The Pittsburgh Steelers have continued the trend of replacing exactly what they lost in free agency by taking former Illinois cornerback Terry Hawthorne. Pittsburgh lost corner Keenan Lewis to the Saints this offseason, so adding more depth makes sense.
For the 2013 season, Hawthorne will most likely find his primary role to be a contributor on special teams for the Steelers.
As for his main priority of playing cornerback, there's probably not a great chance he makes a significant impact this season. But he should be able to compete with Curtis Brown and Josh Victorian for some reserve roles.
His biggest concern, however, may be staying healthy long enough to make the team.
Hawthorne was injured in his sophomore and senior campaigns in Illinois but showed flashes of promise in 2011 when he was an All-Big Ten Honorable Mention performer.
Hawthorne is just the kind of cornerback the Steelers like to draft. He's pretty tall for a defensive back and plays bigger than his frame.
He has good ability to cover bigger receivers in the NFL and needs to get better in his backpedal. But he has experience in zone coverage schemes and started all four years with the Illini.
Most importantly, Hawthorne is one of the best tackling corners in this year's NFL draft, and we all know that if you want to play for the Steelers, you better be able to tackle. He's a good fit for Dick LeBeau's defense.
I wouldn't expect a whole lot out of Hawthorne in his rookie campaign given the fact that he'll be buried on the depth chart. Cornerback wasn't an immediate need for the Steelers, and Hawthorne will probably compete for no higher than the No. 4 job.
His biggest impact will most likely be made on special teams in 2013, and for a willing tackler like Hawthorne, he can make some plays.
I'd give the Steelers a C+ for taking Hawthorne in the fifth round simply because I think there were more pressing needs still on the board.
But, in the fifth round, Pittsburgh has the luxury of taking a guy they can develop, and Hawthorne has some serious skill. If he can get over the injury issues, this could end up being a very good pick for the Steelers.
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