If you’ve ever heard the ‘old’ adage that the Pittsburgh Steelers are slow, after this draft, that might be over.
Perhaps the Steelers heard that they’re slow as well, or simply realized on their own that injecting speed throughout the roster was an important step in improving the overall quality and adaptability of the team.
In doing so, they took two of the fastest players in the draft, including their first-round selection, inside linebacker Ryan Shazier, who was clocked at a sub-4.4 40-yard dash time. He is expected to knock Vince Williams and his 4.8 speed out of the starting lineup.
Pairing Shazier with Lawrence Timmons at inside linebacker gives the Steelers absolutely off the charts speed and athleticism in the middle of the defense, which should be a tremendous advantage in hunting down perimeter plays, a major issue for the defense last season.
In the second round, the Steelers added another sub-5.0 defensive end in Stephon Tuitt to pair with Cameron Heyward, and they followed up with the fastest person taken in the entire draft in round three with running back Dri Archer.
Archer, in fact, may be one of the fastest people to ever make it to the NFL, who has been timed with a sub-4.2 40. His speed is striking on tape, as though he’s being fast-forwarded through the defense.
Not many defenders in the league will be able to keep up with him, let alone catch him, as long as he can find the open space.
The speed continued when they added wide receiver Martavis Bryant in the fourth round, a 6’4” specimen who none the less put down a 4.4 40 time. While he’s somewhat raw, his sheer physical attributes should help carry him into some notable playing time as a rookie, and he could be particularly valuable in the red zone.
They followed that up with a mid-4.4 prospect at cornerback in Shaquille Richardson, stockpiling some speedy young defensive backs to go along with the acquisition of Shamarko Thomas last year.
Lest we forget, the Steelers signed a premium free agent this offseason before the draft in order to raise the speed quotient on the defense when they signed free safety Mike Mitchell to a five-year contract.
Mitchell, who runs a 4.4 40-yard dash, is a significant upgrade to the team speed on defense over Ryan Clark, who even coming out certainly didn’t have that kind of speed, and was far from it in his mid-30s last season.
Paired with Troy Polamalu and playing behind Timmons and Shazier, with Thomas in sub-packages, the Steelers have tremendous speed on the inside of their defense to combat the sideline-to-sideline plays that hurt them so much a year ago.