The Pittsburgh Steelers addressed two needs in round two and three of the 2013 NFL Draft by replacing running back Rashard Mendenhall with Michigan State running back Le’Veon Bell with the 48th overall pick and replaced wide receiver Mike Wallace with Oregon State wide receiver Markus Wheaton with the 79th overall pick.
“With Rashard Mendenhall no longer here and with Chris Rainey no longer in the mix, (running back) was a position where we needed to bring in competition,” said Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley. “We have two totally different type guys with LaRod [Stephens-Howling] and Le’Veon. I think it puts us back in a place where we can have a chance to run the ball and throw the ball out of the backfield successfully.
“We need competition, and the receiver position was one of the areas going in where we knew we wanted to add to the competition,” added Haley. “We like the guys we have here, but you get another young guy to compete and push the other guys, that’s always a good thing in my opinion.”
The Steelers had their choice to take Alabama’s Eddie Lacy but decided Bell fit better in the Steelers system.
“Without getting into the specifics, as the process went on it was pretty clear this was the guy we would be most excited about being available when it came to our pick,” said Haley.
“In the end, he was (our top-rated running back). Without getting into specifics, there are a lot of different factors that go into that. He is a young guy who is big. With no disrespect, I drew some Eddie George physical comparisons to him because Le’Veon is taller than what you would normally see. He’s a good athlete. We love the fact that he catches the ball really well, and he still has that big back presence.”
Bell carried the ball 382 times for 1,793 yards and 12 touchdowns as a junior in 2012.
“I’m a balanced runner,” said Bell. “I’m a bigger guy. I’m 230 pounds. I can go in there and get the tough yardage and even though a lot of people look at me and think, ‘He’s just a short yardage back,’ I don’t look at myself like that. I can get to the outside. I can catch the ball out of the backfield. I can pass protect. I can play special teams. There’s a lot of things that I can do to bring value to the Steelers, and that’s what I plan on doing.”
Bell said he’s gonna come in and compete for the starting job.
“I’m going to come in and compete,” said Bell. “I’m going to come in and do the best that I possibly can. I’m going to come in and compete with the other backs and the other backs are going to compete with me. They’re going to try to make me better and I’m going to make them better at the same time. That’s all going to make the team better. I just want to go out there and compete.”
“He is a highly productive receiver out of Oregon State, a four-year guy who had great production as a receiver, and he also handled the football as a runner a bunch, which we like from a versatility standpoint. He’s a good solid football player who brings speed to the team. He’s a fast guy, make no mistake about it, a guy who can stretch the field.”
Wheaton ran a 4.44 at the Combine. He caught a school-record 227 passes for 2,994 yards and 16 touchdowns. He also rushed for 631 yards on 83 carries and added five more touchdowns.
“To be honest, I envision myself anywhere,” said Wheaton. “I played a lot of outside in college. Obviously, it’s not the same as the NFL, but I feel I can produce outside. If I do need to play inside, I feel I can do both. I like being all over the place. The defense can’t really plan for you when they don’t know where you’re going to be. So I like being all over the place.”