Pittsburgh Steelers 2014 Draft: Aggregating Report Cards from Around the Web
General manager Kevin Colbert surprised many when he selected Ryan Shazier in the first round. Even though inside linebacker was a need, it wasn’t perceived to be as important as cornerback, wide receiver or defensive end. Despite this, the Steelers were able to select one of the fastest linebackers in the entire draft.
They followed this up by adding size and power to the defensive front with Stephon Tuitt. He will challenge to start at defensive end opposite of Cam Heyward. Colbert then made a surprise pick when he drafted Dri Archer—the fastest player in the draft.
Colbert finally addressed wide receiver and cornerback with Martavis Bryant and Shaquille Richardson in the fourth and fifth rounds, respectively. The 6’4” Bryant adds the size and speed that the Steelers desired in a receiver, while Richardson has the athletic ability to develop into a top-three cornerback down the road.
Pittsburgh finished up the draft with versatile offensive lineman Wesley Johnson, aggressive linebacker Jordan Zumwalt, massive nose tackle Daniel McCullers and potential No. 2 or 3 tight end Rob Blanchflower.
The nine players selected in the 2014 draft were the perfect blend of size, speed and toughness that the Steelers needed to get back into contention. But while there is plenty of optimism regarding these players, there is a long way to go before we learn if they will be able to succeed in the NFL or not.
As good as the draft looks on paper, was it universally praised or did some believe that the Steelers didn’t take full advantage of one of the deepest drafts in decades? Here’s a look at report card grades from a variety of media experts.
All combine results courtesy of NFL.com's results tracker.
Mel Kiper Jr., ESPN: A-
Mel Kiper is one of the toughest draft critics to impress, yet that is exactly what the Pittsburgh Steelers did. Kiper had high praise for this year’s draft class, but acknowledge that it wasn’t without any concerns:
Did they do enough at cornerback? Maybe not, but they got everything else right.
It is hard to argue against Kiper, even if his grade is slightly inflated due to the failure to address the cornerback position earlier.
The Steelers passed on Darqueze Dennard in the first round and inexplicably selected Dri Archer in the third in front of a number of talented options at cornerback.
Besides cornerback, Colbert did his best to add the talent necessary to succeed not only in 2014, but beyond. He took advantage of falling talent throughout the draft and, as a result, has a number of high-upside prospects who could be very good players once they develop.
Pete Prisco, CBS Sports: B
Pete Prisco is another tough man to please, but he was impressed with the Steelers’ effort in the draft:
I loved the pick of linebacker Ryan Shazier in the first for the speed he will bring. Fourth-round receiver Martavis Bryant is bigger receiver, which the Steelers need.
Prisco realized that the Steelers needed to add speed to the defensive side of the football and they did just that by drafting Shazier. He provide the Steelers with a coverage linebacker who can run sideline to sideline. Besides this, Shazier has the potential to shift to the edge where he can use his speed to rush the quarterback.
At 6’4”, Bryant will add a different dimension to Pittsburgh’s offense. He could be its first legitimate receiver with this type of size since Plaxico Burress left. Ben Roethlisberger will appreciate his size, especially on deep throws and in the red zone.
Even though Prisco approved of these two selections, his overall grade of the Steelers was likely downgraded due to the lack of adding a cornerback early in the draft and the selection of Archer in the third round.
Rob Rang, CBS Sports: B+
Rob Rang nailed the importance of the 2014 draft for the Steelers when evaluating their selections:
Given that head coach Mike Tomlin and general manager Kevin Colbert traveled the country touring Pro Day workouts during the off-season, it was clear that Pittsburgh realized that this was a critical draft for the rejuvenation of an aging franchise. I believe their dedication paid off with one of the year's better draft classes - at least on paper. Linebacker Ryan Shazier, versatile weapon Dri Archer and wideout Martavis Bryant offer pure explosiveness. Defensive linemen Stephon Tuitt and Daniel McCullers have first round traits, as well. Linebacker Jordan Zumwalt was born to play for the Pittsburgh Steelers, bringing a physical nature that will endear him to coaches and fans, alike. There is a lot to like about the Steelers' selections but with a few of these players struggling to play up to expectations throughout their career, there is some boom or bust factor here that must be acknowledged, as well.
Rang highlights the “explosiveness” from this year’s draft class and that is exactly what the Steelers needed on both sides of the ball. They lack playmakers and they selected at least three players with big-play ability.
Another item that Rang took note of was the value that the Steelers got with some of the guys that fell in the draft. Tuitt, Bryant and McCullers all appeared to be “sliders” in the draft, meaning that the Steelers either got steals or may have missed some problems with these players that other teams saw.
Zumwalt may be one of the unheralded players of this class. The defensive system that he played in at UCLA is very similar to what the Steelers play, and his attitude is exactly what Pittsburgh wants in its defenders.
Finally, Rang’s description of the “boom or bust” players is perfect. There is so much potential from many of these picks, but many failed to realize it during their college careers. However, when you consider that potential when grading the draft, the B+ is a fair assessment of this draft class.
Chris Burke, Sports Illustrated: B
Defense was an area in which the Steelers had to upgrade this offseason, and Chris Burke liked that they upgraded the defense up the middle. However, he could not give them an A because of the failure to address issues in the secondary and on the offensive line sooner:
The first two rounds went down in typical Pittsburgh fashion: athletic LB Ryan Shazier in Round 1 and versatile DL Stephon Tuitt in Round 2. As with the rival Ravens, the Steelers focused right away on getting tougher up the middle — a later pick of LB Jordan Zumwalt fell right in line with that approach. Then, an interesting shift landed human torch Dri Archer and 6-4 WR Martavis Bryant. The defensive line and linebacking corps improved, and a couple of much-needed additions were made at receiver.
That’s all well and good, except the Steelers barely touched their offensive line (OT Wesley Johnson in Round 5) or secondary (CB Shaq Richardson, also in Round 5).
With so many needs, there was no chance that the Steelers were going to fix every area of the team in just one draft. The fact that they were able to provide upgrades on the defensive line, at inside linebacker and with the playmakers on offense will go a long way.
It is a bit puzzling that Burke questioned the Steelers' late selection of an offensive lineman. They have eight experienced players returning to the lineup and seven of them are virtual locks to make the roster. Johnson will have to have a good showing in training camp to make the team.
One thing that cannot be questioned is Burke’s criticism of Pittsburgh’s failure to address the secondary. Prior to the draft, it would not have been a surprise if the Steelers took two cornerbacks. Instead they only took one and it was in fifth round.
Alessandro Miglio, Bleacher Report: A-
Alessandro Miglio had high praise for Pittsburgh’s draft. Like Mel Kiper Jr., Miglio saw that the Steelers nailed several picks throughout the draft.
Regarding Shazier, Miglio loved his athleticism:
Shazier is one of the most athletic players in this year's draft class, as he was among the combine's top performers at his position and ran the 40-yard dash in an eye-popping 4.36 seconds, unofficially per NFL.com's Mike Huguenin.
Shazier will have a strong chance to earn a spot in the starting lineup as he will easily be the fastest linebacker on the team. His athleticism will allow defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau to use him in a variety of ways.
Miglio also saw the value in selecting Tuitt in the second round:
After taking Shazier in the first round, the Steelers selected their 5-technique defensive end in Stephon Tuitt out of Notre Dame. Once considered a first-round prospect, he fell into Colbert's lap in the second.
There was a gaping hole left at defensive end with the departure of Ziggy Hood and Al Woods to free agency. Even though Brett Keisel could still be re-signed, the Steelers needed to get younger at the position; Tuitt is a perfect fit and could start early in his career.
Finally, Miglio was completely on board with the selection of Bryant in the fourth round:
The Steelers got a tantalizing steal in the fourth round of the draft in Martavis Bryant out of Clemson. The 6'4" receiver with 4.4 speed is a bit raw and didn't have big production in college thanks to playing behind DeAndre Hopkins and Sammy Watkins.
But the Steelers may have found their X receiver of the future.
There is no doubting that Bryant is one of the most exciting prospects that the Steelers selected this year. He can be one of the steals of the draft if he develops.
So despite no selecting a cornerback early, Miglio didn’t penalize the Steelers when grading their draft. Instead he saw the value in their choices and felt that was strong enough to earn one of the top grades in the draft.
Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News: A-
The Steelers did a terrific job upgrading the talent on their defense, according to Vinnie Iyer:
They needed to continue the rebuild of their defense, and when you add Shazier and Tuitt to 2013 first-rounder Jarvis Jones, they're getting back to the right edge feel for Dick LeBeau's 3-4. They also have more offensive big-play ability with Archer and Bryant.
Pittsburgh’s defense was stacked with so many talented players over the years that the younger players on the roster rarely had a chance to get on the field. As these veterans retired or were released, the replacements were not ready to step in and perform at a high level.
Now that the Steelers have invested back-to-back first-round selections on linebackers and a second-round pick on a defensive end, it is understandable that Iyer believes that they are giving LeBeau the tools necessary to run his system.
When Mike Wallace left following the 2012 season, the Steelers lost their most dangerous weapon on offense—outside of Roethlisberger, that is. Well, there will be no shortage in speed with Archer and Bryant now on the roster. Pittsburgh can only hope that these guys live up to their potential.
It is interesting to note that Iyer is another analyst who did not seem bothered by the Steelers waiting until the fifth round to select a cornerback.
WalterFootball.com believed that the Steelers had one of the best drafts last week:
The Steelers had a fantastic draft. Some might think that No. 15 was too early for Ryan Shazier, but I know for a fact that a team picking soon after them was ready to pounce on the speedy Ohio State linebacker. The next selection, Stephon Tuitt, provided ridiculous value, given that he was once viewed as a first-round prospect. The other defensive player, Shaq Richardson, is a tall corner who should help improve the secondary a bit.
This was the first evaluation that discussed that the Dallas Cowboys were ready to take Shazier with the 16th selection. As others have pointed out, Tuitt was a tremendous value and last year may have been a top-10 selection if he was healthy.
However, one thing that is hard to agree with is the assessment of Richardson. Though he does have the size and speed that the Steelers desire in their cornerbacks, he is at least a year away from contributing in the secondary.
As far as the offense goes, here is what WalterFootball.com had to say:
The Steelers also added some needed play-makers on offense. Dri Archer will serve as a Darren Sproles-type weapon for Ben Roethlisberger, while the athletically gifted Martavis Bryant will have a chance to start right away despite being chosen in the fourth round.
Pittsburgh can only hope that Archer can become a Sproles-like player. If you haven’t noticed, there are not many of those guys in the league for a reason. As it stands now, Archer may only touch the ball three to five times per game.
Bryant appears to be universally recognized as a potential steal and that is no different here. With the lack of depth at receiver, Bryant will have a chance to compete for a starting job; however it may be a long shot. Instead, offensive coordinator Todd Haley should install some special packages for him.
Despite loving the draft, WalterFootball.com believe that the Steelers needed to address cornerback sooner:
The only reason Pittsburgh isn't getting a pure "A" is because it waited so long to address the cornerback position. However, that certainly doesn't spoil this great class that the front office put together.
One could imagine that if the Steelers selected a cornerback in the third round instead of Archer, virtually every draft grade that they received would have been a B+ or higher. From this particularly site, they may have received an A+.
Mark Kaboly, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: B
There is always a lot of grades provided by national writers, so how did a local writer see the draft? Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review kept his assessment of Pittsburgh's draft in perspective:
It wasn’t flashy, but it sure did produce two things — speed and versatility — and it also filled a couple of needs in the process. Saying that, here’s a quick and, as I like to say ‘at first thought’ grades from me on the Steelers 2014 draft (Yeah, I know, it’s 24 hours after the draft.)
He nailed Pittsburgh’s draft with the description of “seed and versatility.” It was a theme that was held throughout the draft and one that was met with almost every selection.
With so much speed added, it is hard to say that the draft wasn’t “flashy.” Players such as Shazier, Archer and Bryant could be “flashy” players. In other words, this wasn’t a draft where the Steelers selected a bunch of guys in the trenches—they went for playmakers.
Another thing that is questionable is how many needs were filled. If you are talking about starters, the realistic expectations should be that there will be two starters from this draft. Therefore only a couple of needs were filled. However, if you include depth into the equation, it Colbert and company did a solid job filling the needs.
So while Kaboly may have given the Steelers a low grade compared to the other analysts, it is hard to fault him.
Pittsburgh failed to address the cornerback position sooner and selected numerous underachievers who could be boom-or-bust players.