Pittsburgh Steelers Day 3 2014 NFL Draft Primer
The NFL draft is a marathon, not a sprint. Now that the event has become three days long, with two in prime time, it has become a battle of attrition on some level as well. While many teams have been making big moves, trading up and down in each of the first three rounds, the Pittsburgh Steelers have elected to stand pat.
And thus far, the strategy has really paid off. Pittsburgh has opted to draft the best player available rather than reach for particular positions of need. What it has yielded through two days are three players who could see significant playing time this season.
This team still has six draft picks and plenty of spots to upgrade. Fortunately, we are seeing just how deep this draft is with so many great players who are still on the board. Let’s look back at Friday and ahead to Saturday with everything you need to know.
Day 2 Recap & Analysis
Pittsburgh had two picks on Friday, and they made the most of both. First up, the Steelers selected Notre Dame defensive end Stephon Tuitt. Tuitt is a great fit, as he comes from a college 3-4 defense. Tuitt has tremendous length and power coming off the edge.
Tuitt should plug in right away at one of the starting defensive end spots. If he can stay in shape and keep his weight in check, he will be an incredibly productive player. There was no panic in this choice and no reaching for a need position. Tuitt is a top talent who slipped a little and Pittsburgh recognized that.
Moving to the third round, the Steelers bounced to the other side of the football. The addition of Kent State running back Dri Archer was a move of genius. With two power running backs already on the roster, Archer will be the back that comes in and runs past tired defenses.
Archer is also a tremendous weapon in the passing and return games. The Steelers offensive coaches have several months to find ways to get Archer touches that allow him to exploit his speed and quickness advantage.
Updated Needs for the Steelers
At this point, the needs of this team have started to narrow. Even drafting the best player available, Pittsburgh has still been able to fill some significant spots and add talented depth. Here are the day three needs for the Steelers to address.
1. Cornerback: Time is running thin for the Steelers to add a cornerback. There are still a few guys who should be in a position to come in and contribute. However, should they wait too much longer, you venture into the land of project players and that is not what this team needs.
2. Wide Receiver/Tight End: It is still a possibility that if a big target in the passing game happens to fall into the Steelers’ laps, they will draft him. With all the speed this offense has, getting a tall weapon for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger would be a nice luxury pick.
3. Offensive Line: With so many picks left, don’t be shocked if Pittsburgh adds some offensive line talent. There are still plenty of guys who project to multiple spots on the line, and Pittsburgh loves those types of players.
4. Defensive Tackle: Nose tackle isn’t a deep position in this draft. But with so many picks, I can see Pittsburgh pulling in a project player to groom at nose tackle.
5. Quarterback: This may not be a position of need, but there are some excellent quarterbacks still on the board. If Pittsburgh is really going best player available, a project quarterback could be in the mix.
6. Outside Linebacker: Even with the addition of Ryan Shazier, a pure pass-rushing outside linebacker is a need. There are some interesting guys still on the board, so Pittsburgh might want to consider one.
Top Day 3 Targets
Here are the top 15 players the Steelers could target as we enter into the final day of the draft.
1. Antone Exum, CB, Virginia Tech
2. Brandon Coleman, WR, Rutgers
3. DaQuan Jones, DT, Penn State
4. Pierre Desir, CB, Lindenwood
5. Antonio Richardson, OT, Tennessee
6. Christian Jones, LB, FSU
7. Cody Hoffman, WR, BYU
8. Aaron Lynch, DE, USF
9. Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech
10. E.J. Gaines, CB, Missouri
11. James Gayle, DE, Virginia Tech
12. Jaylen Watkins, CB, Florida
13. Brett Smith, QB, Wyoming
14. Dakota Dozier, OT, Furman
15. Colt Lyerla, TE, Oregon
What Are the Experts Saying?
Looking again at Bleacher Report Lead NFL Draft Writer Matt Miller's final seven-round mock draft, we see the following selections:
Fourth Round: Ego Ferguson, DT, LSU: Ferguson is off the board, but Pittsburgh’s selection of Stephon Tuitt falls right in line with this.
Fifth Round: James Gayle, DE, Virginia Tech: Gayle is still available, and with the need for a pass-rushing linebacker, he could be in the mix.
Fifth Round: Jordan Zumwalt, LB, UCLA: Zumwalt isn’t a good fit for what the Steelers do on defense. Not to mention the addition of Shazier eliminates the need.
Sixth Round: Crockett Gillmore, TE, Colorado State: Gillmore is off the board, but tight end is still an option. There are some nice prospects still out there, and Pittsburgh could go for one.
Sixth Round: Brandon Linder, OG, Miami: Linder got seriously over drafted on Friday night, but a player like Linder makes perfect sense.
Seventh Round: Cody Hoffman, WR, BYU: It’s hard to understand why Hoffman is rated no higher, but if Pittsburgh could get him this late, he’d be tough to pass up.
3 Predictions for Day 3
Predictions in a draft so unpredictable are hard enough. However, making a prediction for Pittsburgh with how they’ve drafted at this point is still harder. Nonetheless, here goes nothing.
Pittsburgh drafts a quarterback
Something tells me that with so many good quarterbacks left, Pittsburgh is going to pull the trigger on one. It isn’t a need, but as we’ve seen, that hasn’t really been a requirement in this draft.
Still no trades
I was sure Pittsburgh would make a move on Friday. However, since they didn’t, I’m going with no trades on Saturday. Hold tight and draft where you are is their philosophy.
The Steelers will top the first two days
As impressive as the first two days of the draft have been in terms of bringing in talent, Saturday is going to top it. Pittsburgh has six picks and a huge pool of talent to select from.
Updated Steelers' Mock Draft
Fourth Round: Antone Exum, CB, Virginia Tech
Exum slides due to injuries in 2013 but when healthy is as talented as his teammate Kyle Fuller who went in the first round.
Fifth Round: James Gayle, DE, Virginia Tech
Gayle is a defensive end who would convert to a pass-rushing outside linebacker. Gayle is a strong player with a great first step.
Fifth Round: E.J. Gaines, CB, Missouri
With cornerback as a top need, getting Gaines this late is a steal. He is undersized but very talented.
Sixth Round: Colt Lyerla, TE, Oregon
The troubled former Oregon tight end is incredibly talented. Having Heath Miller for a mentor would be his best bet at success in the league.
Sixth Round: Brett Smith, QB, Wyoming
If you are going to take a late-round flyer on a quarterback, get an exciting one. Smith is a gifted athlete with dynamic physical tools.
Seventh Round: Cody Hoffman, WR, BYU
Hoffman has excellent length and has been very productive during his time at BYU. Some inconsistency and lack of ideal measurables push him down.