Maturity, Discipline Issues Among Possible Obstacles To Overcome For Some Draft Picks

Among the traits that certain subsets of the Pittsburgh Steelers draft class share with one another are size, speed, and versatility. This is the way that head coach Mike Tomlin summarized the collective in the post-draft press conference.

But there’s another trait that a subset of this class also shares, and that would be potential maturity and professional issues, something the team will hope to monitor going forward.

This would encompass half of the draft haul on the final day, which stretched across the fourth round to the seventh round, and includes wide receiver Martavis Bryant, cornerback Shaquille Richardson, and defensive lineman Daniel McCullers.

While McCullers has no known off the field issues, at least that I’m aware of, his chronically fluctuating weight is certainly a concern, as also could potentially be his work ethic.

While he is naturally a very large man, he has as of yet not shown a consistent ability to play to his size. The fact that his weight has yo-yoed over time is something that will be watched.

The receiver, Bryant, has also raised questions about his work ethic and focus on the field, and comes into the league with a bit of a reputation for dropping some passes. He has reportedly struggled to adequately digest a football playbook.

Additionally, his scouting report shows a young man that has done some “stupid” things from time to time, for which he’s been disciplined, such as a throat-slashing gesture on the field. He was also suspended for his team’s bowl game due to academic ineligibility.

Richardson, the cornerback, may have the most red flags in his history of the group; on the other hand, his issues seem further in his past than the other two discussed above. Has he matured and grown past his youthful indiscretions? Parenthood has a tendency to do that.

When Steelers defensive backs coach Carnell Lake was coaching at UCLA, he recruited Richardson to play there. Before he could, he and a group of others were caught stealing a woman’s purse. While the charges were later dropped, he transferred to another school shortly thereafter.

In 2011, he was involved in an on-field brawl in a game, which resulted in the suspensions of 10 different players, including Richardson, who was among the primary agents of the fight. He was among the two players ejected during the game for the incident.

Are any of these habits or indiscretions particularly damning or insurmountable? Certainly not. Most likely, they are the products of youth and immaturity, and a lack of understanding of a professional environment.

They now find themselves in that professional environment, with professionals hired to ensure that they maintain a professional attitude. There’s no shortage of role models for hard work and discipline in either the wide receivers or the defensive line room, either, with Antonio Brown and Cameron Heyward being among the most motivated and hardworking members of the team.

As long as these young players get in line behind the rising stars of their respective position groups, and begin to treat their hobby as a profession that requires year-round discipline, they should be fine. Still, it does show that some risk is occasionally required in order to acquire talent in the NFL draft.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

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

  • Paddy

    Plenty of guys to draft, why do they continually spend good money on misfits? Perhaps in today’s society it’s becoming the norm.

    That’s why I am hoping Sean Spence recovers fully, a really good guy who works his butt off and contributes to society in a positive way.

  • Steelers12328882

    Shazier, Tuitt and Archer are locks, but I can easily see Bryant, Richardson and McCullers not making this team, and not even making the practice squad because of these “obstacles”. Branchflower has a real shot at making the team, and it’ll be interesting to see Wesley Johnson and Jordan Zumwalt fight for spots.

  • joed32

    The NT started at 400 and now is 350, that’s more of a Yo than a Yoyo.

  • Sherman is a size prospect with some good intangibles that will help him mold into a contributing backup corner for a press-heavy team. However, he does not possess the natural coverage instincts, fluidity or burst to be considered a future starter. Is comfortable and capable in press man, using his size to disrupt receivers’ releases off the line, but doesn’t show enough make up speed to consistently recover when beaten. Awareness in zone and off-man are only adequate. Has average ball skills but some upside as a playmaker. Tough against the run but still developing from a technical standpoint. Sherman is a Day 3 prospect. Over of CB Richard Sherman. Sound a lot like our new CB Richardson

  • steeltown

    Coach Mann, Mitchell and Lake seem like no nonsense coaches to me. Im not to worried about these guys and any off-field or conduct issues. I’d say the issue that worries me the most is Bryant and his drop %, not technically his work ethic, I think Coach Mann and AB and Moore will get him working diligently on his craft. I just hope he can overcome the drops and keep focus.

  • John C

    Question….can anyone remember a player who came in with work ethic or discipline issues who actually turned things around and became a productive player? Not doubting it could happen just can’t think of any off the top of my head from years past.

  • scott2443

    yes there all rookies and coming to nfl but just look at last few years in league you have guys that been in league for years and gotten in trouble doing stupit stuff …but i agree steelers need to have classes and some one to talk watch over rookies heavier …should be curfews for these types players not out after midnite like adams was out drinking …and any one of the rookies who do drink should have to have a some sorta AA mentor …as far as drops go for bryant you can name a few steelers wr`s that have drops all the time as well …hes a rookie and he still needs training …till he drops that game winning pass i will give him a chance to be the go to guy…as far as fights go for richardson how many times have we seen fights on field its part game but the coaches have to curb that as much as possible …as far as a image of throat cutting gesture i cant tell you how many times i saw a player do that after a big play in nfl …think more time should be also spent on the rookies familys they know these kids and know there bad habits so could be the first warning signs to look for

  • ApexSteel

    I can see McCullers not making it, but I don’t agree with Richardson and Bryant at all.

  • Reg Sayhitodabadguy Hunt

    Im hoping the same thing im also worried about mccullers weight issues i hope they can get him to control it and keep him in the weight room i want this guy to be intimidating like the hulk and play with a chip on his shoulder

  • Reg Sayhitodabadguy Hunt

    Misfits i’m okay with it’s just all these project guys they be getting that’s not panning out instead of going after more sure fire picks and fAs

  • dgh57

    Don’t like the fact that we’re talking about 3 positions most of us thought were the biggest needs going into the draft! This is on top of the fact they’re 4th, 5th, and 7th rounders!

  • Steelers12328882

    Ike Taylor, Cortez Allen, William Gay, Troy Polamalu, Mike Mitchell, Shamarko Thomas are all locks. Will Allen, Robert Golden, Brice McCain and Antwon Blake are all serious contenders for roster spots. Where exactly would Richardson fit in? I just don’t see it happening, especially with Thomas being able to play as the 4th corner. While I’m rooting for Bryant to make an impact I just think he draws too many comparisons to Limas Sweed. Out of the 3 he definitely has the best chance to make the team tho.

  • I am ok with misfits, we had Kemoeatu for a number of years. UGh

  • steeltown

    Not naming any players, but the amount of kids coming out of college that were deemed as having “work ethic” or “discipline” issues is extensive. There are many players that didn’t take themselves or football seriously when they were 18, 19 and 20yrs old and in college.

  • steeltown

    If Bryant, Richardson and McCullers don’t make the 53man roster, they surely wont make the PS because they wont clear waivers, some other Team will come in and scoop them up.

  • PA2AK

    I get what you are saying, but who is really ‘sure fire’ even after the second round of any draft? These guys look to be a bit immature, and we heard this from Colbert regarding the entire class before draft day. Not going to excuse them or what they’ve done, but they weren’t doing anything on Harrison’s level. Granted he gets a pass because he was also very good, but not sure fire! In reality, this looks like maturity as Matt detailed.

  • Steelers12328882

    It’s just too early to tell, but right now I actually like DE Josh Mauro’s chances at making this team or PS more than I do any of these 3. I would say tho that Bryant MUST make this team just because of his draft position, but that’ll be a great battle in camp between him, Derek Moye, Justin Brown and DHB. AB, Wheaton and Moore are locks and Dri Archer can also be used at WR.

  • steeltown

    I hope Mauro makes it to the PS

  • ApexSteel

    It’s hard to say because we haven’t seen anyone in pads (or in practice at all for that matter), but probably over Brice McCain and Antwon Blake unless they make tremendous strides(Will Allen and Robert Golden will battle for that last spot. If last year is any indication, we like to have 8 DBs on hand). You have to remember that a lot of analysts believed that in a less deep draft Richardson would’ve been gone earlier because he’s that talented. He has great speed and a lot better height (6’1 compared to McCain and Antwon Blake’s 5’9) which is what Pitt likes in their outside corners. He needs to be developed and he won’t if he doesn’t atleast get some special teams experience.

    And Bryant doesn’t draw Limas Sweed comparisons from anyone except Steeler fans. Limas is like every yinzers ex gf that they thought would be the one they marry. Now since the breakup, anytime they see anyone who’s even ever so slightly like him, they cry about it. He’s also another player who would’ve gone earlier in a lesser draft.

  • cencalsteeler

    Easy fix. Each one of the mentioned gets a picture posted on their lockers. Bryant gets a Sweed pic., Richardson gets a Hawthorne pic., and McCullers gets a Ta’amu pic. Motivation at its best!

  • Zack

    The only one with serious question marks is Richardson, but he hasn’t had any issues since then and he’s close with Lake, so I’d be shocked if they came up again.

    With Bryant, he may end up more bust than boom, but it’s the draft and for where he was picked, he was a steal. His talent is immense if he can learn to channel it.

    McCullers is a freak of nature who was selected with the final pick of the sixth round. If Heyward and the coaches can push him to be great, we got a massive, massive steal, if not, what amounts to basically a seventh round pick busted. Big deal. We got a guy with the physical tools and potential to be a dynasty-level NT at a spot that really has limited to no expectation. Maybe he doesn’t make the team. So what. He’s EXACTLY what you go for when you pick at the very end of the sixth round.

  • WilliamSekinger

    I like it

  • Steelers12328882


  • Steelers12328882

    I think it all comes down to Special Teams. If McCain and Blake outperform him then he’s gone.

  • ApexSteel

    I think the total package will win it for him. Even if he’s not as good at special teams his speed, height, and potential.

  • steeltown

    Quote from Richardson: “I’m definitely coming in to learn from Ike Taylor and other veterans and defensive backs they have on the team. I got a lot to prove and I’m ready to work.”

  • steeltown

    If we’re talking defensive backs, we usually carry 10guys between CB and Safety

  • steeltown

    We like to carry 10 defensive backs. I think McCain, Blake and Richardson could all make the roster, but it would be at the expense of someone like Golden

  • John Hinton

    Great comment/attitude.

  • ApexSteel

    Even better.

  • Steelers12328882

    Yup, and it seems like it’s now or never for Golden this year.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Well, that depends on your opinion of the player, but Marcus Gilbert was one such player who came in with questionable work ethic and had to be talked to by Pouncey.