1st Round Pick, 15th Overall – LB Ryan Shazier, Ohio State
In terms of talent, Shazier was an excellent value with the No. 15 pick. Shazier’s combination of speed and athleticism is rare among all prospects in this draft. Although I personally feel that the Steelers should have gone with a top cornerback at this pick, I can’t argue with it. He is a first round talent and belongs as one of the top 15 picks of the draft.Ryan Shazier
Shazier’s role in this defense is yet to be defined. However, we can assume that based on the rest of the roster, Shazier’s ideal position will be inside linebacker opposite Lawrence Timmons on the weakside. This is fascinating because inside linebacker wasn’t one of the team’s needs. Pittsburgh already has Vince Williams returning after a solid rookie season. Nevertheless, the coaching staff recognized that Williams’ limitations forced the defense into situations it could not be successful. Shazier has none of those limitations. Adding the Ohio State product into the mix will make the base defense much more capable of defending the pass, which keeps the best players on the field. Read Post:Top Targets For The Steelers On Day 2 for more info and video
The Steelers really needed an inside linebacker and maybe just as much as cornerback and wide receiver. The Steelers didn’t go into the draft with Shazier in mind, but when cornerbacks Justin Gilbert and Kyle Fuller were gone as well as wide receiver Odell Beckham, Shazier was the highest rated guy left on the board. He’s fast, he can tackle and he’s a playmaker in a place where there wasn’t much of that last year. The fast Shazier, whose 4.38-4.4 time in the 40 is probably the fastest linebacker in the draft.
2nd Round Pick, 46th Overall – DE Stephon Tuitt, Notre Dame
Tuitt, a 304-pound Notre Dame defensive end who was one of college football's most dominant players two seasons ago, was drafted in the second round as the Steelers try to quickly rebuild their declining defense. Despite all the pre-draft speculation they would go for a cornerback and a wide receiver early on, the Steelers chose big-school defensive players to fill what, on paper, were the two glaring weaknesses on their depth chart.Stephon Tuitt
Tuitt, who had 12 sacks in 2012 and 21 ½ in his career, likely will slide in immediately at the position vacated by the unsigned Brett Keisel, whose Steelers career is all but officially over. Defensive line coach John Mitchell called the 6-foot-5½ Tuitt “a steal in the second round” who might have been a Top 10 pick if he hadn't developed a hernia following his breakout 2012 season. Read: Steelers Draft Prospect: DE Stephon Tuitt, Notre Dame for more info
Unable to work out during the offseason, Tuitt put on 25 pounds and was forced to play at an uncomfortable 335 pounds in 2013. He took much of it off once the season ended, but a now-healed stress fracture in his left foot kept him from working out at the NFL Combine.
“Now I'm ready to roll,” Tuitt said. “I believe everything happens for a reason. It was meant for me to come to the Steelers. … The history of that defense is tremendous, and I can't wait to put it back up there.”
If it wasn’t for an injury that made his weight get out of control for a while, Tuitt would’ve been a first-rounder. He’s a perfect 3-4 end with tremendous size and ability to get to the quarterback. And again, it filled a glaring need a position that is important in their offense.
3rd Round Pick, 97th Overall - RB/WR Dri Archer, Kent State
With a coveted big receiver still on the board, the Steelers decided to go the totally opposite direction, and position. The Steelers selected small, yet speedy third-down-type running back Dri Archer from Kent State despite Clemson's 6-foot-4 wide receiver Martavis Bryant, a player the Steelers liked still on the board.Dri Archer
With Archer, it's all about the speed for the 5-8, 173-pounder. Archer ran a 4.26-second 40-yard dash at the combine (second-fastest recorded time since 2006), but some scouts timed him at a sub-4.2. Archer had a solid career at Kent State catching 99 passes and 12 touchdowns and rushing for 2,342 yards and 24 touchdowns on 325 carries. He battled through injuries his senior year that limited his effectiveness. Archer is the kind of player that offensive coordinator Todd Haley has tried to integrate into his offense ever since arriving with the Steelers before the 2012 season. Read:Boom Or Bust For The Steelers In The Third Round? to learn more.
The Steelers drafted Chris Rainey that year with thoughts of him playing the role of third-down and change-of-pace back, but that didn't work out, and the Steelers released him after his rookie year. The Steelers tried veteran LaRod Stephens-Howling last year, but the veteran was lost for the season in the opener, leaving the role unfilled. Archer will also fill the need of kickoff returner for the Steelers even though he didn't participate much in special teams during his senior year. He returned only two kicks, but one he took back 100 yards for a touchdown.
This pick was kind of curious because the Steelers aren’t in position to pick for luxury when it comes to the third round. Sure, Archer is fast and could provide a different aspect to the Steelers offense and also help in the return game. But with a team with depth issues, do you really want to use a third-round pick who is going to touch the ball maybe five times a game? Although I like what he brings to the table with a set of unique skills, a little too early in the third round when the Steelers could have drafted a cornerback.
4th Round Pick, 118th Overall - WR Martavis Bryant, Clemson
As for the tall wide receiver, his name is Martavis Bryant, and while he can count his height and speed among his assets, he also is a raw receiver with only one season as a full-time starter at Clemson.
Bryant, 6-foot-4, 211 pounds, spent 2010 at Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia before joining the Tigers in 2011. In his first two seasons there, Bryant played in 24 games with two starts, and he combined for 19 catches for 526 yards and six touchdowns. In 2013, Bryant started 11 of the team’s 13 games, and he finished with 42 catches for 828 yards (19.7 average) and seven touchdowns.
He will be a great weapon in the red zone for Big Ben, who has been begging for a tall, athletic receiver. One of the things he does very well is track the football and could compete for a starting job opposite Antonio Brown. Bryant’s 4.42 in the 40-yard dash was the Combine’s best among the 2014 group of wide receivers
Bryant joins a depth chart that certainly has room for him if he shows himself capable of making the adjustment to the NFL. In addition to Antonio Brown, the Steelers will count on second-year pro Markus Wheaton, and the team added veterans Lance Moore and Darrius Heyward-Bey as unrestricted free agents. Within the sub-category of tall receivers, there is 6-5 Derek Moye and 6-3 Justin Brown as the holdovers from 2013 now to be joined by the 6-4 Bryant and the 6-2 Heyward-Bey.
Make no mistake about it, Todd Haley wanted this guy. He actually lobbied for him in the second and third rounds to no avail. What makes Bryant so intriguing is his ability to get deep. It doesn’t take much for a wide receiver to run down the field and catch the ball so he can definitely be used in some packages as a rookie. However, he is somewhat of a project that is going to be a work-in-progress, but in the fourth, it could end up being a steal.
5th Round Pick, 157th Overall - CB Shaquille Richardson, Arizona
In his four seasons at Arizona, Richardson, 6-foot, 194 pounds, started 37 games over four seasons and finished with 10 interceptions. Even though he was not invited to the Scouting Combine, Richardson made up for it with an outstanding performance during a pro day in which he ran a 4.43 in the 40 and a 6.95 in the 3-cone, while also posting a 38.5-inch vertical jump.
He has played corner and safety because he’s a bigger defensive back with ball skills who can tackle in the open field. I definitely think he could (play in the slot). Will he be required to do it on this team? Probably not, but he’s versatile enough to do it.” Lake admitted that a major selling point on Richardson was what the stop-watch read at the end of his pro day workout.
When you get to the fifth round, you aren’t going to get many sure-fire starters. Richardson is more of a depth guy who might eventually turn into something good. However, he won’t help the Steelers this year much. But when you come out and say you are happy with your depth at cornerback, I guess you don’t need somebody to step in right away.
5th Round Pick, 173th Overall - OT Wesley Johnson, Vanderbilt
In the three drafts between 2010-12, the Steelers spent two No. 1s and two No. 2s on offensive linemen, and since all of those players still are on the team it wasn’t surprising that the position was something of an afterthought in 2014.
There is no such thing as enough offensive linemen on the roster according to the Steelers so they addressed the need here. Johnson, 6-5, 297, from Vanderbilt, will bring versatility as his in an effort to find a spot on the roster.
“The first thing you hear about him is that he’s very versatile, a guy who has made over 50 starts in the SEC at three positions,” said offensive line coach Mike Munchak. “So he is a guy we feel who can really play center, guard or tackle depending on where we need him. He’s definitely battle-tested having played in the SEC, against guys like Jadeveon Clowney and other top-level competition week in and week out for a long time. That gives us the feeling that he will feel very comfortable coming into the NFL and fitting in here nicely with us. Especially with the offensive line, unfortunately, having so many injuries, here’s a guy who has an opportunity to fill in at those spots if we need him.”
Same thing goes for Johnson as Richardson. At best, this guy is a swing guy. He’s undersized for tackle and hasn’t played guard or center in his career. However, he is worth a low-round pick.
6th Round Pick, 192th Overall - LB Jordan Zumwalt, UCLA
Zumwalt, 6-4, 235, started 30 games over four seasons at UCLA, and only two of his 256 career tackles were sacks. Clearly, Zumwalt’s forte is stuffing the run, and he’ll get a chance to win a job in the NFL based on that skill, plus what’s perceived to be an ability to be a core special teams player.
“He’s a UCLA kid who played in a very similar defense that we use here, so the transition for him will probably be a little bit easier,” said linebackers coach Keith Butler. “The nomenclature is a lot of the same so it’s probably going to be a pretty easy transition for this kid in terms of trying to learn our defense. He’s a long, tall kid, but I would see him as an inside guy at this point.”
Taking Shazier and having Terrence Garvin, Sean Spence and Vince Williams at inside linebacker makes this pick curious. He played in the same style of defense at UCLA that he will play with the Steelers and has been very productive in his career.
6th Round Pick, 215th Overall – DT Daniel McCullers, Tennessee
Coach Mike Tomlin referred to McCullers as “an obstruction” and that’s an appropriate description for a defensive lineman who’s 6-7 and 352 pounds. He will begin as a nose tackle in the Steelers 3-4 alignment, and the belief is that McCuller’s ability to push the pocket and then get his hands in the air is going to force offenses to double-team him on a regular basis.
“He’s a big guy, he can run, and offenses have a tough time moving him from the point of attack,” said defensive line coach John Mitchell. “The thing that we’re going to want him to do is to move, and I told you we play football from the inside-out, so he’s going to have to be able to move from (offensive) tackle to (offensive) tackle. Right now at his size, I think he may have a few problems doing that consistently, play in and play out.”
At 6-7, 360, the man is big and athletic. Maybe too big though. When you get to the late rounds, you pick on upside and McCullers has a lot of upside with his size and athleticism. No harm in drafting him and seeing if he can use that size to his advantage in the NFL.
7th Round Pick, 230th Overall - TE Rob Blanchflower, Massachusetts
Blanchflower, 6-4, 256, started 27 games at UMass, and he finished his career there with 109 catches for 1,164 yards and nine touchdowns. At the NFL level, Blanchflower isn’t going to be making a living based solely on his receiving skills. For him, the key to a professional career will be to develop himself into a tight end who is a dependable blocker with some receiving skills, and not the other way around.
“He has a high level of aggression,” said Steelers tight ends coach James Daniel. “He’s a two-phase guy, which is different than a lot of the guys you have coming at you right now. We look for guys who are either going to be run blockers or they’re going to be pass receivers. He’s adept at both, so that’s something that interests us. He was playing in a multiple-formation offense so that gave us a chance to look at him in a lot of different situations.”
Overall Grade: B+
The Steelers had a very good draft overall and could be considered to be one of the best in the AFC. They have immediate impact players in Shazier, Tuitt, and possibly Bryant. Archer will be a change of pace guy that will bring some excitement to the offense. They added depth and competition to positions that were needs on both sides of the ball. McCullers is an intriguing prospect that could go either way. This grade could have been higher if they better addressed the cornerback position.
The Steelers came to terms with 10 undrafted free agents. Here is the list of the undrafted prospects for the Steelers.
Stanford cornerback Devon Carrington
Youngstown State offensive guard Chris Elkins
UAB offensive tackle Kaycee Ike
East Carolina offensive guard Will Simmons
Wisconsin defensive end Ethan Hemer (good chance to make roster)
Stanford defensive end Josh Mauro (good chance to make roster)
Louisville defensive end Roy Philon
Shepherd outside linebacker Howard Jones
Missouri tight end Eric Waters
Cincinnati quarterback Brendon Kay