Back Half Of Steelers’ Draft Class Has A Chance To Compete

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.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi
Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • DoctorNoah

    Overall an intriguing draft. Surprise and dashed expectations all along the way, but I’m excited to see how the scouts performed!

  • Jason

    Hearing Lebeau’s quotes about this class contributing year 1 I wouldn’t be surprised with a starting front 7 of Heyward,McClendon,Tuitt,Jones,Worilds,Timmons and Shazier. That could be scary for Johnny football week 1. Even though this draft went different from what I and many of us envisioned I can say I am very excited about the potential for it be a special class. Only time will tell. Training camp can’t get here fast enough!

  • Melly

    I think they did a great job w/ this draft. I wrote 2-3 months ago about them drafting “X-men” type players, and I believe they got a great combo of size, speed, and strength. The speed at LB, WR, and whatever Archer is will help us greatly on OFF, DEF, and STs!!! The ONLY negative is the CB situation(and IMO its a big NEG). I think this class will see the field a lot faster than those of the past! I have not seen who they have signed as UDFAs yet. I assume they will add an OLB or two?! Two thumbs up!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • shawn

    Kinda disagree about the back half of the draft … pretty weak choices … they will be competing for practise squad or buried in the depth chart mostly … like u said it is hard to get 9 new players on a team … i think they did a poor job of not trying to trade 2 of those late picks to move up .. ..

    That said … the bright side is i think they hit a HR with their first 4 picks and this draft has the chance to be the best in years … !!

  • kakello34

    I’d like to here Warren Sapp call this defense old and slow now.

  • shawn

    Wouldn’t be surprised if they signed a FA CB or 1st round ready to play CB in next years draft .. i think they are well aware of it … the draft unfortunately just didnt play out that way .. I’m actually pretty confident they will address the issue competitively which as of late is reassuring !

  • Rod Hedrick

    Speed Kills and we are faster. I still see a glaring hole at corner, but maybe Ike pulls it off for another year

  • steeltown

    I think its safe to say that players like Kion Wilson, Garvin, Fangupo, Paulson, Isaiah Green and Derek Moye are going to have a hard time making the club this year.

  • steeltown

    Well of course, guys like McCullers, Zumwalt, Wesley, Richardson and BFlower will be depth and special teams guys this year (if they make the roster and stay healthy) But, in hindsight they still upgrade those positions Zumwalt over Kion Wilson, Richardson over Green/Smith, McCullers over Fangupo, BFlower over Paulson etc.

  • shawn

    hard to argue with some of those .. but that still aint saying much ( although i think Green is better than Richardson who I’m not high on at all ) Paulson sucked .. and same with fangupo so no matter who u plugged in there they would be pretty much better

    what i was trying to say … is i dont see any of them with potential to contribute down the road to any meaningful degree, i am a little excited about Zumwalt for strictly special teams … and i guess with McCullers size there has to be some chance they can mold him into something right ?

    But my point was i think we left those draft picks on the board …should of traded them because there is no way all those guys will make the team !

  • Weiss Chad

    I like the first five

  • steeltown

    So you are pulling out the crystal ball and saying that all of these guys lack potential and will never contribute. That’s a bold statement 24hrs after draft weekend.

    Lets wait a year or two before passing judgment, atleast that’s what I’ll do

  • shawn

    yes indeed and rightfully so … of the picks 5-7 .. who are u most high on ?

  • steeltown

    Hard to say, Wesley and Blanchflower I think, though Zumwalt I think can be a special player

  • shawn

    im not predicting anything … just dont see much potential in them … sorry none of them get me excited … but for all i know Mccullers could turn into a star …

    every year there are some late round picks that people love … remember Burflict … i was actually pretty excited about that kid from Pitt St. this year, but wow did he go early .. anyways …

  • Babybull

    I think McCullers is going to
    Help this year he can play just was on bad team.

  • shawn

    If Wesley can get a little bigger and stronger and learn the system … i think he would be a great 8th OL instead of Whimper … honestly the last day i was hoping they would take an OG … there were a couple good ones out there that could start pretty early … not a fan of Foster as a starter … i think he is a better back up !

  • Ernest

    I might be in the minority here but I think Zumwalt could supplant V.Williams on the depth chart. Zumwalt has a high motor and plays like an animal on the field. whats not to like.

  • Melly

    Pittsburgh Steelers 2014 Rookie Free AgentsPlayerPos.Ht.Wt.CollegeDevon CarringtonDB6-1204StanfordChris ElkinsOL6-4300Youngstown StateEthan HemerDE6-6285WisconsinKaycee IkeOT6-5293UABHoward JonesLB6-4238ShepherdBrendon KayQB6-4228CincinnatiJosh MauroDE6-6282StanfordRoy PhilonDT6-3291LouisvilleWill SimmonsOG6-5342East CarolinaEric WatersTE6-5245Missouri

  • Ike Evans

    Flower may be the surprise of the group

  • Mike Frantz

    I think they see EMbernate (sp?) from last year as the rookie guard this year to push for a spot. Needed a tackle/swing player more.

  • Mike Frantz

    I totally agree. He’s got more 3 down potential than Williams, likely a better ST player and can even play a little OLB. Willams started because he’s a quick learner and injuries/lack of depth forced it. Those conditions don’t really matter anymore. His play was…meh.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Hubbard in the mix too. He has more position flexibility.

  • westernsteel

    Sure they do……..same headline every year

  • steeltown

    Yea he did

  • Milliken Steeler

    I disagree. His play was Meh, when he was first forced into the lineup where nerves and lack of experience caught him out of position but…..the last three games? He was flat out stoning people in the run game.

  • Arthur Branch

    All draft picks never make the team. If Lake can make Gay a serviceable corner, I want to see what he does with the speed and size of Richardson. Last year we had tackles playing TE in running situation. Bflower adds a blocking TE that can actually catch the ball.

  • Arthur Branch

    If we are getting the pressure on the QB that we have the potential to now. I am not worrying about the Corners.

  • Arthur Branch

    Shazier supplanted Williams when his name was called Friday.

  • Weiss Chad

    That would be three number one picks at linebacker

  • Ernest

    i assumed that much…

  • HardPunkKore

    and worilds is a number 2

  • shawn

    Ya I’m hoping Ebernaste can lock up a position as a solid backup .. or eventually replace foster !

  • shawn

    I think at the least he should be very good on ST …. looks pretty Athletic and fluid !

  • Guest

    This his the mod I’ve ever been excited about a steelers draft class.

  • Paul Barracliffe

    This is the most excited about a steelers draft class I’ve ever been.

  • Patrick Reid


  • Patrick Reid

    Most. But Im right there with you bro!!!!

  • Weiss Chad

    That’s 4 ones and two twos in front seven