The Big Question: Will Steelers have NFL's most impactful draft class?
Before the 2013 NFL Draft, Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said he didn't expect any Steelers rookie to make an "instant impact" this season. It didn't sound that crazy based on the Steelers' patient history developing players. It sounds crazy now.
Outside linebacker Jarvis Jones isn't guaranteed to start as a rookie, but I like his chances to pass Jason Worilds on the depth chart sooner than later. Second-round running back Le'Veon Bell currently is the heavy favorite to start at running back over Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman. The Steelers love Bell's three-down skills.
Third-round wide receiver Markus Wheaton's polished skill set translates to the NFL; he's a good bet to be the team's third receiver as a rookie. Fourth-round safety Shamarko Thomas, a Bob Sanders-like prospect, should be the primary backup to both safety spots behind two aging starters. The Steelers broke tradition by trading a 2014 third-rounder to get Thomas.
Add it all up, and the Steelers have at least four players who are in great position to make an instant impact. Like Bucky Brooks, I absolutely love the Steelers' 2013 draft class. With a little help from the rookies, there's no reason to think Pittsburgh can't contend for the AFC title as usual.
1. Attention fantasy leaguers: No rookie running back is in a better position than Bell to rack up 300 touches or more in 2013. Redman or Dwyer probably are battling for one roster spot behind him.
2. The Steelers will let Wheaton compete with Emmanuel Sanders for a starting job, but that's a long shot. Wheaton's ability to play in the slot and on the outside should get him on the field plenty. I expect the rookie to play more than Jerricho Cotchery or Plaxico Burress.
3. With no significant help coming out of the 2013 NFL Draft, the Steelers will need some previous underperforming defensive line picks to improve this season. Cameron Heyward and Ziggy Hood top the list.
Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.