, but we have five defensive players and four offensive players. Again, we like these picks, and we just hope they’re the right ones who help us win games.”
The Steelers actually signed 15 undrafted rookie free agents Saturday night, including defensive end Brian Arnfelt (Northwestern), linebacker Alan Baxter (Northern Illinois), guard Nik Embernate (San Diego State), wide receiver Reggie Dunn (Utah), offensive tackle Mike Farrell (Penn State), offensive tackle Mike Golic, Jr. (Notre Dame), defensive end Cordian Hagans (Louisiana-Lafayette), guard Chris Hubbard (UAB), defensive tackle Omar Hunter (Florida), long snapper Luke Ingram (Hawaii), center Joe Madsen (West Virginia), running back Curtis McNeal (USC), center Ivory Wade (Baylor), defensive tackle Anthony Rashad White (Michigan State) and wide receiver J.D. Woods (West Virginia).
That means the Steelers have one spot remaining to fill, so they conceivably could sign a veteran free agent at some point.
6TH ROUND: Butler ready to work with LB Vince Williams