Pittsburgh Steelers: Complete 2014 Draft Wrap-Up and Analysis
And with a day to let all the picks and signings sink in, we can look back at the whole event with a much more objective eye. It is easy to react in the moment, without thinking, and make sweeping statements about players. Welcome to social media.
However, now that we can reflect, and take it all in, we can break all this down a little better, and give an idea of what is coming up next.
Did Pittsburgh hit a home run with this draft, or was it more of a foul ball? Read on and find out.
The Steelers had nine selections in the draft, and they used them all. They made no trades, which came as something of a surprise. It was expected that Pittsburgh might make a move, but nothing came of it. Here is a quick breakdown of the picks:
- Round 1, Pick 15: Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
- Round 2, Pick 46: Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame
- Round 3, Pick 97: Dri Archer, RB, Kent State
- Round 4, Pick 118: Martavis Bryant, WR, Clemson
- Round 5, Pick 157: Shaquille Richardson, CB, Arizona
- Round 5, Pick 173: Wesley Johnson, OT, Vanderbilt
- Round 6, Pick 192: Jordan Zumwalt, LB, UCLA
- Round 6, Pick 215: Daniel McCullers, DT, Tennessee
- Round 7, Pick 230: Rob Blanchflower, TE, UMass
Overall Grade: B+
The highlights of this class included Shazier, Tuitt and Archer. Shazier is all but a lock to start at one of the inside linebacker spots, next to Lawrence Timmons. Tuitt will certainly be in the mix for a starting spot at defensive end, and Archer is likely a key offensive player in a situational role. Even fourth-round pick Bryant could be pressed into duty quickly.
Beyond those four, the rest of the selections are considered more like project players and will need time to develop. But that's nothing to get down about. If Pittsburgh can get three or four starters from this group, this draft is a win.
Best Pick: Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
After having a day or so to think on it, the top pick from this draft really is Ohio State linebacker Shazier. In terms of talent, Shazier was an excellent value with the No. 15 pick. Shazier’s combination of speed and athleticism is rare among all prospects in this draft.
Shazier’s role in this defense is still to be defined. However, we can infer that based on the rest of the roster, Shazier’s ideal position will be inside linebacker. This is fascinating when you think that inside linebacker wasn’t at all this team’s top need. Pittsburgh already has Vince Williams returning after a solid rookie season.
Nevertheless, the coaching staff recognized that Williams’ limitations forced the defense into situations it could not be successful in. Shazier has none of those limitations. Adding the Ohio State product into the mix will make the base defense much more capable of defending the pass, which keeps the best players on the field.
Worst Pick: Daniel McCullers, DT, Tennessee
It’s hard to think any of these picks are truly bad. Even heading into the final round, Pittsburgh had been able to reel in some impressive athletes with good upside. Obviously, not all of these players are going to make the team, but at this point, hopes should be high for the bulk of these players.
Instead, looking at the worst pick is more about what could have been. There was a thought that Bryant is the worst pick. Not because he cannot play, but because at that point in the fourth round, the Steelers still needed a cornerback, and there were plenty. While Bryant dodges the bullet for worst pick, this is one that could come back to bite the Steelers.
No, worst pick goes to sixth-round defensive tackle Daniel McCullers from Tennessee. Not because he is a bad player. He’s just a player without a spot. And he was drafted at a point where the Steelers could have gone back to cornerback, rather than leave the future up to only a single selection.
When McCullers came off the board, it was only one pick later that Vanderbilt cornerback Andre Hall was selected. When you consider that McCullers might not be explosive enough to be an end, and is too tall to play nose tackle, it’s hard to say that was the best use of the pick.
McCullers could find himself a situational lineman for Pittsburgh if he can stay in shape and play hard. However, he’s a very risky pick, and with the current roster, he was a less-than-prudent choice.
Undrafted Free Agents
Pittsburgh came to terms with 10 undrafted free agents very quickly on Sunday night. Here’s a full list of the undrafted prospects the Steelers are banking on to make the team.
- Stanford cornerback Devon Carrington
- Youngstown State offensive guard Chris Elkins
- UAB offensive tackle Kaycee Ike
- East Carolina offensive guard Will Simmons
- Wisconsin defensive end Ethan Hemer
- Stanford defensive end Josh Mauro
- Louisville defensive end Roy Philon
- Shepherd outside linebacker Howard Jones
- Missouri tight end Eric Waters
- Cincinnati quarterback Brendon Kay
Of the names on this list, Simmons, Hemer, Mauro, Jones and Waters are the most likely to make the team. Hemer and Mauro are both excellent defensive end prospects. They both have excellent size and have been productive as starters against elite competition.
Simmons is a massive, mauling offensive lineman who can play multiple spots. With the lack of depth currently on the roster, Simmons’ power game could earn him a roster spot.
Waters and Jones are more projects, but with excellent athletic upside. Jones in particular is fascinating because he has all the makings of a great pass-rushing outside linebacker. He just needs some time to get bigger and stronger.
What's Next for the Steelers?
At this point, the Steelers need to assess their roster. This team could still stand to add a cornerback. Even with the addition of Arizona’s Richardson, this depth chart is thin for 2014. Fortunately, there should be some solid veterans who hit the market as late salary-cap cuts. Don’t be surprised if Pittsburgh doesn’t add a veteran corner to bolster the unit.
Defensive and offensive line are the other spots where some serious decisions will have to be made. Pittsburgh did a nice job bringing in young talent in the trenches on both sides of the football. The Steelers’ coaching staff has a good problem in which ones to keep.
Aside from these spots, the other unit that needs a closer look is the wide receivers. With the addition of Bryant, there has to be an odd man out. Including Bryant, the Steelers have 11 wide receivers but will only keep five. If we assume Antonio Brown, Lance Moore and Markus Wheaton are locks, that leaves two spots and eight players.
The Steelers seem to be heading into the final stages of the offseason in pretty good shape. A few tweaks here and there, and this team should be ready to roll in 2014.