Steelers 2014 Draft Starts Off Sneaky Good

By Michael K. Reynolds

Shocked to see Ryan Shazier taken in the first round? Wondering why the Pittsburgh Steelers didn’t take a cornerback or receiver in the second? Foaming at the mouth about their selection of a scatback with their third round pick?

Before becoming completely apoplectic, consider some of the hidden layers of beauty behind these admittedly surprising picks.

These players are not just workout wonders (with both Shazier and Archer offering particularly jaw dropping stopwatch feats). Each of these new Steelers come bearing impressive college tape that reasonably projects they will have success in the big leagues.

But it’s not just what they can provide on an individual basis that is exciting. It’s how their additions could dramatically affect the roster around them that truly captures the imagination.

After two consecutive seasons of 8-8 the Steelers were on the verge of fulfilling Warren Sapp’s prophecy of them being old, slow and boring.

So why not be bold with the 2014 draft? It seems like the dice were rolling in the front office and after a closer look, the gamble might just pay off big time.

Here are the potential holes filled and problems solved by these first three picks:

Ryan Shazier

  1. Solves the slow inside linebacker liability that has plagued the Steelers since James Farrior began to lose a step.
  2. Between Shazier and Lawrence Timmons, the Steelers now how the ability to defend against teams with two strong tight ends like the Bengals.
  3. The linebacker position has always been the “captain” of the defense. Since Farrior retired no one has seemed willing to fill the role. Look for Shazier to grow into this responsibility within a couple of years as he has served as captain of his college team.
  4. Shazier frees up Timmons to be Timmons.
  5. Gets Troy Polamalu out of his quasi-linebacker role allowing him to reassert his claim as one of the league’s top safeties.
  6. Rips a whole lot of plays out of the offensive coordinator’s playbook. Think you create a mismatch by having Shazier stuck covering a running back or wide receiver? Go ahead. With 4.38 speed there won’t be many players running away from him.

Of course, this all becomes null and void if Shazier becomes a bust (or even a disappointment). But this is where GM Kevin Colbert’s track record makes this unlikely. He rarely misses the mark with his first round picks.

Stephon Tuitt

  1. With lighter and faster linebackers behind them, the burden of the big boys up front to “hold up the line” becomes even more significant. Tuitt instantly adds significant strength and athleticism to the front three.
  2. Having two reliable and healthy defensive ends will truly allow Steve McLendon to be Steve McLendon (as his defensive line coach John Mitchell has asked him to be).
  3. When coupled with the ascension of Cameron Heyward, the addition of Cam Thomas and with the anticipated improvement of players like Brian Arnfelt and Nick Williams, the Steelers are suddenly younger, faster and more promising at this position than they have been for years.
  4. Should help reverse the team’s slide in defending against the run.
  5. With Heyward, could provide the best 1-2 pass rushing push from the end position than the Steelers have had in years.

Dri Archer

  1. Brings back the adrenaline rush in kickoff returns.
  2. Provides the perfect high speed complement to pounders Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount.
  3. Takes the pressure off of Marcus Wheaton to be “the speed guy” allowing him to be a more complete receiver.
  4. Who needs Mike Wallace when you have Darrius Heyward-Bey, Wheaton and now Archer to run the fly routes?
  5. Adds one more factor that makes it difficult for opponents to double-team Antonio Brown.
  6. Will greatly enhance the overall speed of all Steelers special teams.

What about their “greatest needs”?


Yes…it would have been great for the Steelers to have added one of the top three talents in this year’s draft. But after that ship sailed, it no longer made sense to reach for a mediocre player as those players are already on the existing roster. Both Shazier and Truitt have the ability to make our current corners better with an increased pass rush. Shazier can provide significant help in coverage. It’s not too late for the Steelers to find a developmental project or two in the remaining rounds.

Tall Receiver

Sure…it would have been dreamy to have acquired Mike Evans. But now with Archer on the team (and with the acquisition of Lance Moore and Heyward-Bey, the Steelers may not feel it necessary to choose from the remaining scraps of this year’s draft. After all, that tall receiver may already be on the team in the likes of Derek Moye, Justin Brown or Heyward-Bey.

So what now?

It’s been the Steelers modus operandi in 2014 to choose the most exciting player available, so why stop now? At this point keep shooting for the moon. There just might be a few more stars left in the drafting sky.

About the Author

Michael K. Reynolds
Longtime Pittsburgh Steelers fanatic and author of the acclaimed Heirs of Ireland series.
  • cliff

    need a CB and WR bad now …Didn’t need a RB in round 3 think that’s so dumb hope the Steelers wake up next year and see how we can ‘t draft

  • Weiss Chad

    Attn:competition commite,please move kickoffs back to thirty yd line.

  • John Fraraccio

    Okay, sneaky good, I’ll go along with that…unless an injury pops up, and I see that pattern already in ##2 and 3. Perhaps the NFL will treat them better…and perhaps it won’t. I wish the kids well, for they have to start somewhere. (#1 appears to display the requisite perspective, and does anyone else see a young James Harrison?) I wish the Steelers well, for they rebuild even if they choose not to say that word out loud. With draft choices you truly don’t know ’til you put ’em out there with the veterans.

  • Kevin Reich

    DE was the teams biggest need. Corner need really isn’t until next year. WR is not a desperate need with Wheaton a top pick last year. If he falters then Moore and DHB can fill in for 1 year. Devin Street and Jeff Janis late. Top 5 left from CBS
    1. Bruce Ellington, South Carolina (5-9, 197)
    2. Martavis Bryant, Clemson (6-4, 211)
    3. Kevin Norwood, Alabama (6-2, 198)
    4. Jared Abbrederis, Wisconsin (6-1, 195)
    5. Shaq Evans, UCLA (6-1, 213)

  • Weiss Chad

    But but but Gerry “fooled you all” Dulac Said “they are looking for a tall wr in draft”.Keep building that defense boys.Steelers after this yr are about one draft away from being completely re built.

  • Shawn S.

    One plus you did not list is with Archer. It keeps our 2nd best player on the team (AB) from risking injury by having to return kickoffs. I held my breath every time he ran it out.

  • Weiss Chad

    Or maybe you wake up next year and realize the guy who put three Super Bowl teams on field in last nine years can draft..-just sayin

  • cp72

    I think Abberderris can be a 10 year starter in the NFL. He absolutely abused Bradley Roby last year in a game I happened to be watching. He’s a technician that has had to work for everything he’s got. Might be the best route runner in the draft. I know he’s not 6’6″, but he has decent size and sneaky speed.

  • Weiss Chad

    Ellington or Janis are only two I like.I see no need to draft wr at this point and believe they are better at position right now than they were last yr

  • Jim McCarley

    You can’t draft someone who is not there. Also, if the guy you want is not there, don’t draft someone similar to fill a need. Draft accordingly and you will fill your team with great players….good job, so far.

  • Caesar

    Appreciate the positive spin, but would feel loads better right now with Davante Adams and one of the corners who was there in rd. 3 (Desir, McGill, Aiken, EJ Gaines, Johnson, Watkins), with Mauro, Urban, Stinson, and Hart all still around for DE help than with Tuitt and Archer. Suppose at least one of those CBs should be there by the time our fourth pick rolls around, but I’m nervous a run is coming and my gut says the Steelers just aren’t interested in the DBs.

    Suppose part of it is just my own dislike of scatbacks in general–always seemed like an overrated concept to me, even as far back as Eric Metcalf and Dave Meggett–and my distrust of Tuitt and the track record, or lack thereof, of recent ND players in the pros.

  • pittsburghjoe

    Your right… I have a high degree of trust in Colbert. I would have never guessed that RB and LB would be addressed in rounds 1 and 3. I guess I had a feeling they would just make do with Vince Williams.

  • shawn

    ya that would be something !

  • Weiss Chad

    I predicted fuller ,shazier or dennard in first,Tuitt in second and around pick 90 I mentioned look out for archer who reminds me of mccluster


    Year after year, the “ins” that Gerry Dulac has with the organization use him to mis-direct anyone trying to get a bead on what the war room will do.

  • westcoasteeler

    So tell me we get Breeland or Desir at 118! Please!?!

  • Weiss Chad

    I am thinking Watkins,cockrell and Sentrell Henderson is your four and two fives.Dont rule out Jackson Jeffcoat and maybe even Michael Sam late

  • nato762

    Everyone acts like we were drafting Archer with the 1st overall pick in the 3rd round…we drafted basically last in that round. It is almost a 4th round selection…

  • westcoasteeler

    Cockrell and Henderson came in for visits. But still pullin for Desir.

  • scott2443

    i as much as any one wanted cb`s and a wr …but if you look at the picks so far they are good picks maybe not in rounds we would liked but they all have been good picks ….they all have made the team better ..lets face it was only 2 maybe 3 cb`s in this draft who could be season long starters but they couldnt be in the steeler def unless some one went down ….we hear it year in and out it takes few years on def to get a shot as a starter….lets see who they pick in these last rounds but the ones picked now have changed the team in so many ways ..not just as players but as young adults with a brain in there heads ..not young college kids spending there money on drinking and drugs and being ran out league which is another plus as i see it

  • Weiss Chad

    Desirs 25 int are hard to ignore

  • Weiss Chad

    I can see your logic.I liked both meg get and metcalf.I just can’t compare one players success on what other players similiar to him accomplished or by what other players from the school have done

  • Weiss Chad

    Pro football talk had archer mocked in first.Now that would be a bad pick.Just about every other mock had him in third.

  • westcoasteeler

    Yeah but he’s a bit slow and we love speed.

  • ApexSteel

    I’m not gonna lie I had questions about the team this year (still do),
    but what I love about this off season so far is how versatile our team
    is because of it.

    On offense we can kill you with power because
    of Bell and Blount or with speed because we have AB, Archer, and
    Wheaton. We can even beat a defense with precision because of Lance
    Moore and Heath.

    On defense, we have players that can line up in a
    variety of places and they’re better equipped to deal with today’s NFL.
    Even the corner situation is SOMEWHAT better off because we can have coverage over top for Ike finally(He’s still bad though don’t get it twisted).

    I feel like the team is filling our actual needs if you get what I mean.

  • Jeff Anoble

    Henderson is all trouble man. Tested positive for Marijuana recently. Had to cut pro day short due to dehydration. They say that Mary Jane gives you cotton mouth.

  • Weiss Chad

    EJ Gaines,desir,or Ellington.Someone just got my attn when they said not much difference between Ellington and he is an nfl pedigree


    Or how about Keith McGill from Utah – 6’3″, 215 lbs of CB. That is if you like the current fad of big CBs. There are CBs out there, but I will PANIC if we don’t take one with our next pick.

  • Weiss Chad

    One interception in two yrs at Utah scares me

  • MC

    A lot of people are angry cause they seemed to have ignored need. I’m quite pleased however because they went after value and got it.