Every year at about this time, I like to take a stab at projecting how many snaps each member of the Pittsburgh Steelers draft class will see on either offense or defense during their rookie season. Here are my pre OTA predictions for the class of 2014.
Ryan Shazier – It’s quite possible that Shazier begins the season as the starter alongside Lawrence Timmons and should that happen, he’d become the first Steelers defensive rookie since Kendrell Bell to accomplish that feat. Still, the defense run by Dick LeBeau is complicated and while I expect Shazier to log a lot of playing time during his first season, I think 700 snaps is about the ceiling for him. If the Steelers don’t use a lot of nickel as their primary sub package of choice in 2014, that number might wind up being a tad lower. Shazier’s definitely going to play in 2014 and it’s only a matter now of how much. It’s probably up to him.
Stephon Tuitt – Like Shazier, Tuitt is going to see playing time as a rookie. However, being as the Steelers are more than likely going to be in some sort of sub package 50% of the time, that will likely result in the Notre Dame product being off the field in those instances early on in the season. The Steelers will want to rotate their ends out in addition and this again will cut into Tuitt’s snaps. So how many snaps will Tuitt play? I think 400 sounds about right.
Dri Archer – When you look back at how Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley used Dexter McCluster back in 2010, one would think that Archer could see 25 snaps or more a game on offense. I just can’t see that happening. Realistically, I think Haley will be doing good to get Archer on the field for eight snaps a game, so that puts the Kent State product at roughly 130 total snaps. That number sounds achievable.
Martavis Bryant – Baring any injuries, Bryant is pretty much in the same boat as Archer is. Remember, Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton and Lance Moore are all ahead of him on the depth chart and while Archer is likely more of a running back than a wide receiver, he might very well see the field in some instances before Bryant will. Because of his height, I could see Bryant being used inside the red zone, but outside of that, he will be hard pressed to get much playing time during his rookie season. Unless anything drastic happens, I think the Clemson product is looking at 100 snaps of playing time at the most.
Shaquille Richardson – Assuming Richardson makes the final 53 man roster, which he should baring an injury, his main contribution will come on special teams. As a rookie, Cortez Allen saw the field for 60 snaps and never more than 19 in one game. I think Richardson would be doing good to come close to that number, so I will predict 50 for him with most of those likely coming during the second half of the season in sub packages.
Wesley Johnson – Johnson’s primary goal in 2014 will be to beat Guy Whimper out of a roster spot. Assuming he’s able to do that, he’s a prime candidate to be a gameday inactive. Hopefully the Steelers offensive line can avoid the injury bug in 2014 and should that be the case, Johnson will be lucky to play 20 snaps on offense.
Jordan Zumwalt – The hope for Zumwalt is that he can make the Steelers 53 man roster as a core special teams player. That might very well be his upside during his NFL career. Should the UCLA product have to play any snaps on defense as a rookie, something has gone horribly wrong. I predict zero defensive snaps for him in 2014.
Daniel McCullers – Like Johnson and Zumwalt, McCullers’ biggest chore will be making the 53 man roster. Should he accomplish that feat, he will be a prime candidate for the inactive list. Should he have to play any snaps on defense as a rookie, it will be because of injuries. Like Zumwalt, I predict zero defensive snaps for the Tennessee product.
Rob Blanchflower – Blanchflower’s path to the 53 man roster includes him knocking off David Paulson during training camp. To do that, he must prove that he can contribute on special teams. As a No. 3 tight end, Blanchflower has a good chance of being active on gamedays and potentially seeing the field when three tight ends are used. I predict that he will accomplish the above and see 20 snaps in 2014 on offense. That number could of course increase if any injuries occur.