Grade : B
Round 1 - Ryan Shazier LB
Round 2 - Stephon Tuitt DE
Round 3 - Dri Archer RB
Round 4 - Martavis Bryant WR
Round 5 - Shaquille Richardson CB
Round 5 - Wesley Johnson C
Round 6 - Jordan Zumwalt OLB
Round 6 - Daniel McCullers DT
Round 7 - Rob Blanchflower TE
The Steelers went into the 2014 NFL draft with positional needs at wide receiver, cornerback and defensive line. Alongside of a need to get faster and more athletic in general.
They certainly did the later with first round pick Ryan Shazier who is the fastest outside linebacker in the draft. He ran a 4.38 40-yard-dash. Pre-draft the thought was that some teams may have been concerned about Shazier being slightly underweight at 237 pounds but the Steelers are apparently not concerned with his weight.
There is good reason for this, as last year Troy Polamalu was moved from safety to middle linebacker to offer better protection against the pass. At insider linebacker Shazier fits into this role nicely. Furthermore, his speed and aggressive tendencies should also allow him to blitz/attack the line of scrimmage when needed.
The Steelers continued to get quicker with there second round pick. Whilst obviously not as quick as Shazier, DT Stephon Tuitt is surprisingly quick for a 300 plus pound defensive lineman. Able to play either tackle or end Tuitt registered 12 sacks in 2012 and after gaining weight still managed to notch up 7.5 sacks in 2013. He also returned a fumble for 77 yards and a touchdown in 2012. So he can definitely hustle.
One man he won't be catching though is wide receiver/returner Dri Archer. Third round pick Archer is the fastest player in the draft. He ran a 4.26 40-yard-dash. His small height (5'8'') might prevent him from making an immediate impact as a running back but he can probably contribute immediately on special teams. So good is Archer on special teams that Mike Mayock thinks that he could end up going to the pro-bowl in his rookie year.
The Steelers also made some shrewd selection elsewhere. Whilst the likes of Ryan Shazier may have been picked for their speed round 6 draft pick nose tackle Daniel McCullers is the perfect foil for the speedsters in the rest of the draft class. McCullers weighs in at over 350 pounds. He is nearly immovable off the line of scrimmage and will clog up those running lanes allowing for teammates to protect against the pass but still have time to make tackles against the run.
Although the focus was on defense the Steelers didn't completely neglect offense. The Steelers have long been looking for a big tall receiver for Big Ben. In round 4 with Martavis Bryant they might just have got their guy.
Bryant is 6'4'' and has the measurables of an elite wide receiver. He is fairly inconsistent however and will need a lot of polishing to be NFL ready. The Steelers apparently think highly of him though. Ed Bouchette tweeted that they had thought about drafting him in the third round and actually passed out a bio of him saying such. If this is the case then getting him in the fourth round represented big value on the Steeler's draft board.
The final area of need was at cornerback where an injection of youth was needed. Fifth round pick Shaquille Richardson looks like he could be excellent value. Richardson is quick and aggressive in attacking routes. Furthermore, his weaknesses like spotting the run early are of the sort that coaches would back themselves to rectify. Richardson has a high ceiling which is just what you want when drafting a fourth round CB.
Overall, the Steelers got a lot faster and athletic in the draft. The only caveat is that smaller players like Archer and Shazier along with bigger players like McCullers often spent a lot of time on the treatment table.
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