Categorized | 2014 Draft, Article

Kozora: Steelers Draft Grades For 2014 Class


By Alex Kozora

After providing a report on each of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ selections in the 2014 NFL Draft, it’s time for a collective wrap up. You can consider this a “grade” because I’ll be providing a letter, but it’s more of a summary of each player and how they fit with the team. Grading now is fun for blaghers like us but are fruitless and classes can’t be judged for several years. With that being said, we’ll do it anyway. Your class of 2014.

Round One: Ryan Shazier/ILB Ohio St

For most fans, the expectation was to take a cornerback or wide receiver with the 15th pick. But with Odell Beckham Jr. and Kyle Fuller off the board by the time it was the Steelers’ turn, the direction the team would take was unclear.

Too often during the draft, we (and I am certainly no exception) put ourselves in this box of “The team will take Player ‘X”, or Position ‘Y’” never to leave it and exploring other possibilities. Luckily, this franchise doesn’t follow suit.

In fact, Shazier is not a consolation prize. He may turn out to be a better selection than the other two or nearly anyone else that was mocked to the team.

His ceiling is mansion high. Athletes that weigh in at 237, can run in the low 4.4’s and jump 42 inches are rare. You don’t pass on players of that caliber. Never know when you’re going to get your next crack at one.

Those numbers don’t just show up on paper, either. They’re on the tape. He’s explosive, runs to the football, and is apt in coverage. He’s capable to be a three down linebacker. And that’s a critical component. This was a Steelers’ squad that played in nickel or dime 60% of the time in 2013. Troy Polamalu was forced to masquerade as a linebacker. Despite being signed in October, Will Allen played over one-third, 380 to be exact, snaps.

With Shazier, the Steelers’ can play a “true” nickel if they wish. Something they attempted to do with Terence Garvin but fell flat on its face. Having Shazier will give the Steelers’ size and speed up front. It was that abundance of sub package football that hurt the run defense. Hard to stop it when the front “seven” really consists of just five.

As I wrote in my scouting report, Shazier isn’t just fast. He’s smart. Reads the flow of the play and reacts to it. Doesn’t just run around shooting gaps and hoping he gets lucky. He can diagnose a play and react properly. I admire that and it’ll bode well for his transition to the NFL.

There are minor issues in his game, like all prospects, but none really worth focusing on. Areas that can be worked on (being a little too overzealous, getting a little stronger in his upper body).

Keep in mind that Shazier is only a true junior and isn’t even close to his potential. A scary thought considering the way he dominated college football.

That’s what has me really excited. Pair him with a great linebackers coach like Keith Butler and – forgive me for the cliché – the sky is the limit.

Shazier has a great chance to be a Day One starter and never relinquish it.

Scouting Report: http://www.steelersdepot.com/2014/05/steelers-film-room-2014-nfl-draft-scouting-report-ohio-state-lb-ryan-shazier/

Grade: A

Round Two: Stephon Tuitt/DE Notre Dame

“Cornerback” was the popular response to the team’s biggest need but defensive end was, and may still be, bigger. Before the draft, the team was left with an uninspiring combination opposite of Cam Heyward: Cam Thomas, a one tech who only played end after getting benched. Brian Arnfelt, a try-hard second year player with a whole two career defensive snaps to his name. Nick Williams, a 7th rounder out of tiny Samford who missed the entire regular season due to a knee injury.

Enter Stephon Tuitt. He already looks the part at 6’5 304 and nearly 35 inch arms. From a scouting standpoint, I truthfully see a lot of Heyward in Tuitt. Strong and can hold the point of attack against the run. Fluid for their size. Quick hands and don’t get stuck to blocks. Impactful pass rushers. Versatile. Everything you’re looking for in the position.

The negatives that caused him stock to fall were partially out of his control. He suffered a hernia that dogged him all season long. His weight ballooned up to at least 322, John Mitchell stated it was near 330 in his press conference. Tuitt played more sluggishly. Still, he was impressive with 7.5 sacks en route to a First Team All-Independent selection.

As Coach Mitchell pointed out, and I agree, had Tuitt been healthy and played to his ceiling, he would have gone much higher than the mid-second round. His 2012 tape is a better indication of the talent he has.

Tuitt won’t turn 21 until training camp and will only continue to grow physically and mentally.

In an ideal world, as it is with all Steelers’ rookies, he won’t have to start from Day One. But there’s little question in my mind he’s the most talented end not named Heyward. If the team decides against bringing back Brett Keisel or another free agent, my guess is Tuitt begins the year starting at right end.

In all, just love the value of this pick. From a need and talent standpoint.

Scouting Report: http://www.steelersdepot.com/2014/05/2014-nfl-draft-player-profiles-notre-dame-de-stephon-tuitt/

Grade: A-

Round Three: Dri Archer/RB Kent St

This is where I begin to feel a little mixed on the selections. I get the positives in his game. He’s explosive, a playmaker, capable of wearing many hats and succeeding in any of them. He, like Tuitt, was hampered by injury in 2013. For Archer, it was an ankle he hurt early in the season and never fully recovered from.

And the team has to have a plan with Archer. You don’t take a player like this without knowing what you want to do with him.

But still, I prefer for selections to have a little bit more definition to them in these early rounds. Is he a return man? A wide receiver? A running back? He’s a little bit of everything but not a lot of one thing.

I’m not in love with his tape, either. He is a player who runs too laterally, has difficulty running through contact, and while he runs fluid routes as a receiver, is a body catcher as a receiver.

History is of course not predictive but there aren’t many backs at 173 pounds that have succeeded in this league. Another worry.

I’d rather take those players in the later rounds. Scat backs like Roy Finch who went undrafted. Grab those types of versatile players in the back end of the draft who can make a roster because of that, their versatility. I’d rather have that guy in Round Six than Round Three.

Scouting Report: http://www.steelersdepot.com/2014/05/steelers-film-room-2014-nfl-draft-scouting-report-kent-state-rb-dri-archer/

Grade: C+

Round Four: Martavis Bryant/WR Clemson

This one honestly fell into the team’s lap. Few draftniks expected the lanky wide receiver to be available in the middle of the fourth round.

Bryant is dripping with talent. Goes 6’3/6 211 and blazed a 4.42 40 with a 39 inch vertical. Triangle numbers don’t get much more impressive than that. Especially considering the fourth round value.

He was a strict vertical threat with the Tigers, averaging over 22 yards per catch on 61 career grabs. That mark ranks first in school history.

As Steelers’ fans love to ask, he is a red zone threat, too. Four of his seven touchdowns in 2013 came inside the 20.

On tape, he’s a long strider with a plus catch radius and more athleticism than you’d expect from a guy with his build. Shows fluidity in his hips coming out of his breaks.

The problem? He’s difficult to project. So raw he should be a health code violation, Bryant only has 13 starts to his name. In his career, just 61 catches. For perspective, 69 receivers at the FBS level caught more than 61 passes in 2013.

Clemson’s offense often rotated their wide receivers making snaps inconsistent and a fraction of what typical receivers see. The route tree he ran consisted nearly exclusively of deep routes: posts, corners, and fly routes. Bryant is very raw as a route runner and that is likely his biggest adjustment to the game. His lack of elusiveness after the catch will hinder him when he is asked to run short to intermediate routes on Sundays.

I’ve been comparing Bryant to Stephen Hill. Of course, Hill came out of a triple option but the two are still similar. Big bodies with excellent triangle numbers who are very raw route runners. Those players are difficult to project with such limited tape, I had to watch seven games of Bryant before becoming comfortable with my evaluation of him, and why he fell in the draft.

However, the upside is impossible to ignore and the value too great to complain about this selection. Temper expectations early for Bryant outside of some red zone packages, but in two or three years, he could be a terrific starter.

Can’t be any worse than the last receiver Pittsburgh selected in the fourth round. Fred Gibson. Ew.

Scouting Report: http://www.steelersdepot.com/2014/05/2014-nfl-draft-player-profiles-clemson-wr-martavis-bryant/

Grade: B

Round Five: Shaquille Richardson/CB Arizona

In the minds of many, a selection long overdue, Pittsburgh nabs a cornerback with their first of two fifth rounders. I was a little surprised seeing the team wait this long but if you’ve read any of my articles on the topic, you understand I didn’t think or expect to see a cornerback selected within the first two rounds.

Richardson was one of the several Steelers’ selected who the team visited with pre-draft. A long, 6’0/1 body, he’s a plus athlete who made one of college football’s top plays with his tip-in leading interception (Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-hYksEMmkrA )against Oregon.

Richardson shows glimpses of physicality but is an unfundamental tackler who all too often prefers to cut the runner or lead with his shoulder. Misses too many tackles and Carnell Lake has his work cut out for him in that regard.

As I wrote in my scouting report, there is a tiny glimmer that he can be molded with the proper coaching. With all the contact-shy cornerbacks I watched in this class, the Steelers’ could have done worse. But until that point, Richardson is nothing more than a special teamer whose 4.4 wheels will serve him well running down kicks and being a gunner on punts.

Again, history is not predictive but the Steelers’ haven’t fared well drafting Day Three cornerbacks in recent years, either.

Scouting Report: http://www.steelersdepot.com/2014/05/2014-nfl-draft-player-scouting-report-arizona-cb-shaquille-richardson/

Grade: C

Round Five: Wesley Johnson/OG Vanderbilt

Listing Johnson as a guard even though he spent most of his time at tackle in the SEC. As impressive as it is to start nearly 40 games on the blindside in college football’s toughest conference, his home isn’t at tackle in the NFL. Johnson lacks the lateral agility to stay at left tackle and he has trouble maintaining his base when asked to mirror. Compensates by opening the gate (his hips) too early and can get beat back into the inside

What he does offer is someone who is a great technician who stays on his feet and shows some nasty to his game. Does offer something the Steelers’ put a high priority on; versatility. Starting experience at every position except right guard and you can bet he’ll learn that under Mike Munchak.

And that’s where I see his ceiling lies. Johnson is a player with limited physical traits and has the technical side down pat. He’s started 51 games across four seasons. What you see is what you get with him and there isn’t much room for growth.

He’s a capable swingman and serviceable spot starter. For a team that seems to lose a lineman a game to injury, that’s valuable. But don’t anticipate Johnson ever becoming a full-time starter. And that’s why I have to grade him relatively harshly.

As I wrote, he’s a rich man’s Doug Legursky. A little bigger, tough, versatile, and technically sound but limited physical ability and will get exposed after long stretches.

Scouting Report: http://www.steelersdepot.com/2014/05/2014-nfl-draft-player-profiles-vanderbilt-t-wesley-johnson/

Grade: C-

Round Six: Jordan Zumwalt/ILB UCLA

Zumwalt is a throwback kid. In a “six degrees of separation” sense but instead of six, it’s four hundred steps, Zumwalt is a tad bit similar to Jack Lambert. He doesn’t look intimidating getting off the bus at a lanky 6’4 235, but he’s an intense, aggressive linebacker that can knock your head off. He knocked Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas out cold in the Sun Bowl (Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OHPmRnhCpVA).

Unfortunately, Zumwalt is slow. Shows a good first step and some short-area quickness but he’s a major liability in the open field and running sideline-to-sideline. A lot of deficiencies can be masked. Speed is not one of them.

That limits his potential. For that reason, I don’t see him becoming a starter. While he played some edge rusher at UCLA, he is far from that in the NFL. His home is at inside linebacker.

He lacked splash plays in school. Only 22.5 career TFL. Ryan Shazier had 24 in 2013 alone.

Zumwalt’s physical, throw your weight around, nature will be an asset on special teams but that’s as optimistic as I can be for him. Don’t see starting material and he isn’t even certain to make the team. If Sean Spence earns a spot, Zumwalt will be sitting squarely on the bubble.

Scouting Report: http://www.steelersdepot.com/2014/05/steelers-film-room-2014-nfl-draft-player-profiles-ucla-lb-jordan-zumwalt/

Grade: C

Round Six: Daniel McCullers/NT Tennessee

Oh, the nicknames we’ll come up with for him. He’s as big as a house and in fact, I’d wager there’s some Manhattan studios that are smaller than him.

McCullers goes 6’6/7 352 with 36 5/8 arms and 10 5/8 hands. They don’t get much bigger than that. And the former Volunteer is country strong and bullied tiny SEC lineman.

But it’s that size that may be his downfall. Being nearly 6’7 isn’t actually kind to a nose tackle. Position tends to prefer shorter, fireplug types like Vince Wilfork (6’2) or Casey Hampton (6’1). At 6’7, he’s prone to getting outleveraged and run out. His leverage wasn’t terrible at Tennessee but I can see it being an issue in the pros.

He’s also got a slow first step. Even for a nose tackle, a burst off the ball is important. To avoid getting washed and blown off the ball. It shows up on tape and in his workout numbers (20’5 vertical).

With any player of that weight, keeping that down is paramount. And I’m mixed on if he’ll be able to do so. On the plus side, after failing to qualify academically out of high school, McCullers attended Georgia Military School for two seasons. It was a rigid program that had a set schedule from 5:45 in the morning to 10:45 at night. If that didn’t instill discipline in him, I don’t think even John Mitchell can fix that. And to his credit, his weight has come down over time.

Still, 352 is not an ideal weight even at 6’7. At one point in high school, he was a massive 420 pounds. Before his junior year at Tennessee, he tipped the scales at 377.

The answer comes down to work ethic and desire, something I can’t comment on, but is critical to his success.

Having said that, I don’t know where he fits. Called him a tweener in the scouting report I wrote in early February. Will get outleveraged at nose, too stiff and slow at defensive end.

Taking a player with those measurable in the sixth round isn’t a horrible idea. And there could be a home for him with the lack of depth along the defensive line. I just don’t know what to do with him.

Scouting Report: http://www.steelersdepot.com/2014/02/2014-nfl-draft-player-profiles-tennessee-nt-daniel-mccullers/

Grade: C+

Round Seven: Rob Blanchflower/TE Massachusetts

Enough with the negativity. Blanchflower is a player I can definitely get on board with. He’s a sneaky athlete that won’t wow anybody but isn’t completely lacking there either. There is a consistency issue with his hands but on the whole, he’s a natural catcher with a large catch radius.

He’s a big body at 256 and knows what to do with it. Tough to bring down and makes defenders earn their tackles.

He’s a willing run blocker with some strength. While Blanchflower needs some technique work, he puts forth good effort and plays to the whistle. It was required on a losing team like UMass, winning just twice in his final two seasons.

And I can’t state enough how bad this UMass team was. The quarterback play was atrocious. Watching some of their throws sail far away from their intended target made me cringe.

To compare him to this year’s class, he’s a poor man’s Jace Amaro. Little slower. And I see some Heath Miller in Blanchflower, too.

If he’s healthy, a groin tear severely limited him in 2013, he has more than enough talent to push David Paulson off the roster. Matt Spaeth is entering the final year of his contract. Blanchflower could make a push to becoming the #2 TE in 2015. Real excited about this one.

Scouting Report: http://www.steelersdepot.com/2014/05/steelers-film-room-2014-nfl-draft-player-profiles-massachusetts-te-rob-blanchflower/

Grade: B

——-

The final tally looks as follows: 2 ILBs, 1 DE, 1 RB, 1 WR, 1 CB, 1 OG/C, 1 NT, 1 TE.

Three of the nine picks were underclassmen. Six were brought in for pre-draft visits.

The later round grades may seem a little harsh but there’s a cold reality to the draft. Statistically, late round picks have a small chance to stick. Even prospects that are supposed to be “developed” have limited time to do so.

From the 2013 class, Terry Hawthorne never cracked the team. Justin Brown is an afterthought after the team signed two veteran receivers and drafted Bryant. You’d be hard pressed to find one person that thinks Landry Jones will ever make a meaningful contribution to the team.

Go back one year farther. Alameda Ta’amu is in Arizona. Chris Rainey ran himself out of the league. Toney Clemons never stuck and is with the Panthers. David Paulson is already being projected to get pushed off the roster by Blanchflower. Who remembers Terrence Frederick?

Right there, that’s eight of thirteen Day Three selections who barely contributed and rarely inspired any confidence in.

Most of these picks will flop. You hope one or two pan out the way Kelvin Beachum has. But all these late round guys can’t be all “A’s” and “B’s.” If that’s how you grade them, you’re going to be quite disappointed.

Just the honest truth to it. Those who read me will know I don’t sugarcoat things.

It’s the first few picks that really matter. And the Steelers’ nailed them. Shazier and Tuitt have great chances of being long-term starters. Bryant is a risk but has a huge payoff. Who knows where Dri Archer’s career path will end up but you can bet there will be at least some splash plays along the way.

If one of those late round guys can pan out, it’ll be a good draft.

Overall Grade: B

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  • RW

    Agree completely with everything. Nitpicking, but Tuitt deserves an A grade, just given where he was drafted.

  • steeltown

    I love the first 4picks, then of course we get into the mid-late Rd projections. If Richardson and BFlower pan out then I’ll be extremely happy.. and of course, if Wesley or McCullers or Zumwalt become contributors for this Team even better. I really like Wesley and Zumwalt, but I realize the numbers at those particular positions will make it tough for these guys to make the 53man

    At the very least competition in camp will be fierce.

  • Virdin Barzey

    Alex, your synopsis is spot on. I don’t think there is one thing you said I disagree with. I just wish they had gotten a better pick with the 3rd.

  • srdan

    I tend to agree with Alex on most things, but the third round grade is not one of them. As you point out, he is someone that you have to have a plan. What is further encouraging is that they didn’t pick a receiver there, instead their first offensive weapon was Archer. I’d say they have a decent (5-7 touch) plan for him plus returns.

    Also he was the 97th pick. A very late 3rd round pick. To put it in perspective, Tuitt was our second round pick at 46. 19 picks later some TE from Iowa was the first pick in the third round. 51 picks after Tuitt was Dri archer at 97. Calling him a true third rd pick is a loose definition.

    Knowing our need for:
    -Speed
    -Return ability
    -scat back
    -explosiveness

    It’s hard to not give the pick a B in my grade book.

  • blue

    Great overall draft. Here we go Stillers, lets get #7!!!!!!!

  • steeltown

    The knock on him will always be his size, but you are correct, we needed a scat back type and we seriously needed a kick return man, not to mention he could play WR in a pinch should we suffer injuries.

  • srdan

    “you my boy blue!!”

  • Cols714

    I think the only pick I would have changed was the 3rd rounder. It would’ve been better to have whatever CB they had ranked the highest in that slot than Archer. Hopefully they got it right.

  • Zach

    Alex, thanks for this spot-on review. I agree with the realistic perspective your provide for the late-round picks. Honestly, I don’t expect any to make the 53 man roster than perhaps Branchflower. Our #1 and #2 picks were excellent and it’s hard to argue against these being our best pair of #1 + #2 picks since Timmons and Woodley. Right now I agree with your snapshot judgment of Archer and I honestly don’t know if the steelers had an extended plan for him before going into the draft (he didn’t visit us before). I have to think that they were expecting L Nix, P Gaines, D Moncrief, J Brown or M Scofield to be there at the end of the 3rd, and that they didn’t grade Martavis Bryant highly enough to be taken at the end of the 3rd. I would have traded up our next year’s 3rd + this year’s 4th to grab Nix or Gaines at the middle of the 3rd.

  • dennisdoubleday

    I think 6 of 9 will make the roster (top 4 plus 2 others), with 2 potential first year starters (Shazier and Tuitt). That’s a successful draft.

    I had Arnfelt down as the DE starter over Cam Thomas, but Tuitt has a chance to change all that.

  • Zach

    I agree (see my post above). Among mid to late-round CBs, I think they were targeting Gaines in the 3rd, or R Cockrell in the 4th, or S. Richardson in the 5th. Given that Gaines and Cockrell were gone when we picked in the respective rounds, we were left with Richardson. The FO must think that we can get a better corner than Gaines with our next year’s 2nd or 3rd rounder + a veteran in FA.

  • Eric MacLaurin

    The Steelers should have traded up for Gaines hoping he can start in a year and maybe wasting 2 picks?

    I liked him too but not enough to part with 2 good picks.

  • Eric MacLaurin

    His size isn’t that terrible either. He’s short but he’s durable and elusive.

  • Jacque Strappe

    I said before, not a fan of the Archer pick. I think the evaluation was spot on and exactly how I feel. The difference is Alex gets a pat on the back for his analysis, and I got roasted in the comments section, LOL.

    I’ll be the first to say I was wrong when he takes one to the house on KO return.

  • Zach

    Looks like the FO thought just like you did! I still think that if they valued Gaines enough, they would have traded up. Says a lot about the depth and quality of this CB class.

  • steeltown

    It is pretty amazing the strength he has at his size, Mike Evans for example only had 12reps on the BP and Archer was in the top 10 as far as RB reps go

  • Eric MacLaurin

    They might have traded up if they knew he was being drafted but to make the trade assuming he was going that high would have been very questionable.

    I actually think you’ll find it was more about Archer being a very valuable piece than the CB’s not being worthy. I don’t think there were great CB options. Just interesting ones.

  • steeltown

    Yes but most of the top tier CBs were gone and they may have not had any of the remaining guys graded as 3rd Rd talent, its quite possible they didn’t view Watkins, Cockrell, Desir and others as 3rd Rd prospects. In other words they would’ve been reaching in their eyes.

  • JohnB

    Great write up. Thanks for not sugarcoating. Don’t ever change.

  • shawn

    I think u will be saying u were wrong pretty quickly … Alex nailed his analysis except for Dri … which he has been off by a mile .. on this one he states he runs too laterally … i dont know where he got that one from, but from the tape he is very decisive and runs very much vertical from what i’ve seen … i get it … some people just dont like small backs and it takes some time to change their mind !

  • Ted Reiter

    How rare is it that you have an opportunity to draft the fastest player to ever enter the league, who also has very good production to back it. He’s stronger than Jarvis Jones (20 reps in bench). I like the pick as well. At worst you have a Devin Hester. Hailey knows how to use these backs. Look what he did with Dexter McCluster. McCluster ran a 4.5 at the same size as Dri. I think we are going to love this. Him just being on the field will open up running lanes for Bell.

  • shawn

    I completely agree … well said … i Love the pick but i also will give it a B ONLY because it didnt feel like as great a need as some other holes .. (wish we could have gotten him in the 5th, but it was pretty easy to see he wouldnt have lasted much longer and definitely not til the 5th) but u can’t deny the value he brings to a team … and comparing somebody like finch to him is ridiculous !

  • Zach

    I agree, Eric. I like Archer, don’t get me wrong. But I also liked Gaines in the 3rd and at the point when CB Mcdougle was taken by the Jets at #80, Gaines was the next CB to be drafted. The Steelers would have to have considered who will be our starting CBs next year, and I hope they have a plan. Our CBs take at least one year to groom. They must be hoping that Ike will be around at an average level for 2015 as well. After this draft, the non-attempt to re-sign K Lewis over keeping Ike Taylor looks an even more horrible decision. I hope they are at least attempting to extend Cortez Allen.

  • shawn

    I think u are spot on with the 4 plus 2 … thats what I’m thinking as well !

  • cencalsteeler

    I’m one of those that is optimistic with the third round selection of Archer. Special teams is 1/3 of football and I do believe he was brought in specifically as a kick returner. His added bonus will be returning punts and then plugging him in certain offensive packages which is why he has such value. Multipurpose, the Steeler way. I can’t say enough as to how important field position is. It’s the kick start to your team. How many times do you see a good kick return and all the players and coaches are celebrating it on the sidelines. It’s a moral booster for everyone. It helps set the tone. It opens the offensive playbook. Even if the offense does not succeed on it’s possession, the opportunity is there to pen the opposing team back which makes it easier on the defense. In all actuality, the return game has an effect on the whole team including the coaches on both sides of the ball, both offenses and defenses, and the play calling as well. Though not popular, I am pleased to see the punting position and the kick returning positions addressed, for they are more important than one may think.

  • shawn

    U are absolutely 100% RIGHT …. nobody ever likes Special Teams draft picks … but it is 1/3rd of the game and so damn important … !

  • srdan

    While I agree with you guys that is a lot of reps on the bench, its not fair to compare his reps to a Jarvis or Tuitt. They have to move the 225 pounds 10 more inches per rep due to their arm length. That is a lot more work.

  • Zach

    I generally agree with waht you said. But Archer’s values would be enormous with the previous Kickoff return rules. But it’s hard to disagree that he’s good value at the end of the 3rd. I’m hoping he provides a sparkle for the offense and special teams.

  • Jacque Strappe

    Because small backs have had such a significant role in the league?

  • shawn

    he was actually at the top in almost all the RB categories … its very strange that the fan base is very split with this pick … but one thing is for sure ..with his playing style it wouldnt take much for everybody to jump on the “Dri Archer” bandwagon !

  • cencalsteeler

    Colbert mentioned, and I agree, that we are a Northern team. As weather sets in, more kicks are being returned. As winter approaches during playoffs, more of the states are affected by the weather, which in turn causes more returnable kickoffs.

  • Zach

    Totally agreed. Also, if Archer becomes half of what Sproles was for the Saints, I’ll be doing cartwheels.

  • srdan

    Running backs in general are in a transition as a position. Small backs have not been successful except for a few outliers (sproles and mcluster). But as the rules have changed to not be able to touch offensive players I think you will start seeing a lot more of slight backs that are fast getting drafted. I think our organization once again got out in front of the curve. Just look at Mclusters contract to get an idea where the NFL is going.

    I expect Archer to have most of his touches through receptions in the flats, ala sproles. Try to name a defensive player in the NFL that you would feel comfortable matching up with him in the flat. I can name some, but don’t forget that AB is on the other side of the formation….now its a doozy.

  • cencalsteeler

    I think a lot of Steeler Nation has been snake bitten by the Chris Rainey project and are drawing comparisons, which in my mind, is unfair to Archer.

  • srdan

    Good point

  • steeltown

    Valid point

  • Ken

    Excellent draft review. I would rate McCullers draft grade better. If you treat him like a 6th round pick then your like cool, this is a good pick. If you treat him like a fallen draft pick then you rate him low. He was a really good 6th round pick.

  • steeltown

    Yes but the guys mentioned weigh more than the 225lbs that they are lifting, but it’s 50lbs more than Archer’s body weight

  • srdan

    agreed. But the definition of work is how far you lift something multiplied by the weight.

    I agree with you that if you ratio it out that Archer is stronger, but its not fair comparing his 225 to Jarvis because he has to do more lifting. BAsically for every 4 reps archer does he has moved the weight as far as jarvis in 3.

    This is a complex that I have because I suck at benching and I swear its because I am lanky. lol so i try to explain it through engineering.

  • StrengthOfVictory

    What this article is missing is a list of players the writer believes would have been better selections (based on talents and needs) in each given round. Who else was on the board (especially in the later rounds) that would warrant handing out As and Bs? I mean, a few exceptions aside, don’t you expect C-level players by the time you reach the fifth, sixth, and seventh rounds?

  • chris ward

    I like the first two picks with Shazier and Tuitt, Archer in the 3rd round was surprising, though they could of gone CB earlier than the 5th round. Martavis Bryant is good value in the 4th round. Overall, I thought the Steelers did a soild job in the draft, really like Shazier and Tuitt. Giving the Steelers overall grade a B sounds about right.

  • 20Stoney

    I hate to sound negative about him because I’m really not. I just think a lot of people are maybe projecting too much on him because of workout numbers. His workout strength is freakish for a guy that size but he does not play with that strength. I have seen people talk about him stretching the field when he actually plays best around the line. He’s going to be a gimmick guy in space and a kick returner. And that’s not meant as a bad thing

  • John

    It seems Steelers would have taken Bryant in third round if they did not take Archer. So Archer pick possibly cost us whomever we would have taken in mid-fourth round. At corner it might have been Richardson based on who visited. McCullers pick is a total flier as it defies logic to think other teams missed him if he can play. Zumwalt pick seems like a system pick that may work out. As always let’s hope steelers know what they are doing.

  • RASTA

    Exactly! Plus the bonus fact of not worrying about AB back there anymore! Remember we play alot of games outside up north, so we get more KR opps then avg., and if he can Randle El out there a bit with his speed, we will get him hopefully a half dozen to a dozen touches per week. Mitchell, Shazier, Bryant and Archer (I also think Mann can “cure” Bey of his previous hands problems) inject a HUGE amount of speed into this years squad. Go Steelers!

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Well said. Only 1 problem: Mentioning Jack Lambert along side almost any prospect is a no-no in my eyes. Mentioning him with Zumwalt is practically blasphemy!

  • RedCarpetDefense

    If I’m correct looking back at the 3rd rd where we would have picked had the Steelers not traded it last year to the Browns when moving up in the 4th rd for Shamarko Thomas, the Titans selected Louis Nix. It’s possible (having retained that picked) Tuitt and Nix would both be Steelers today.

  • Zach

    Excellent point — I’m rooting for the kid and hopefully we get (at least) an electrifying return man. If we get anything along the Sproles-like contribution out of the backfield in passing downs, this would be a steal.

  • Ike Evans

    Round 1-I wanted Zack Martin instead but there weren’t a lot of options there after guys were taking b4 us. I never thought they would draft darqueze because he doesn’t fit. If they didn’t pick up mike Mitchell we could have got haha or Calvin and I’m disappointed. I’m disappointed at what this may mean for Sean Spence but all and all I wasn’t mad at the pick…it was a tough slot to pick in.
    Round 2-no complaints
    Round 3- I suppose u could say they could’ve got Pierre Desir then came back around and got lache seastrunk, henry Josey, ladarius Perkins later….and they could’ve…I question whether they should’ve more then I question anything in this draft
    Round 4-I’m good with that 1
    Round 5-bust bust bust bust bust bust bust bust bust bust bust bust I hope I’m wrong but I don’t think shaq will even be on our roster going into the season next year
    Round 5-I’m good with Wes….I’ve been saying we needed another tackle and we got one who I actually thought would go higher…liked the pick
    Round 6-I mean whatever with zimwult …he’s not gonna see the field unless something crazy happens…special teamed…its meh but most 6 round picks are men….
    Round 6-I like it….just because if we can get him right then by the time macs contract is up he could be a beast…if not then we can get a nose tackle later
    Round 7-love this pick ….not that it matters but they call flower baby gronk lol

    We will see….I don’t feel anyway about this draft 1 way or another which is not usual for me

  • Matt Manzo

    I just hope Gilbert and Desir don’t turn into Bens nemesis like The Jags CB was for so long!

  • Zach

    yep, I thought about this as well. but you would have to think that the titans would have tried to move up to select nix ahead of us, so it wouldn’t have changed things too much I guess…

  • Alex Kozora

    Sure, I realize we’re not going to be snagging All-Stars. But I look at guys like Johnson and Zumwalt and think there’s faint hope they ever become starters. Even in the late rounds when the chances are slimmer, I’d like a guy who could conceivably become a big contributor one day. I think Blanchflower has that chance. I don’t see it in the others.

  • StrengthOfVictory

    And that’s fine. I’m only saying you can’t fault the Steelers for taking the best players available to them (in the later rounds) in areas of need, if there were no better options. Unless, of course, you think certain players that WERE available to them on Day Three should have been chosen and were not. See the difference? In other words, I can more easily accept rating some of the later-chosen PLAYERS as C-level than I can accept rating their SELECTION by this team as C-level. (I agree about Branchflower, but was there an OL or LB with real potential sitting out there who was missed?)

  • Bob Francis

    My changes to the Steelers draft: Take P. Desir (CB) in the 3rd instead of Archer, then take a scat back in Round 6 instead of Zumwalt. I wouldn’t have minded a developmental OLB instead of McCullers, but they did get the guy from Shepherd as an UDFA. Gotta fill the OLB pipeline back up!

    - LOVE Shazier, Tuitt, Bryant, Blanchflower.
    - “We’ll see” about Richardson.
    - I suppose they had to give Munchak one gift, and if he liked Johnson, I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt… but I don’t see the need for competition at OL with guys like Wallace, Embernate, Whimper, Hubbard, etc.
    - I don’t mind flyers on interesting physical prospects like McCullers late in Round 6 – that’s what those late picks are for.
    - Why all of the attention to ILBs and so little to OLBs?

  • Alex Kozora

    I understand. It’s hard for me to pinpoint, but I usually don’t do that kind of stuff. Hard to explain but it just kind of bugs me.

    I had an Eagles’ friend who didn’t like the Marcus Smith pick. When I first asked him why he didn’t like it, he replied with.

    “We should have taken Marquise Lee!”

    That kind of response just bugs me. It’s irrelevant. To dislike one guy because you liked somebody else.

    It’s my weird, (probably) irrational way of thinking it, but I just look at the player itself and tune out what we “could have” done.

    Although I still believe we should have taken EJ Gaines and not Shaq Richardson. I’ll give you that, if it helps.

  • Doug McFee

    Great job! For the most part, I agree with your grades. I would have given the Steelers a solid “A” on the Tuitt pick. He had a late first round grade and I thought getting him at 46 was great value. The other is Johnson. 51 starts in the SEC with the position flexibility he has I thought was a solid value pick. Steelers will suit 7 OL players on Sunday’s. Johnson will be one of them!

  • Alex Kozora

    Why I qualified it as much as possible with the “400 degrees of separation”.

  • Doug McFee

    McCullers could work as a rotational DE. I just don’t see a dude 6′ 7″ playing NT. It will be very interesting to see how Mr Mitchell develops this kid.

  • Krankor

    I thought the comparison to Lambert was reasonable, given that it was made to a *specific* aspect of Lambert.

  • srdan

    Valid point. If I said 100 touches this year, would you guys take the over or under?

  • Doug McFee

    Most people grade the Steelers 3rd round pick much lower than Alex. Steelers Nation was collectively miffed and pissed off when Archer was selected. I have to agree that our 3rd round pick was really a 4th round pick. I’m very hopeful and excited to see what Archer can do on the field.

  • Doug McFee

    ….. and very strong for his size!! He did 20 reps on the bench press! Dude is stupid strong!!

  • Doug McFee

    * 4.26 40 yard dash – 20 reps bench press – * 38 inch vert jump – 122 inch broad jump – * 6.86 3 cone drill – * 4.06 20 yard shuttle. * = Top Combine Performer at Position
    Serious measurables. I believe the Steelers were smart to pick him where they did. Now, coach him up and find ways to get the ball in his hands. Can’t wait to see this kid wearing Black and Gold!!

  • Doug McFee

    I had Gaines in my final Mock. I got our 7th and that was it!

  • Doug McFee

    Our 3rd was really a 4th.

  • Doug McFee

    I like Archer’s position flexibility. He can play RB/WR/KR. If the Steelers can coach him up where he can return punts, we’re in business. I like the pick. Didn’t like him where we picked him when I was watching live, but I’ve watched the film and I’m impressed. At 173, he’s as strong as an ox.

  • Doug McFee

    Get him schooled to return punts!!!

  • Doug McFee

    Were they drafted to be starters? I seriously doubt that. Zumwalt is slow, but he has the heart of a lion. He could be a SP standout. However, if Spence shows what he showed before he got hurt, Zumwalt was just a pick. I’m fine with that. Johnson has the position flexibility the Steelers covet. Will he start? I doubt it. What sold me on Johnson was the fact he started 51 games in the SEC and held his own against some of the top DL in the college game, including Clowney. Team captain, too!! Coaches loved the kid. One of my favorite picks in this draft. Although the knock on him is that his frame will get no bigger or stronger, I have hope that his smarts will overcome his lack of athletic ability and he thrives under Munchuk and his zone blocking scheme.

  • Steve

    Watching McCullers in film he dominated most single blocks and many plays fought double teams rather well. He definatly would clog up the middle playing NT. Very strong but slow and knows how to move people.

  • Steve

    Had mentioned the other day that Zumwalt reminds me of Jack Splat Lambert. Knows how to deliver a hit and has a good sense of balance. Is slower than Lambert and not as mean but is lean and loves to hit.

  • Doug McFee

    My Steelers Mock Draft 1.0 Final:

    1. (15) Kyle Fuller – CB Virginia Tech – When the Bears snatched him, I literally had no back up plan as Lewan, Gilbert, Beckham were all off my board. I was perplexed and when Shazier was picked, I was in shock. In shock until I really thought about it and looked at the film. I’m very happy with the Shazier pick.
    2. (46) Louis Nix – NT Notre Dame – I wanted Tuitt, but I didn’t think he’d be there at 46, so Nix became the logical choice in my mind. I’m absolutely thrilled with Tuitt. Nix fell fell fell!!
    3. (97) Donte Moncrief – WR Ole Miss – I didn’t think Moncrief would be there at 97, but stranger things have happened. Moncrief went at 90. Had we had our original 3rd rounder, Moncrief could have been had.
    4. (118) James Gayle, DE/OLB, Virginia Tech – I had projected Gayle as an OLB. He was not picked. Messed up this pick, big time! I can live with Bryant at 118, big time!!
    5. (157) Antone Exum, CB, Virginia Tech – Thought this kid would have been a nice pick considering the Steelers depth at CB, but he went to the Vikings at 180. Ole Shaq could be too big to be a NT, but he could develop as DE. Mr. Mitchell has some work!
    5. (173) Max Bullough, ILB, Michigan State – Ole Max was projected as a 4-5 round pick, but no team selected him. I like smart players and Max is a smart player with limited athletic ability. I’m happy with the Johnson pick!
    6. (192) John Urschel, G, Penn State – Selected earlier than I had expected by the Ravens. Loved this kid! Smart and was a zone blocking fit. Thought Munchuk would have liked this pick.
    6. (215) Jeoffrey Pagan, DE/DT, Alabama – 5 Tech projection. Developmental player who Mr. Mitchell would have had some fun with. Texans got him!
    7. (230) Rob Blanchflower, TE, UMass – Well, at least I got one pick!!!

  • Scot Hickerson

    I think that this draft grad over all is an A. excellent diversity and depth with potential starters in the first 4 rounds. Shazier is a Von Miller type, and Archer will start on Kick returns and will play WR/RB some.

    I may be the only person that thinks it is likely that Landry Jones is going to be the Steelers Aaron Rodgers and that there may be a change of the guard after this contract is up with Ben, but that doesn’t mean that i am wrong. I predict that there is no contract extension for Ben this year and will be Landry Moving up to back up position. How can you call a guy who is 6’4 230 played at a major BCS school and is the 3rd all time NCAA leader for passing yards and attempts, a wasted pick and has no hope of ever contributing. What makes since is the Steelers doing what the packers did to Favre by letting Ben go with a good 4 years left in his Career.

  • charles

    Excellent post and it bolsters a projection of unbias when you are less than enamored with a pick. My thoughts with Archer is that Haley desperately wants a scat back and hopefully like Bell, Haley did his homework. Comparison of the kid from Vandy to Legursky is down right frightening. Maybe Munchak can learn him some technique.

  • Ryan

    Your grades for the middle-end rounders are WAY too harsh. C- for a guy who can everywhere on the offensive line? And a C for Zumwalt? A guy who already has more praise than Vince Williams who started 15 games last year. C+ for Dri? All 3 were are excellent picks. Dri should at least get a B you got the fastest kid in the draft who’s proven to be a versatile weapon. It was basically a 4th round pick given it was a comp pick. Tuit gets a solod A if not A+ just cause many Mocks had him going as high as the middle of round 1.

  • Weiss Chad

    Nobody’s counting shmarko Thomas?He should count as this draft

  • Weiss Chad

    I’ll take shmarko over nix imo

  • Weiss Chad

    I like dri archer a lot.Looking at it now I probably take jaylen watkins

  • AndyR34

    Under…for offensive touches. IOW, I’m not counting returns.

  • Matt Manzo

    I haven’t given up on Landry yet, but I’m not gonna hand him the team til Ben can’t walk.

  • shawn

    would be a very good bet on the over …

  • shawn

    I actually agree with u … i also think he does his best work around the line … hopefully they aren’t scared to use him that way !

  • Scot Hickerson

    It’s not about Ben’s ability to continue to play its about Ben’s contract being up in two years and the money needed to extend Ben. I think Ben could make more elsewhere. I think they trade him next year or let him play out the contract then franchise tag him before they pay him 100 mill for his final four years in the league. It Depends on how Landry progresses though.

  • MailboxKid

    I was predicting Bryant to be around in the late 3rd, the dying end of the the 2nd-3rd wr tier. Wasn’t expecting Ellington. It seems like the talk of a possible character issue could have scared off a fair share of teams. That was certainly what I was told at least.

  • PoKey21

    Don’t like the Zumwalt pick at all. Why waste a late round pick on a position that is not a need, especially after you just drafted an ilb in round one. Should have added another corner just from a depth standpoint. You’re not finding many starters in round 6, why not go for a project CB or even one with off field issues? It would be a better chance than an ilb who has 1% chance at making a team who is already deep at that position.

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