Pittsburgh Steelers 2014 Draft: The Good, the Bad and the Baffling
While we won't know if the Pittsburgh Steelers' nine players drafted this year will be successful in the NFL—that will take at least one season and more than likely longer—we can take a look at each of their choices and make a few judgements on how spot-on they were in evaluating the draft class' talent.
Who was a bull's-eye and who was an off-the-mark or off-the-wall selection? Let's break down the Steelers' 2014 draft class into three categories—the good, the bad and the downright baffling.
List of All 2014 Draft Selections
Here are the players the Steelers selected in the 2014 NFL draft:
- Ryan Shazier, LB (Round 1, 15th overall)
- Stephon Tuitt, DL (Round 2, 46th overall)
- Dri Archer, RB/WR (Round 3, 33rd overall)
- Martavis Bryant, WR (Round 4, 118th overall)
- Shaquille Richardson, CB (Round 5, 157th overall)
- Wesley Johnson, OT (Round 5, 173rd overall)
- Jordan Zumwalt, LB (Round 6, 192nd overall)
- Daniel McCullers, DT (Round 6, 215th overall)
- Rob Blanchflower, TE (Round 7, 230th overall)
Stephon Tuitt, DL (Round 2, Pick No. 46)
The Steelers went into the NFL draft woefully thin at defensive line. They addressed this need in Round 2, taking Notre Dame's Stephon Tuitt 46th overall.
Tuitt is coming off hernia surgery that affected his 2013 production and has a hairline fracture in his foot, which contributed to him falling into Round 2. Still, Steelers defensive line coach John Mitchell believes Pittsburgh got a top-10 talent in Tuitt, who will be starting in place of free-agent veteran Brett Keisel. The Steelers met a need with a high-upside defensive end.
Dri Archer, WR/RB (Round 3, Pick No. 33)
Two years ago, the Steelers tried to get offensive coordinator Todd Haley their version of Dexter McCluster, a jack-of-all-trades receiver/returner/running back who he coached in Kansas City. It didn't work out, with Chris Rainey not long for the roster after an arrest.
This year, they tried it again with Kent State's Dri Archer, who had the fastest 40-yard dash time at the scouting combine. Archer should work out better, only because he has no character red flags.
Archer had 325 carries for 2,342 yards and 24 rushing touchdowns at Kent State; he also had 99 receptions for 1,194 and 12 scores. He'll be in a similar role in Pittsburgh, joining running backs Le'Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount as the speed complement and in the third-down passing game. Though small, he won't be an every-down option, so it shouldn't be an issue.
Martavis Bryant, WR (Round 4, Pick No. 118)
At 6'4" and with a 4.42 40-yard dash, the Steelers finally picked up the tall and fast receiver of Ben Roethlisberger's dreams in Round 4 with Martavis Bryant from Clemson.
Bryant fills an immediate need at receiver. He'll be competing with 2013 draft pick Markus Wheaton for the No. 2 receiver job alongside Antonio Brown. And Bryant can certainly win out. He had 61 career collegiate receptions for 1,354 yards and 13 scores, with 828 of those yards and seven of those touchdowns coming in 2013.
Bryant is the perfect combination of need and talent. The Steelers made the right choice to take him in Round 4.
Shaquille Richardson, CB (Round 5, Pick No. 157)
Another major draft need for the Steelers this year was cornerback, especially as it's expected this is Ike Taylor's last season. The team did leave the position until Round 5, taking Arizona's Shaquille Richardson at pick No. 157.
Richardson had 189 combined career tackles at Arizona, as well as 10 interceptions and 37 passes defensed. He'll need to adapt to man coverage in Pittsburgh, as he worked exclusively in zone in college. He'll benefit from a developmental year and could emerge as a true starter upon Taylor's departure next year.
Wesley Johnson, OL (Round 5, Pick No. 173)
Vanderbilt's Wesley Johnson started as a tackle for four years, but his skills could translate all over the line—he's filled in at guard and center, too. That's great news for the Steelers, who seem to have injury issues on the offensive line on a yearly basis.
Johnson could stand to bulk up and gain strength, but there are few knocks against him. He drew his first holding penalty of his career in his senior season, which shows he plays with discipline and strong technique. There could have been no better use of the Steelers' second of two fifth-round picks this year.
Jordan Zumwalt, LB (Round 6, Pick No. 192)
The late rounds are a great time for the Steelers to get a bit of defensive depth, which is just what they did in Round 6 when they selected UCLA linebacker Jordan Zumwalt.
Zumwalt had 253 career tackles, 22.5 tackles for a loss, five sacks, three interceptions and three forced fumbles in college. He's aggressive—NFLDraftScout.com's Dane Brugler says of Zumwalt, "'violent' would be an understatement." However, he needs to control that aggression in the NFL, especially with his injury history. He'll be a good special teams addition in Pittsburgh while he learns the nuances of playing linebacker for Dick LeBeau.
Daniel McCullers, DT (Round 6, Pick No. 215)
"Mammoth human being" begins NFLDraftScout.com's Dane Brugler's scouting report on Tennessee defensive tackle Daniel McCullers, and he isn't kidding. At 6'7" and 352 pounds (and who has been up to 400 pounds of playing weight), McCullers is a beast, a mountain and a potential starting nose tackle for the Steelers some day.
McCullers has 72 career collegiate tackles, including 10 for a loss, as well as 1.5 sacks and two passes defensed. He simply eats offensive linemen despite not being the most mobile or aggressive player. His size works both for and against him in this manner, but if he can get his strength and conditioning on point, the Steelers have a not-so-gentle giant on their hands.
Rob Blanchflower, TE (Round 7, Pick No. 230)
The Steelers used their final pick in the draft to take UMass tight end Rob Blanchflower. Blanchflower amassed 109 receptions for 1,164 yards and nine scores over two years. Despite missing six games last year with a hernia, he still caught 27 passes for 313 yards and three scores.
Blanchflower will be a high-impact player for Pittsburgh only if he can stay healthy. He's a big player, at 6'4" and 256 pounds, and has been compared to the New England Patriots' Rob Gronkowski. Unfortunately, he shares Gronkowski's physical concerns. If he can keep it together, though, he could be Heath Miller's replacement.
Surprisingly, the Steelers did not make a single bad pick. Now, that's not to say every one of the nine rookies they selected will still be on the team in September, let alone on the 53-man roster, but it's hard to find a miss among their picks.
The Steelers meshed needs with selecting the best players available in each round. They added depth to the defense and to the offensive line and grabbed a few players who will be on the fast track to start. Of course, time will tell if this will end up being a successful draft for Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert, but most of these players are good fits on paper.
Ryan Shazier, LB (Round 1, Pick No. 15)
There is nothing wrong with Ryan Shazier's game. He's a talented, rangy, fast linebacker who could end up starting sooner than later on the inside should he beat out Vince Williams in training camp. The baffling thing about this pick is that the Steelers chose him in Round 1, instead of a cornerback or even a wide receiver.
Shazier had 317 career tackles for Ohio State, including 45.5 for a loss. He also had 15 sacks, nine forced fumbles and 16 passes defensed. While Shazier does meet a need and could be a quality starter for Pittsburgh for many years, the fact that the Steelers took him with such a critical pick puts this selection in the "baffling" column.
All combine results courtesy of NFL.com.