The Pittsburgh Steelers’s 2014 draft class consisted of nine new players, including three compensatory draft picks in the third, fifth, and sixth rounds, and excluding their natural third-round pick, which they traded the previous year for a 2013 fourth-round pick.
Normally, with a draft class of that size, it’s seemingly inevitable that at least one or two fail to make the final roster, or even the practice squad.
But considering the substantial roster turnover over the previous two years, and the amendment to the practice squad rules, it wouldn’t surprise me if the entire class remains with the team in 2014, albeit with heavy representation on the scout team. Here is a quick breakdown of the probabilities with three preseason games in the books.
Ryan Shazier: Very rarely is there ever any risk of a first-round draft pick not making a roster. Shazier goes well beyond that as he figures to be a starter in the first game of his career at inside linebacker.
Stephon Tuitt: Tuitt has lived up to his pedigree so far. Of course he’s no risk to miss the cut, but the question surrounding him is whether or not he could emerge as a starter by the end of his rookie year. He figures to see a lot of time in sub-packages.
Dri Archer: While not a starter, Archer should see plenty of touches, particularly on special teams. He needs to learn when he can field a punt and when to call for a fair catch, however. He will see his share of snaps on offense as well as both a running back and a wide receiver.
Martavis Bryant: Bryant will make the roster, but how much playing time he gets is another question. The Steelers want to make him special teams capable, but it’s certainly not out of the question that he spends some time on the inactive list as a rookie. He’s flashed some of the raw potential that made the Steelers draft him, but right now raw is the key word.
Shaquille Richardson: Richardson is the first draft pick in serious jeopardy of missing the cut. In fact, it would take a Cortez Allen type performance in the final preseason game in order for him to carve out a spot for himself above Antwon Blake, Will Allen, or Brice McCain. He could even find himself losing out to an Isaiah Green for a spot on the practice squad. He’s missed lots of time and hardly played so far. Thursday is everything for him.
Wesley Johnson: Johnson has performed well at center over the course of the past two preseason games, which I believe will be enough for him to make the roster as the ninth linemen. He may not be strong enough to be a reliable reserve at tackle yet, but his long-term potential as a five-position lineman is far too appealing to risk losing.
Jordan Zumwalt: Zumwalt is another draft pick that has spent far too much time on the sidelines. He really doesn’t seem to have any chance to make the 53-man roster, barring injuries, considering how much the team likes Terence Garvin as a ninth linebacker. But he has enough potential to land on the practice squad given his special teams ability and the fact that he can play inside and outside.
Daniel McCullers: The big nose tackle had a strong debut, but he hasn’t been nearly as impressive during the last two games. Still, he seems to have already carved out a spot for himself as likely a redshirt nose tackle, which is certainly not a foreign concept for the Steelers.
Rob Blanchflower: Because Will Johnson is spending time this year at tight end, it’s a virtual certainty that the Steelers will carry no more than three true tight ends on the roster this season. And right now he is behind David Paulson and Michael Palmer. He too has had some injuries to deal with, and he hasn’t gotten enough playing time to really show anything. He likely won’t make the roster, and he may have a battle on his hands to win a spot on the practice squad.