Steelers 2014 Rookie Watch 2.0

By Michael K. Reynolds

The demise of Kevin Colbert as a draft guru has been greatly exaggerated.

After a few years of milktoast performances the general manager of the Pittsburgh Steelers has come out swinging this year and the result has been one of the stronger draft classes in a very long time.

Although it’s still way too early to know for sure, all indications are this year may provide a foundation for many future years of excellence.

So how are the rooks doing on an individual basis? Here is your official Steelers Rookie Watch following the Buffalo Bills preseason game.

ROUND ONE: Ryan Shazier – LB

It’s uncertain if we actually saw Ryan Shazier on the field in person or if we had managed to stumble into the daydream of his agent. It was about as strong of an NFL debut as anyone could have hoped. Shazier excelled in coverage, against the run…and even in special teams. His interception was world class and his return allowed us to revel in the power of pure speed. Looks to be fast tracking to become the next in the long line of Steelers linebacking greats.

Arrow – WAY UP   |  53-Man Roster Spot – CLINCHED

ROUND TWO: Stephon Tuitt – DE

Stephon Tuitt succeeded against the New York Giants merely by showing he belonged with the starters. The bar of expectation was even higher for his second preseason match against the Bills. Although he didn’t clear it significantly he certainly continued to play well—especially considering his 30-yard hustle sprint to help break up a long play. Pound for pound, he’s already one of the best athletes on the team with the agility of an outside linebacker.

Arrow – EVEN   |  53-Man Roster Spot – CLINCHED

ROUND THREE: Dri Archer – RB

No one who still has well-tuned brain synapses is complaining much about the Steelers drafting of hyperwarping Dri Archer in the third round. He’s one of the most dynamic new players the team has seen in years. When he shifts to high gear there is a trail of stardust behind him as well as the debris of flailing opponents. If there is a complaint about Archer it’s that no one will kick him the ball.

Arrow – UP   |  53-Man Roster Spot – CLINCHED

ROUND FOUR: Martavis Bryant – WR

Bryant is a wide receiver who is currently more Larry, Curly & Moe than Jerry Rice. His untimely fumble against the Giants in game one essentially clinched his team’s loss. This week he almost rivaled the feat by helping the Bills defense out with their tip drill in what easily could have sunk the Steelers again. Yet, he clearly is flashing his ability to one day dominate corners in this league. How long with that take? Who knows? But, they won’t throw this fish back.

Arrow – EVEN   |  53-Man Roster Spot – CLINCHED

ROUND FIVE: Shaquille Richardson – CB

It was a lovely day to watch a football game Saturday against the Bills, but not if you’re desperately trying to secure a roster spot. Shaq was forced to sit this one out with another injury concern and he might find himself using the practice squad hot tub if he doesn’t make a move soon in the week ahead.

Arrow – DOWN   |  53-Man Roster Spot – POSSIBLE

ROUND FIVE(b): Wesley Johnson – OL

The young offensive lineman was drafted for his versatility but so far it’s been his invisibility that has been on display. He has yet to be overly impressive in practice or the preseason games. Fortunately for him, few of the second team offensive linemen have been either.

Arrow – DOWN   |  53-Man Roster Spot – POSSIBLE

ROUND SIX: Jordan Zumwalt – LB

Either Zumwalt is having a terrible time with injuries or the Steelers are conducting covert activities to ensure the former UCLA star makes it safely to the practice squad. Needless to say, the linebacker is going to need to mount a come-from-behind victory to pull off the 53.

Arrow – DOWN   |  53-Man Roster Spot – QUESTIONABLE

ROUND SIX(b): Daniel McCullers – DT

Everybody seems to love big Dan McCullers…except those centers who keep getting shoved into their quarterbacks. After being a draft afterthought at the bottom of the sixth round, McCullers has made such a cannonball splash at nose tackle that he has taken over from Dri Archer as the team’s most polarizing pick. The Steve McLendon McFan club members are shouting “Steve’s Great” while the McCullers McClan are responding with a “Steve’s Less Filling” chant (my apologies to our young readers for the outdated Miller Lite commercial reference). Still, a few others are saying, “Can’t we Scots just get along?” Can Mount McCullers continue his ascent to the top? You’ll know he has a remote shot if the coaches give him a fair run with the Ones against the Eagles.

Arrow – UP   |  53-Man Roster Spot – CLINCHED

ROUND SEVEN: Rob Blanchflower – TE

Blanchflower was a seventh round pick and so far he’s done nothing to replicate the rags to riches story of his fellow seventh rounder (2012), Kelvin Beachum. At this point the young tight end might need to channel some Gronk against the Philadelphia Eagles to have a chance of even remaining in the conversation of final roster selections.

Arrow – DOWN   |  53-Man Roster Spot – QUESTIONABLE

Notable Undrafted Rookie Free Agents

It’s really come down to two UDRFA’s with an outside chance of making the 53 at this point. Here’s how they fare following preseason game number two:

Howard Jones – LB

HoJo is one of the most intriguing players in camp. An athletic specimen he has added big-play capability to his preseason resume. It’s easy to dismiss Jones’ fumble recoveries and dashes toward the end zone as merely a player being in the right place at the right time. But if you run the tape slowly you’ll see a display of athleticism and desire for the turnover the team has lacked of recent. How many times have we seen the ball loose in the last couple of years where Steelers look like they are chasing a greased banana on a slip-and-slide? Can Jones find a home on the 53 with a role of special teamer? It may come down to whether he flies once again versus the Eagles.

Arrow – UP   |  53-Man Roster Spot – POSSIBLE

Josh Mauro – DE

If you cast a quick glance on the field you might notice a player who looks a bit like Aaron Smith. Tall and slender and holding the point. Oh…if only Mauro could fit those shoes someday! In the meantime, the Stanford alum is focused on merely being a card-carrying member of the Steelers during the regular season. He may be inching his way to that dream being a reality.

Arrow – UP   |  53-Man Roster Spot – POSSIBLE

About the Author

Michael K. Reynolds
Longtime Pittsburgh Steelers fanatic and author of the acclaimed Heirs of Ireland series.
  • mlc43

    I agree with all the written assessments. However, I think that, while not a career ending thing, M. Bryant’s arrow should be pointing down. I’m certain that he can still turn it around but right now…it’s down.

  • I’d say that Johnson, McCullers, and Mauro will make the 53, which means we’ll have seven rookies on the roster. Zumwalt missed too much and the others didn’t show enough. HoJo could go either way.

  • mlc43

    I’m really pulling for Mauro. I hope he’s a Steeler for a long time.

  • Putter

    Interesting that you didn’t use Doubtful on anyone? I would say that (still time for a recovery) that Shaq, Zumwalt, and Blanchflower are Doubtful.
    While disappointing for these guys, it’s good that we’ve got guys outplaying them.

  • John21

    As you said, it is too early to declare victory on the Class of 2014. Thankfully, the arrow is definitely pointing up. To view 2014 in a vaccuum and declare Colbert a genius (again) is ridiculous. He has to wear the misses (2008 entire draft) too. He has been average over the past 6 years. Both the Ravens & Bengals have drafted better than we have.
    A strong draft next year on top of 2014 and Colbert’s arrow will be pointing up. It is flat right now.

  • Joe K

    Mr Colbert, as well as other GM’s, were destined to have a good draft even before it started, Given the deep number of underclassmen (100), that’s a little more than 3 of 7 rounds available to pick the more elite juniors. How does someone like Tuitt fall to the Steelers in the 2nd, or Bryant in the 4th, or McCullers in the 6th, and Mauro went undrafted! This draft was loaded with talent, almost from top to bottom. I tip my hat to Colbert for his efforts, but more important for the key decisions made in the offseason. For example, cutting ties with Ryan Clark, cutting Woodley, docking Ike’s salary $4M, picking up Mike Mitchell and DHB, adding Mike Munchak, and so on. We’ve had a big team turnaround in a few short months, and I can see a double digit win season as a result. I’m still miffed at the wasted 4th round pick last year but they can correct it when they get to their final 53.

  • Caesar

    Agreed, Zumwalt and Blanchflower definitely doubtful, and Richardson probably too since he isn’t playing, though I don’t know that he has really been outplayed by anyone exactly.

  • joed32

    2013 was good too. The top 3 picks are starters and Thomas will be.

  • joed32

    The signing of Keisel probably kills his shot at the 53.

  • pittsburghjoe

    Great break down. Very Accurate!

  • mlc43

    Yea…that wasn’t out when I posted this. I’m afraid you may be right. Glad to have him back…but kinda meh on it, too.

  • Milliken Steeler

    Good point.

  • Steven Vincent

    Vic So’oto deserves to be mentioned. He needs to be developed on the practice squad.

  • Steven Vincent

    If you watch him run routes and his hands as he attempts to catch the ball, it’s amazing that he got this far with very little in the way of skills. He is a long term project and has no business being on the 53.

  • Putter

    You’re probably right that no one has outplayed Shaq, although I think Taylor, CAllen, Gay, McCain, and Blake are all ahead of him + the Safeties that can play in the nickel – Shamarko and Golden are ahead of Richardson in Coach Lake’s secondary.

  • Putter

    your point about Landry Jones in the 4th is well made. I do think Shamarko last year in exchange for a 3rd this year may turn out to be a good move……

  • Matt Manzo

    Not a rookie.

  • Matt Manzo

    Interesting thought that the FO is faking Zumwalts injury! I never thought of that! I hope that’s the case, that would be funny!

  • Steelers@2010

    Totally disagree with both of you. Give the kid a yr before you consider tossing him to the wolves. He does have a long ways to go, but I really think the arrow is pointing up and here’s why, he wants it and he is willing to do whatever it takes to get there. Better yet, he knows he has a lot of work to do.

  • Dominus

    M. Bryant is as good as any receiver we have except A.B…remember I said it..sure hope we don’t lose Mauro or Mcullers to signing Kiesel. This was an epic draft..

  • steeltown

    I’d have to agree with you. All names mentioned are headed for the PS and none of them have shown enough to be claimed off waivers by another Team