While it can be said that the Pittsburgh Steelers came into this draft with one of its weaker rosters in recent memory, the truth is that it’s often difficult to find room for nine draft picks on the roster of any halfway decent team not consistently making their selections in the top 10.
The Steelers, however, seem to have done a good job of taking players that they believe can add competition, and likely ultimately make the roster, in the back half of the draft this year.
That hasn’t always been the case in recent history. Just last year the Steelers walked away from Terry Hawthorne, a fifth-round cornerback who wasn’t even asked to sit on the practice squad. Recent fourth-round picks Thaddeus Gibson and Alameda Ta’amu didn’t make it through their first seasons without being released.
Even at the back end of the 2014 draft, however, Pittsburgh looks like they’ve found the right answers and acquired some guys that can win jobs.
Like their latest fifth-round cornerback, for example, Shaquille Richardson. In a weaker draft class, perhaps he doesn’t last until the fifth round. And given the lack of depth the team currently has at the position, Richardson figures to have a good chance to compete. Defensive backs coach Carnell Lake would know; he recruited him in college.
While the Steelers seemed to be relatively set along the offensive line in terms of depth, they chose to add one in Wesley Johnson. A veteran of 51 collegiate starts at four positions, Johnson’s ability to play every position along the line puts him in serious competition with Guy Whimper and the rest of the bottom of the depth chart.
Jordan Zumwalt, meanwhile, represented value too good in the sixth round for Pittsburgh to overlook, even if they envision him at an inside linebacker position that appears to be at least four-deep without adding him to the mix.
He will be an instant asset on special teams, and has the potential to play outside if the team is interested in expanding his responsibilities.
Daniel McCullers, on the other hand, isn’t likely to play on many special teams units, despite being the last compensatory pick in the sixth round. What he offers in exchange is massive, massive size.
He figures to battle, and likely supplant, Hebron Fangupo as the project nose tackle in the pipeline. To his advantage, he’s seven years younger than Fangupo, who will be turning 29 prior to his third season this year.
Last but not least is tight end Rob Blanchflower, who figures to become the latest seventh-round tight end to make the roster under Mike Tomlin. Indeed, he’ll be jockeying for position with the last one to do it, former 2012 selection David Paulson.
On the surface, Blanchflower seems to have a good deal more potential as an all-around tight end than Paulson does. Even if the Steelers choose to keep four tight ends again, in fact, my money is on Michael Palmer making it over Paulson, but that is to be determined this summer.