By Teresa Varley
There is no question that head coach Mike Tomlin would have liked to have had more production out of his rookie class this year, but by no means is he passing judgment on that class based on just one year.
The success or failure of a rookie class should never be measured after the first year. The evaluation process is something that definitely occurs over time.
"One season does not define a career. In terms of evaluating this draft, it will be years down the line in terms of me being willing to do that," said Tomlin. "In the short term it is my desire to drive these men, to push these men to be the best that they can be.
"Should their roles evolve and increase? They better because we will be bringing in a new class. That is just the nature of this thing. But it doesn't define them and won't define them whether they had great success or great failure. The (Alan) Faneca, Hines Ward, Deshea (Townsend) Draft – great draft. But that's my mentality in terms of evaluating this one."
One player that Tomlin really wants to see grow is first-round pick Lawrence Timmons, who will compete this offseason for the "mack" inside linebacker spot currently occupied by Larry Foote.
"He has shown to be a sharp guy," said Tomlin. "He better be willing to have a 'get in where you fit in' mentality, because he needs to get on the field and help us."
Timmons has some battles he had to fight this year to get playing time, including being behind Foote and Farrior inside. It helped with the learning process, but kept him on the sidelines more often than not.
"I'm just blessed to be in a good situation and having veterans like these in front of me," said
Timmons. "It's just a great experience to sit behind the guys and see how it's done. It's laid out for me that this is what I need to be doing."
The lack of playing time is giving Timmons a chance to learn the complex Steelers defense, something that is an ongoing process.
"Taking time to learn the playbook and listen to what the coaches tell me, that'll carry over to when I'm playing," said Timmons. "In two-a-days, you're learning the set defenses. But from week to week during the season, you have a different game plan. You've got to adjust."
Timmons missed time during coaching sessions and training camp with a hamstring injury, slowing down his progress. With a full off-season to get ready, Tomlin expects him to come back strong.
"We look for bigger and better things from him," said Tomlin.
But it's not just Timmons. Tomlin would like to see more from each member of the 2007 rookie class as they move forward. Linebacker LaMarr Woodley started to come on strong as the season came to a close. Tight end Matt Spaeth, the teams' third round pick, caught three touchdown passes early in the season and provided a big target for Ben Roethlisberger. Punter Daniel Sepulveda was selected as the team's rookie of the year and had the biggest contribution on the field.
"This entire draft class has got to get better," said Tomlin. "We've had contributions from those guys in some areas. But they've got to keep moving on with it. This off season is big."