Redrafting the Pittsburgh Steelers' 2014 NFL Draft
Now that the 2014 NFL draft is over, and we’ve all had a little time to digest the picks, it is that time. What time you say? Time to completely second-guess the Pittsburgh Steelers’ front office. I kid of course, but no matter how loyal you are: If you don’t partake in a little hindsight, you are doing it wrong.
So, for this little exercise we are going to have ourselves a good old-fashioned redraft. Same picks, and the same cumulative positions. The Steelers original picks are below:
- 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
This time around, the splits will remain the same, but the names will change. Probably should rephrase that and say "some" of the names will change. When you consider value of the pick, and value of the available players, several of these picks really were the best option.
Nevertheless, there were some spots where it looks like the Steelers could have gotten better value for their picks. Let’s take a look and see what we find.
All draft data courtesy of the NFL draft page.
First Round: Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
Original Pick: Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
New Pick: Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
In the first round, the Steelers went for a dynamic playmaker in Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier. Shazier’s exact role on defense is still to be determined, but you can bet defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau will find a way to utilize all that speed.
In the redraft, Shazier remains the pick. With the top two cornerbacks, Justin Gilbert and Kyle Fuller, off the board, Pittsburgh turned their attention to the best player available. Going for a cornerback at this point would be a reach, and the other top players on the board really didn’t offer the punch that Shazier did at pick No. 15.
The only other potential pick at this point would have been Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley. However, if Pittsburgh is looking for immediate impact, Shazier brings much more to the table.
Second Round: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
Original Pick: Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame
New Pick: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
There was a time when Notre Dame defensive end Stephon Tuitt was considered a first-round pick. However, 2013 was a year to forget for Tuitt, and so his draft stock was inflated in some part on potential. If he can return to his 2012 form, this pick would look great.
Nevertheless, 3-4 defensive ends are a dime a dozen in this draft class. In fact in most draft classes, teams can hold off on selecting a 5-technique defensive end. Even the Steelers have had mixed success using early picks on them. So instead, we turn to the offensive side of the football and get quarterback Ben Roethlisberger that big weapon he’s been looking for.
That weapon comes in the form of 6’5”, 265-pound Texas Tech tight end Jace Amaro. The Steelers spent a seventh-round pick on a tight end, and signed one as a priority undrafted free agent. It’s clear the interest is there. In this scenario they just go for a much more talented option in Amaro.
Third Round: Dri Archer, RB, Kent State
Original Pick: Dri Archer, RB, Kent State
New Pick: Dri Archer, RB, Kent State
Again the direction the Steelers went is the same that I would have gone. In terms of value, getting the fastest player in the draft is hard to pass up. Archer gives the Pittsburgh offense a dynamic that offensive coordinator Todd Haley has been looking for. Archer can take carries out of the backfield, catch the ball and impact the return game.
Interestingly, there was something of a run after the Archer pick on smallish, athletic offensive players. There was also a small run on cornerbacks. Because of that, the temptation was there to take Florida’s Jaylen Watkins or Duke’s Ross Cockrell. However, if we are talking about a game-changing player, Archer is simply too good to pass up.
Fourth Round: Walt Aikens, CB, Liberty
Original pick: Martavis Bryant, WR, Clemson
New Pick: Walt Aikens, CB, Liberty
Most Steelers fans, myself included, were very happy when Pittsburgh drafted Clemson wide receiver Martavis Bryant in the fourth round. Bryant is a big target with surprising speed. If the goal was to get Roethlisberger a big target, Bryant would certainly qualify. The rub with the Bryant pick is, with the depth the Steelers have at wide receiver already, Bryant might not see many targets.
That is why, in this redraft, the big target came in the form of a tight end who should have many more opportunities for reps. With Amaro in the fold, the Steelers can turn their attention back to defense and get a real impact player. Liberty cornerback Walt Aikens.
The advantage Aikens has over the cornerback the Steelers took later is his polish in coverage. Aikens is a "hip pocket" cornerback. That means he stays low and can turn and run with wide receivers. He’s got nice instincts and can go stride-for-stride with most wide receivers.
Fifth Round: Ed Stinson, DE, Alabama
Original Pick: Shaquille Richardson, CB, Arizona
New Pick: Ed Stinson, DE, Alabama
Pittsburgh chose to wait until the fifth round to address the cornerback position. And Arizona cornerback Shaquille Richardson is a nice prospect. However, in the redraft scenario, taking Aikens a round sooner secures a player who can come in and help the defense right away.
By getting its cornerback earlier, Pittsburgh turns its attention to the defensive line. After passing on Tuitt, Alabama’s Ed Stinson is an excellent consolation prize. Stinson is a classic long-framed 3-4 defensive end with an impressive resume.
You can pick his game apart if you like, but you don’t start 28 games for an Alabama defense by accident. Stinson would have a smooth transition to the Steelers' defensive front, and his skill set is absolutely comparable to that of Tuitt.
Fifth Round: Wesley Johnson, OT, Vanderbilt
Original Pick: Wesley Johnson, OT, Vanderbilt
New Pick: Wesley Johnson, OT, Vanderbilt
Once again, the Steelers and myself are in agreement. Pittsburgh needed to add more talent on the offensive line, but it didn’t want to spend a high pick on one. There were players at each of the past two picks who could have been nice value along the offensive line. Nevertheless, in the final analysis, value of other players trumped them.
So instead, even in the redraft, the pick here is Vanderbilt offensive tackle Wesley Johnson. Just like Stinson’s resume, Johnson’s is impeccable. 51 career starts at tackle, guard and center in the SEC is hard to match. In the short run, Johnson might provide rotational depth all along the line, but there is definitely starter potential in this young man.
Sixth Round: Quincy Enunwa, WR, Nebraska
Original Pick: Jordan Zumwalt, LB, UCLA
New Pick: Quincy Enunwa, WR, Nebraska
The pick of UCLA linebacker Jordan Zumwalt was something of a mystery for many fans. While Zumwalt is a talented player, how he fits in the defense is difficult to figure. The Steelers drafted a high-energy inside linebacker last season in Vince Williams, so it’s hard to know what else Zumwalt would bring to the table.
Instead, in the redraft, Pittsburgh gets a project player at wide receiver. Nebraska wide receiver Quincy Enunwa is an interesting prospect. Enunwa has a prototypical NFL body and some impressive physical gifts. With the depth the Steelers have at wide receiver there is no push to rush any wide receiver into the fold.
Sixth Round: Daniel McCullers, DT, Tennessee
Original Pick: Daniel McCullers, DT, Tennessee
New Pick: Daniel McCullers, DT, Tennessee
The logic behind using a sixth-round pick on massive Tennessee defensive tackle Daniel McCullers is sound. On his best day, McCullers is as much an immovable an object as there is in all of college football. This late in the draft, there is almost no risk involved in him if he doesn’t pan out.
That same logic is why he gets the nod in the redraft as well. The only options left were defensive tackle and linebacker per the rules. The temptation was there to take the safer option of Wisconsin defensive tackle Beau Allen. Nevertheless, this late in the draft it’s not about being safe, it’s about rolling the dice on a player who might be great.
Seventh Round: Yawin Smallwood, LB UConn
Original Pick: Rob Blanchflower, TE, UMass
New Pick: Yawin Smallwood, LB, UConn
The only position left to choose from this late in the draft is linebacker, per the rules of the redraft. Fortunately, there were several options still to choose from. Following the logic that Zumwalt was the type of player Pittsburgh is after, it narrows the options.
UConn linebacker Yawin Smallwood is a thick thumper of a linebacker with surprising athleticism. As a former safety and dual-threat quarterback, Smallwood has some interesting potential. It is hard to look at Zumwalt’s film and see that he can do anything that Smallwood cannot. This pick is about value and Smallwood over UMass tight end Rob Blanchflower is an easy choice.