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.