Digested Thoughts On The Steelers 2014 Draft

Now that the Pittsburgh Steelers 2014 draft is several days behind us in the rear view mirror, I’ve had enough time to chew up all of the selections into small pieces and swallow them. Here, now, are my thoughts not only the process, but each pick as well.

For starters, I really suggest that you try the redraft exercise that I posted on Wednesday. Go through the entire draft pick by pick and see when each player came off the board. It’s enlightening.

Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert has said in so many words since the draft ended that he really didn’t see too many reaches this year and that he believes the depth of this draft is the reason why. It’s really hard to disagree with those sentiments.

I think it’s clear that the Steelers stuck to their rankings and grades of the players they “liked” and just let the draft come to them.

As for the Steelers selection of inside linebacker Ryan Shazier in the first round, he will always be linked to cornerback Darqueze Dennard. Realistically, those were probably the only two players they were deciding between. Shazier was the first “true” and best 3-4 inside linebacker off the board, so it’s easy to see the value here. He is fast, productive and possesses a solid character. It’s hard seeing him being a bust.

In the second round, it’s hard to argue against the Steelers selection of defensive end Stephon Tuitt and I bet they were surprised he was still on the board at that time. Had Tuitt played in 2013 like he did in 2012, he would have gone in the first round. As long as the Notre Dame product can return to pre hernia form, the Steelers should be set at defensive end for several years. He will not turn 21 until a week from Friday. He’s a man-child with experience in a 3-4 defense.

The third round is where I can see why people have drastic splits in opinion. Being as Dennard wasn’t selected in the first round, I understand the arguments for taking a cornerback here. However, those thoughts are centered mostly around 2015 and beyond and not 2014. If (insert your favorite cornerback still on board here) was taken instead of running back/wide receiver/kick returner Dri Archer, we all know that baring injury, that that player would likely never see the field on defense as a rookie. In Archer’s case, he will handle kickoff returns and potentially even punt returns, and because of that, Colbert views him as a starter and instant contributor. Whatever he can provide on offense is gravy in Colbert’s eyes and this was clearly an instance of Archer being their highest rated player still on the board at the time. If this kid can take a few kickoffs to the house in 2014, or at least to midfield, Colbert will look like a genius even if the diminutive Kent State product never plays a down on offense. Consider this. Archer was selected with 33rd pick of the fourth round, so technically that’s like taking him with the first pick of the fourth round. I don’t love the pick, but also don’t hate it. Speed kills, right?

The selection of wide receiver Martavis Bryant in the fourth round is one of my favorites. He’s big, he’s fast and he has upside. It won’t take long to find out if he’s Tommy Streeter, A.J. Green or something in between. I’m thinking the something in between won’t be too bad and that anything above that will be gravy. If he’s a bust, the Steelers will just have to draft another “tall” wide receiver in 2015 or 2016. This pick screams value. We’ll see. Alternatives to Bryant? Based on how the board broke, I would say cornerback Pierre Desir would have been the only real option right here.

The selections of cornerback Shaquille Richardson and offensive lineman Wesley Johnson in the fifth round are very easy to swallow. Richardson fits what the Steelers like as far as cornerbacks go and defensive backs coach Carnell Lake already knows quite a bit about him being as he recruited him at UCLA. Lake is now in charge of getting Richardson ready to contribute heavily in 2015. In the meantime, the Arizona product should be an asset on special teams.

As far as Johnson goes, I must admit that he wasn’t even on my radar. However, if new offensive line coach Mike Munchak likes him, I like him. Johnson is already up over 300 pounds, so that’s a good sign. I like his versatility, but hope that he lands at left guard. I look at this selection this way, if he can beat out Guy Whimper, it’s a win. If he becomes a starter, it’s a homerun. In Munchak I trust.

The selections of linebacker Jordan Zumwalt and nose tackle Daniel McCullers in round six is where I really have the most issues as far as this draft is concerned. I’m going to be blunt. I don’t like either of these two picks and don’t see any upside with either of them. I’m not buying that Zumwalt can move outside. I just don’t see it. As far as him playing inside, meh. He delivered a few big hits at UCLA, but it doesn’t take more than a minute to get through his highlight film. Why not cornerback Brandon Dixon right here instead? At least he has upside at a position of need for 2015 and beyond. Keep an eye on that kid.

As far as McCullers goes, I’m not really sure he’ll even be able to beat out Hebron Fangupo right now. I get it, he’s big. He’s also late off the snap and plays way too high because of his length. It’s not his fault. I sure hope I am proven wrong, but I just do not see why the Steelers were attracted to him. Let’s just say that I think defensive line coach John Mitchell really has his work cut out with McCullers. Wisconsin nose tackle Beau Allen came off the board nine picks later and while he will likely never be a starter, in my opinion, he would have been a better developmental player.

I really like the selection of Massachusetts tight end Rob Blanchflower in round seven. He may never become anything more than a No. 3 tight end, but at least he has a good shot at knocking David Paulson off the roster. I’m not really sure anyone knows what Blanchflower’s ceiling is at this point because of the injury problems that he’s had. If he fails to make the final 53 man roster the gamble was worth it.

So you want a grade? On the Monday podcast I gave this draft a B minus, but after chewing on it for a few days I have raised it to a B plus. The Archer pick I can live with, but the selections of Zumwalt and McCullers in round six is what is keeping this from being a draft that I can give any kind of A.

Come at me in the comments below.

I am, I'm me. 40 something, retired and a life long Steelers fan.
  • Zack

    McCullers is a freak of nature. If you can shore up some of his flaws, he could be an absolute monster. If they drafted him in the fourth or something, I’d get it, but a sixth-round comp pick is exactly where you want to take a chance. I’d rather take a chance on a guy with unreal size like McCullers than take someone like Beau Allen who has no business taking a defensive snap unless you have literally no other recourse.

    When it comes to Zumwalt, I think that was a purely special teams pick. They can say what they want about LB, but I think he was drafted because he’s a reliable guy to add to a kick coverage unit that was full of lazy dogshit last year.

  • JAMESH

    Think you nailed it, Dave. I’m still in awe that they thought enough of Archer to lock him down before Bryant or any other WR or CB. If nothing else, McCullers can serve as Pouncey’s punching bag in camp. I think our OLine will be the ones best able to evaluate him.

    In the first four rounds, we obtained two starters and two more who will contribute immediately. That’s a win no matter what happens with those who followed.

  • grw1960

    Probably after having time to think about the Steelers selections. The only thing I might change would be Replacing the Zumwalt pick with OLB Adrian Hubbard or OLB Howard Jones.
    I feel the Steelers were lucky to get Jones as a UFDA. The depth seems weak at OLB and Jones has a chance to earn a Back up spot. Only time will tell.

  • tcirish53@gmail.com

    Dave,
    Respectfully disagree with you on a couple things:
    1. Hopefully I am wrong, but my concern with the #3 pick, besides not CB is that Archer is basically like a gadget play guy and kick/punt returner. I’m sure he will provide excitement and no doubt we need a returner (held my breath everytime AB went back for a punt) but I saw him as a rd 4 guy
    2. I think the McCullers pick is what it is – so long as this guy holds his ground (and at his size, I can’t imagine he won’t especially since he played in the SEC) we picked up a win here. As a NT that is all he has to do, plus it would solidify out depth all along the line as he and Thomas could alternate plays and Mc could move to DE where I think he is a natural and where he can most take advantage of particularly his pass rushing prowess.

    Not a difference of opinion, more of a comment – I sure hope Carnell Lake is right about Richardson because we passed on a LOT of good CBs to take him instead and if I had to give our grade a B it would only because we didn’t take a CB in rd 3.

  • shawn

    Im not high on any of the 5-7 picks … that said … if Zumwalt can be a special teams stand out … i think it ends up being a decent pick … along with if the TE can and should beat out Paulson and remain the 3rd TE thats another solid pick … i think the CB Richardson pick was a complete waste … but if he can even be a solid back up or on the high side ( which i highly doubt ) take over for Gay in 2015 as the nickel it will be another good pick … McCullers … lets face it it was a complete flyer and for a 6th round pick I’m ok with it ! As far as Johnson goes if he doesnt make it as the final OL swing guy id be disappointed, but hopefully nothing more than that !

    Not a fan of the 5-7 picks but if even 2 of the 5 picks pan out as solid back ups/ST’ers i think it is a win …. really expecting big things from the top 4 … would be really shocked if 3 out of 4 of those guys dont turn into starters or big time players !

  • shawn

    What part of ARCHER being a 4th round pick didnt u get ? He basically states it was a 4th round pick … It wasn’t our normal 3rd round pick … it was a comp pick that was basically an early 4th !

  • Steelers12328882

    Like Dave said, Archer basically was a 4th rounder, so it’s not like we reached for him.

  • Superdriller316

    I’d take Allen and Dixon instead

  • Jason Vancil

    If recent history is any judge, some of these guys won’t even make the final roster. I’m betting Blanchflower, Zumwalt and Wesley Johnson are cut outright.

  • http://www.nyob.com/ Dr. Doom

    I did not like what I saw of McCullers getting knocked back like a corner back against that guard. And Zumwalt looks like Vince Williams slow, lumbering linebacker.

  • 20Stoney

    The problem I see with McCullers is that he’s too tall to play nose, and too slow to play DE. Hopefully I’m wrong about that.

    I agree completely with you about Zumwalt. Special teamer, hopefully a good one.

  • 20Stoney

    LOL…..”Pouncey’s punching bag.” He’s definitely going to have to learn to get out of his stance!

  • 20Stoney

    This is true. Maybe we should look at Shamarko as our 3rd round pick.

  • Mike Frantz

    Zumwalt is the only one I don’t particularly like, but even that is tempered by his ST capability and his intensity. Can’t have enough competitors on your team.

    As far as McCullers, I’m really banking on the improvement folks saw at the Senior Bowl. PHil Savage identified him as one of the top 3 DL on the South team and said he was surprised at just how good he looked. The big guy might finally be taking to the coaching and applying himself. I think there is enough upside here to be excited. Cmon, he’s just got to beat out Fangupo.

  • Jacque Strappe

    I’d bet that Blanchflower makes it.

  • Steel PAul

    It feels to me as if the Steelers got TWO first round picks, as Tuitt could have gone in the first round this year as is, but without injury problems, it seems like he would have for sure. That’s a great start.

    Dri is of course the asterisk of the draft as we just don’t know what the team has planned for him above and beyond returning kicks and punts. If they can find a way to get him another 5-7 touches a game on offense, and he can make something of it…. but, too soon to know.

    Based on the Steelers reaction to getting Bryant in the 4th, I think this was a great pick for that round and I heard they were considering taking him with their 3rd pick.

    Richardson provides SOME depth, but everyone was expecting a CB much higher who could potentially help this year. And in my opinion, W. Johnson helps as we could use more depth on the O-line.

    After that, it’s a crap shoot really.

    I can give the team a B, just for getting two 1st rounders at the start. IF Archer becomes real for the team, or if anyone from 6 on becomes real for this team, I’ll give an A-.

  • dave

    Would you be OK with Mauro in the 6th and Jones in the 7th?

  • John C

    Good job Dave as usual. I won’t lie…I was really upset when we took Shazier and not Dennard. With that said, if the Steelers weren’t sold on Dennard then I guess the pick makes sense. Going through the redraft exercise opened my eyes on a number of the picks including the first one. For example, Archer with the 3rd (basically a 4th) pick. I really didn’t see anyone available that got me excited so I am ok with the pick. Tuitt and Bryant were steals where we got them. McCullers is a project and I am ok with the pick….will be interesting to watch it develop or flop. I like Zumwalt for his fire and intensity and think he will be a career ST guy at the very least. I give the Steelers a A on the first four rounds and a B-/C on 5 thru 7 for a total grade of B+

  • Ken

    If the Steelers had take Bryant where they took Archer and took Archer where they took Bryant – would this make everyone happy? I’m thinking they certainly could have. Then everyone likes their draft more!

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Think back to last year. Minnesota, in the 1st, picks a raw, and I mean RAW, WR Cordarelle Patterson, that ends up being a KR, and a gadget guy. He ended up catching very few passes, ran some reverses, carried the ball and returned. The result? About 9 TD’s, if memory serves.

    I am not saying Archer will be this successful, but I could see some big plays and a few TD’s in just his first year. Nothing wrong with that.

  • tcirish53@gmail.com

    Bullion,
    I hear you on Patterson, and I sincerely hope that Archer provides that same kind of value.
    Patterson, however is much, much bigger than 175 lbs, although not as fast, I’m sure!!
    Time will tell, but I was salivating waiting for us to take that CB when I heard Archer’s name called……

  • tcirish53@gmail.com

    Yeah, fair enough, I guess.

  • steeltown

    I pretty much agree on all aspects. Although I do like Zumwalt, I like his aggression and intensity, whether he makes the club at a position that is currently pretty deep remains to be seen.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Excellent! Since we were all expecting CB early in the draft, I think we should keep this in mind: I was hoping for a SF trade down (They made 11 picks, but why did they not move up?) and hoping they would pick a CB, or Shazier or Benjamin, maybe even Tuitt.
    1) Instead they pick Shazier. Please keep in mind that he can cover RB’s, TE’s and he is even faster than all the bigger WR’s out there. Let alone the other possibilities on 3rd down. Do you realize what that means? The Steelers just saved themselves from drafting an extra CB. Once he’s up to speed, he will always stay on the field on 3rd downs. You will rarely need 5 or 6 DB’s out there even on 3rd and long. Shazier is the equivalent of drafting a LB and a CB. Fantastic pick!
    2) Tuitt – great potential, Bryant the same, with RZ upside immediately.
    3) Archer may provide just 2 TD’s per year initially, then he could save them from using AB on PR. If he can become a part of the Offense, he has the potential to provide 10-12 TD’s per year. That’s great and he can also serve as a phenomenal decoy.
    4) I agree about Zumwalt, as they should have picked another project OLB.
    5) The late round guys usually end up out of the league within a couple of years, so gamble on them. I like the gamble idea with McCullers , blanchflower, Johnson and if they make the team, that means some of the guys we do not like should be gone. Praying for a guy like that UDFA OLB howard Jones, is it? Need depth badly.

    Great draft!

  • cencalsteeler

    Great point about Shazier. Basically a two for one. Similar to a tight end on offense.

  • Reg Sayhitodabadguy Hunt

    I agree completely i would have taken cb in third since we did’nt first two rds i still wanted archer but in a later rd and if he was off the board then another speed rusher i don’t know much about zumwalt but in my oppinion was a wasted pick since we have a boatload of ilbs along with the shazier pick should have went corner again and as far as mccullers goes im actually torn in one hand his size was too big to pass up on the other his skillset can we have got him in udfa and used that pick for olb let’s see how all this plays out in training camp can’t wait

  • Eric MacLaurin

    I think you are a little tough on the later picks. Long shots get decided more on little things you can’t see on tape. In regards to CB’s I trust lake to make the decisions based on his feel for the player. I think he knows the intangables needed that we can’t get a read on. Same with Mitchell. If he didn’t think he could do anything with McCullers I think he would have asked for someone else. Again, The coaches see these long shot guys and a really good coach has to be trusted to make the final decision that has to take tape into account but where maybe the ability to understand each other is even more important.

  • Reg Sayhitodabadguy Hunt

    Im betting archer get two tds if not three in kr in one or more games if i recall didn’t rainey have two or was it three in a pre season game but they were called back due to penalties

  • shawn

    The pick was #97 … i dont think anybody would be complaining if it was pick #141 which is in the 5th round (not ours) … it was a little higher than even i would have liked … but if he even pans out to half his potential then i dont think anybody will ever look back and second guess the pick !

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Good memory. Well done. Then how many can he get if he eventually becomes a small part of the offense?

  • Cols714

    Since I don’t know anything about the late round selections and those guys are long shots anyways, the only problem I have is not taking a CB in the 3rd instead of Archer.

  • cp72

    Good point. I think Bryant could have been our 2nd round pick and we’d all go yeah okay we need a receiver. To get him in the 4th makes the entire draft for me.

    As far as Archer goes I really like his ability to change field position. Felix Jones was basically a the equivalent of taking a knee in the end zone on every kickoff. Dri’s ability to get be chunks of yardage will help the defense as much as the offense.

  • charles

    If Shade Tree can get down to 310 lbs. It might improve his first step. He makes one think of William Perry and whose brother at 40 lbs lighter was a menace for the Brownies. Would like to assume that Porter had a lot to do with Moats, Shazier, and Zumwalt. Hope therefore that Porter’s impact can be as large as we are all expecting Munchak’s to be. There is a whole lot to be excited about this offseason.

  • Sonny-James

    I can see why they took Shazier over Dennard. Shazier has no durability issues like Dennard does, and Dennard didn’t have much experience with zone coverage, making that an unknown. Shazier “has no holes” Tomlin said.

  • Toddy Bravo

    I’m with you. Shazier and Tuitt are absolute home runs in that we got two 1st rd. talents in this draft. Both players seem to be extremely safe picks with minimal bust potential. That is usually enough to make an entire draft, but when you also consider Archer and Bryant , that makes three potential immediate starters and one lightning fast impact player on offense and ST. These four players will clearly make the team and will likely be heavy contributors in their first year. If one or more players in rounds 5-7 also make the cut, this draft has the potential to be phenomenal. I would give it an A+ based on the top 2 picks alone. If Archer and Bryant work out the way we hope, it could be one of the legendary drafts.

  • Toddy Bravo

    I bet all 3 go to the practice squad. Barrett and McCullers are the ones I think could be cut outright.

  • Reg Sayhitodabadguy Hunt

    I really believe if they (archer and bryant) learn our playbook and they are used correctly the sky is the limit not just with them two but our offense as a whole (esp. OL) because think of the speed defenses have to keep up with which can be perfect decoys

  • Dan

    McCullers for FB!!!

  • Ike Evans

    They call blanchflower baby gronk lol I’m about that life

  • Shannon Stephenson

    The one pick I do not like was Zumult…I think he will be lucky to make the team or PS IMO. It was a questionable pick IMO.

  • srdan

    sort of like three for one since he has basically given us another safety by possibly relieving 43 of his LB responsabilities to passing downs.

  • Cujosteel

    This draft was/could be excellent. CB is a concern for next year. Let today take care of itself. OLB depth is thin, but everything I hear outta the staff is that they like Moats. WR was upgraded. RB was upgraded. The O-line (Munchak) wa upgraded. Ditto D-line, ILB, S (via FA) and ST/KR. I’m stoked for season to get underway and can’t wait to see which one or two FAs we pick up late.

  • http://thereactionblog.com Michael Stickings

    I’ve been saying B+ all along, mainly because the first two picks. But if Bryant hits his potential and ends up being a productive starter, it’s hard not to see this as anything less than an A- when all is said and done.

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    Bullion-

    I pretty much agree with everything you just said. So I’ll just say “Amen.”

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    Let me ask you guys this…

    If you could trade Johnson, Zumwalt, and Blanchflower for Pierre Desir would you do it?

    (I believe value-wise our 5th+6th+7th = a 4th rounder.)

  • tcirish53@gmail.com

    Yeah, unless one of the CBs taken immediately AFTER 97 turns out to be a stud – LOL!!!!!!

  • Travis Brockie

    ARCHER WAS A COMPENTASORY ROUND 3 PICK., TECHNICALLY YOU COULD CONSIDER THAT A ROUND 4. SO THE VALUE IS THERE. STEELERS NAILED THIS DRAFT ON PAPER. LETS SEE HOW IT TURNS OUT

  • Weiss Chad

    You gotta count shmarko in this drFt.If not we would have another third .Ill take shark

  • Weiss Chad

    He was our third rd pick .If he wasn’t we would have two thirds this yr.I know this is what you’re saying and when u add shark this draft “looks”really good

  • Matt Manzo

    Maybe! I really liked Desir but when we passed on him so many times I have to believe the FO knew what they were doing!
    I also really liked Zumwalt but didn’t think he’d fit on our team.
    I’m excited to see how this all plays out!
    I also think Branchflower has some upside!
    Maybe I’d trade Archer for Desir but I wouldn’t want the browns to have Archer!
    There just seems to be too much upside for these late guys to give up on em now, and if they don’t work out they were late rounders anyways!
    I think we’re all floored by the expectation that this draft would answer a lot of questions, when really it seems to of left us with more questions!

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Yes. Wouldn’t you love to see several spectacular INT’s from Troy playing back there where he belongs?

  • blackandgoldBullion

    You agree with everything I just said? I haven’t heard that since the last time I was drunk.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Interesting. Was it Cleveland that did not pick after round 4? Someone traded away all their later picks.

  • SfSteeler

    such huge work the last month guys thanks…

    PS..can we finally get rid of the PRisco pic i keep seeing at the top of the page?

  • Fuamatu-Ma’afala

    How about this, if they took Bryant in round 3 and Archer in round 4 would that make you feel better?

  • Fuamatu-Ma’afala

    And for the record Archer was one of my favorite players. He is a Tavon Austin clone and he was the #8 pick last year, I’d call that good value. If they didn’t have a plan and a vision for him in their offense Haley would never have taken McCluster in KC and Rainey. I tend to think Archer is heads an shoulders above them.

  • patrick Mayfield

    shhh

    p.s. that’s the opposite of technically

  • Steelers58

    Stop killing archer people. Remember that special teams is one third of football.
    Just imagine starting an offensive drive from mid field. We have been so awful on kick returns , now we have the fastest guy in the draft returning kicks
    This pick will be awesome for us!!!

  • shawn

    like .. ? there was nobody that even remotely looked like a stud after the 3rd round … and we passed on Desir even a round later … Talents like Archer are a lot more rare than solid CBs in this league … have no doubts we will find one in FA or in the Draft by 2015 rolls around !

  • Nolrog

    I think when you get down to those rounds, the guys are all a crap shoot, at best, anyway, so they mind as well take some chances and pick a few projects.

  • Nolrog

    He was a 3rd round pick. Trying to argue he was a 4th round pick because it was in the compensation round is trying to spin this into something that sounds better.

  • Nolrog

    Shemarko? He was our 4th round pick. It just cost us our 3rd because they had to make the God aweful other 4th round pick last year as well.

  • shawn

    What part dont u get … ??? its a lot closer to an early 4th round pick than what should have been our regular 3rd round pick … its not spin … its pure arithmetic … not very hard to figure out !

  • shawn

    dont see it that way !

  • Weiss Chad

    You are right we drafted him in the fourth rd last yr but I would include him in this draft due to the fact that the compensation for the fourth rd pick last year was this years third rd draft pick .