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Our Getting To Know series has gone a long way to profile some of the newer faces in the Steelers’ locker room, but there are plenty of other new faces that Steeler fans will be seeing a lot of this year: the up-and-coming draftees of the other AFC North teams.
Below you’ll find brief breakdowns of three possible game-changers who could individually shift the official odds to win the 2014/2015 Super Bowl for the Steelers and each of these teams if the schemes and player groups around them help them continue to develop.
1. Jeremy Hill, Cincinnati Bengals, RB
Andy Dalton and A.J. Green are alone no longer. Jeremy Hill comes in as a verifiable force offensively, capable of forcing defenses to respect the run more than in either of Dalton’s previous two seasons. Hill is a bruiser who put up 1401 yards and 16 touchdowns with LSU in 2013, a big back with the ability to make defenders miss. Even though he will be splitting time with Giovani Bernard and possibly BenJarvus Green-Ellis, the Bengals will give this high-potential man every chance to become a star.
2. Justin Gilbert, Cleveland Browns, CB
Forget Johnny Manziel, Justin Gilbert may make more game-changing plays in his first season than Manziel has a chance to. The Browns, who picked six times in the first four rounds, graded out exceptionally well with experts and fans alike, but Gilbert is the surest thing of them all. Gilbert’s athleticism, physicality, and keen field awareness make him a ball hawk and likely a world-class defender. Combined with the Browns’ Joe Haden, Cleveland now has one of the best one-two cornerback duos in the league.
3. Terrance West, Cleveland Browns, RB
Ben Tate has stepped out of the shadow of Arian Foster and right into a battle for playing time in Cleveland he probably wasn’t expecting. Even though he was taken in the third round, Terrance West might end up outplaying Tate for touches in the regular season, and why not? The 5’9”, 225-pound back rushed for 84 touchdowns in three seasons and if it weren’t for playing at Towson likely would have gone higher. It’s going to be a long year stopping the run in the AFC North.