Pittsburgh Steelers Draft Picks: Results, Analysis and Grades

Curt Popejoy@@nfldraftboardContributor IMay 7, 2014

Pittsburgh Steelers Draft Picks: Results, Analysis and Grades

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    Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

    The wait is finally over, Pittsburgh Steelers fans! The 2014 NFL draft is finally here. All the anticipation and speculation has gotten us to this point.

    Over the next three days, this will be your spot for live updates, real-time analysis and grades of every move the Steelers make.

    As of now, the Steelers hold nine picks, but don't be shocked if they make multiple moves. Getting four or five excellent players out of a deep draft class must be the goal. Will the Steelers' war room make a splashy trade or sit tight? Do they draft a wide receiver or a cornerback? It won't be long until all these questions are answered.

    Pittsburgh is coming off back-to-back 8-8 seasons, and the entire staff understands this cannot continue. This might not be a team that is one player away, but it is also not a team in complete disarray.

    Whether it's a trade or a pick, we will be sure to have you covered with instant analysis and interesting angles on every move the Steelers make. It all starts Thursday night, so be sure to check back all the way through the weekend. This will be your source for all the breaking Steelers draft information.

    The first round is Thursday, May 8. The second and third rounds are on Friday, May 9. The final rounds will be on Saturday, May 10. Television coverage of the draft can be found on ESPN as well as the NFL Network. 

First-Round Pick: Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    The Pittsburgh Steelers went a bit off script here with the selection of Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier. Shazier comes from an Ohio State system where he played a much more traditional 4-3 outside linebacker role.

    In the NFL, you rarely see a 4-3 outside linebacker make the adjustment to being a pass-rushing outside linebacker. What does that mean for Shazier?

    It likely means that he will kick inside next to Lawrence Timmons and provide the Steelers with a much more athletic presence. For all his effort in 2013, Vince Williams had to come off the field a great deal and forced Pittsburgh into sub packages.

    Shazier inside should allow Pittsburgh to play much more base defense.

    It’s tough to get overly excited about Shazier, but Pittsburgh’s defense got faster and more athletic with this first-round pick. The key will be figuring out a way to incorporate him into their schemes in a way that maximizes his skills.

    Overall, I grade this pick a B-. If Sean Spence comes back healthy, the role of Shazier on defense could get very muddy.


    2013 Stats

    Total Tackles: 144

    Solo Tackles: 102

    Tackles for Loss: 23.5

    Sacks: 7

    Passes Defended: 4

    Forced Fumbled: 4


    Combine Measurements

    Height: 6’1-1/8”

    Weight: 237 pounds

    Arm Length: 32-1/4”

    Hand Measurement: 10”

    40-yard dash: 4.59 sec.


    All combine data courtesy of NFL.com. All college statistics provided by sports-reference.com.

Second-Round Pick: Stephon Tuitt, DL, Notre Dame

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    When the commissioner went to the podium to announce the Pittsburgh Steelers’ second-round pick, they had options. Much like when they selected Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier in the first round, they had a chance to take the highest rated player on their board and get an impact player.

    The Steelers hit a home run getting Notre Dame defensive end Stephon Tuitt in the second round. Tuitt is a massive man, and a natural 5-technique defensive end. If you want to see what Tuitt can do, you have to go back to his 2012 film to see him healthy and at his best. What you saw is a player who works with excellent leverage and power. He lacks elite explosion, but is a high-motor player who never gives up on a play.

    An interesting part of the Tuitt pick is, it likely signals that Steve McLendon and Cam Thomas are going to be tasked with holding down the nose tackle position. This pick makes perfect sense at this point in the draft, and should be an impact selection. These first two picks show clearly that Pittsburgh recognizes their deficiencies from 2013 were primarily on defense. Grade: B+


    Height: 6’5”

    Weight: 304 pounds

    Arm Length: 34.75 inches

    Hands: 10.0 inches

Third-Round Pick: Dri Archer, RB, Kent State

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    It’s clear the Pittsburgh Steelers want to get younger and more athletic on defense. They started off with Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier. They followed that up with massive defensive end Stephon Tuitt. For a team that was criticized for its age, these were wise moves.

    In the third round, Pittsburgh hops to the offensive side of the ball, but keeps the theme of speed and athleticism. Kent State running back Dri Archer is one of the fastest and most explosive players in all of college football. He is another one of these players who you have to go back to 2012 to see them at their full potential, and an underwhelming 2013 pushes him down.

    Pittsburgh has their lead running back in Le’Veon Bell, and he is a bruiser. Archer would represent the lightning to his thunder and be able to impact the game in multiple facets during his four seasons at Kent State, Archer averaged 7.2 yards per carry and 12.1 yards per catch. If Pittsburgh can figure out a way to get Archer on the field and get him 6-8 touches per game, he will add yet another explosive element to the offense.

    Archer is a bit undersized and Pittsburgh will have to be cautious in how much work they give him. Nevertheless, when you have a player who is a threat to score every time he touches the football, you get him the ball. You get it to him in space, on screens and jet sweeps. You find ways to get him the ball at full speed, when he is so dangerous. This is a tremendous pick for the Steelers and once again represents the top talent on the board.


    Grade: B+


    Combine Measurements 

    Height: 5’8”

    Weight: 173 pounds

    Arm Length: 31”

    40-yard dash: 4.26 seconds

    Bench Press: 20 reps

    Vertical Jump: 38 inches

    Broad Jump: 122 inches

    3-cone drill: 6.86 seconds

    20-yard shuttle: 4.06 seconds

Fourth Round Pick:

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    The third day of the 2014 NFL draft started off with a bang. Athletes were flying off the boards, and it looked like the Pittsburgh Steelers would be starting at bare cupboards when their pick came up.

    There was a serious run on cornerbacks and wide receivers, both key needs so it was unclear where Pittsburgh would go with this choice. However, Pittsburgh stuck to their board and didn’t panic when their pick came up.

    The Steelers opted to bring in that big wide receiver they have been hoping for with Clemson wide receiver Martavis Bryant. Bryant has lived in the shadow of Sammy Watkins during his time at Clemson while being a very talented wide receiver in his own right.

    Bryant is a very long receiver with a tremendous catch radius. You pair that up with great speed and it won’t be long until he is able to work his way into significant reps on offense.

    It will be interesting to see where Bryant fits in what is an already crowded depth chart. There could be some significant changes to the wide receiver depth chart with this talented addition. His presence in the red zone alone is enough to get excited about.

    Grade: B


    2013 Statistics


    Receptions: 42

    Yards: 828

    Touchdowns: 7


    Combine Measurements


    Height: 6’4”

    Weight: 211 pounds

    Arm Length: 32.625 inches

    Hands: 9.5 inches

    40-yard dash: 4.42 seconds

    Bench Press: 16 reps

    Vertical Jump: 39 inches

    Broad Jump: 124 inches

    Three-Cone Drill: 7.18 seconds

    20-yard Shuttle: 4.15 seconds

Fifth Round Pick: Shaquille Richardson, CB, Arizona

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    After picking Clemson wide receiver Martavis Bryant in the fourth round, it was assumed cornerback would be a target in the fifth. The problem is, by the time you get to pick No. 157; you are looking more at project players, and less about impact players.

    Unfortunately, that is what the Steelers got when they selected Arizona cornerback Shaquille Richardson. Physically, Richardson passes the eyeball test, however his game isn’t so dazzling.

    When he is on, Richardson’s ability to be quick and fluid are on full display. However, too often Richardson doesn’t play up to his physical gifts. Perhaps the easiest way to explain where Richardson’s game needs work it is in timing. He is late on his reads, late on his breaks and late to the football.

    The NFL game is only going to speed up for Richardson, and he is going to have to adjust in a hurry. Richardson is a willing tackler and isn’t afraid to slide up and play the run if need be. The potential is here, and the upside is real, but if fans were looking for someone to impact this defense in 2014, Richardson is not the guy.


    Grade: C-


    2013 Stats

    Tackles: 55

    Tackles for Loss: 3

    Interceptions: 3

    Passes Defended: 4




    Height: 6’0”

    Weight: 194 pounds

    40-Yard Dash: 4.43 seconds

    Vertical Jump: 38.5 inches

    3-Cone Drill: 6.95 seconds

Fifth Round Pick: Wesley Johnson, OT, Vanderbilt

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Last season, the Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line was decimated with injuries. However, even through all the shuffling of lineups, this group came together and played very well down the stretch.

    Nevertheless, the Steelers understand that you can never have enough offensive linemen. And you can especially never have enough offensive linemen who can play multiple spots on the line.

    That is what Vanderbilt offensive tackle Wesley Johnson brings as a fifth-round pick. Johnson is a three-year starter at tackle for Vanderbilt. When you think about the fact that he started every game of his college career in the SEC, it offers some perspective of just what a steady performer he is. You can punch a lot of holes in a player’s game, but 51 starts at either left or right tackle in the toughest conference in college football is no joke.

    No, Johnson isn’t going to wow anyone with dominating measurables, but his film is solid. Johnson is a very good pass protector, and emerging as a run blocker. His future could be to kick inside at guard, where he can work in a more confined area and help him with his balance and leverage.

    Putting Johnson inside at either guard or center would not be completely out of place for him. During his time at Vanderbilt, Johnson has filled in at both. Overall, this is a solid, albeit not spectacular pick that could reap real benefits down the road.

    Grade: B

Sixth Round Pick: Jordan Zumwalt, LB, UCLA

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    USA TODAY Sports

    By the time you get to the sixth round of the NFL draft, it becomes increasingly more difficult to understand what a team is doing. As team boards start to disintegrate, a franchise like the Pittsburgh Steelers have a tendency to go off script.

    With pick No. 192 the Steelers opted to draft inside linebacker Jordan Zumwalt from UCLA. If you are asking yourself, “Why?” don’t feel alone. I accept that the talent in this draft is starting to dwindle, but after taking Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier in the first round, the Zumwalt pick makes very little sense.

    Even more than that, if drafting Shazier was because the current starting inside linebacker, Vince Williams wasn’t athletic enough, why add a player who is no more athletic? Nothing about this pick makes any sense.

    There are many directions the Steelers could have gone with this pick. So, after such a strong start, it is a shame to see things falling apart here at the end. Pittsburgh could have hit on some real high ceiling players at this point. Instead they went with a kid who might not even make the final roster.


    Grade: D



    Height: 6’4”

    Weight” 235 pounds

    Arm Length: 31.25 inches

    Hands: 8.75 inches

    40-Yard Dash: 4.79 seconds

    Short Shuttle: 4.68 seconds

    Three-Cone Drill: 7.26 seconds

Sixth-Round Pick: Daniel McCullers, DT, Tennessee

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    Going into the draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers had a definite need at nose tackle. It was in their best interest to get a player who provided the requisite strength and power to anchor the middle of the field. A great nose tackle can make the life of everyone behind them better.

    Pittsburgh took the term big literally. With pick No. 215, the Steelers selected Tennessee defensive tackle Daniel McCullers. There are few players in the country that cast the shadow that McCullers can. At 6’7” and 352 pounds, the massive defensive tackle just absorbs offensive linemen.

    There are questions about McCuller’s motor and if he can play low enough to be successful in a 3-4 defense. However, when you can get a player this big and this strong so late in the draft, it is a risk worth taking.

    The Steelers already have Steve McLendon and Cam Thomas as potential starters at nose tackle, but it is going to be hard to keep the big man off the field. The worst thing you can do with McCullers is getting caught up in statistics. The impact McCullers has on the game is how he is able to impact the play of others both good and bad. The make of a great nose tackle is understanding what their role is and embracing it.

    Grade: B



    Height: 6’7”

    Weight: 352 pounds

    Arm Length: 36.625 inches

    Hands: 11 inches

    Bench Press: 27 reps

    Vertical Jump: 20.5 inches

    Broad Jump: 97.0 inches


    2013 Stats

    Tackles: 33

    Tackles For Loss: 4.5

    Sacks: 0.5


Seventh Round Pick: Rob Blanchflower, TE, UMass

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    Stephan Savoia/Associated Press

    It is hard to be overly critical of a late seventh round pick. The reality is, there are probably better odds that the free agents signed after a seventh-round pick will make a team.

    With that, the Steelers’ selection of UMass tight end Rob Blanchflower with the No. 230 is nothing to get excited about. But that’s ok. If you are hanging your draft hat on the 230th player drafted, your team is in serious trouble.

    There’s a real possibility that if Blanchflower doesn’t miss all but five games in 2013 with injury, he’s off the board well before this. Nevertheless, Blanchflower is a project play with limited upside.

    Understanding that the Steelers’ tight end depth chart is practically void of talent after Heath Miller, Blanchflower is still a longshot to make the team. He provides very little in terms of athleticism as a wide receiver, and even his blocking is only average.

    Grade: C 


    Height: 6’4”

    Weight: 256 pounds

    Arm Length: 33.75 inches

    Hands: 9.625 inches