Football Memo

AFC North Draft Grades: Pittsburgh Steelers

Linebacker Ryan Shazier

Linebacker Ryan Shazier

Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers have about five more seasons with franchise-quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, so they better get younger on defense if they hope to return to prominence. Pittsburgh accomplished that, in a big way, with their first two selections. First, the Steelers nabbed an ultra-athletic linebacker in Ryan Shazier, who flies around the field much like safety Troy Polamalu. Shazier needs to become better shedding blockers, but if kept clean, he’ll quickly become one of the leading tacklers on the team. Shazier also possesses the versatility to play on the inside or outside, which just adds to his value. In the second round, the Steelers added Stephon Tuitt, who will likely project as a 3-4 defensive end in their system. Tuitt is very strong at the point of attack, and also is a good pass rusher. Tuitt dominated for Notre Dame in 2012, but had an up-and-down campaign in 2013. If Tuitt can become more consistent, he’ll inject some youth and talent into a slow and aging defensive line. With its next two selections, the Steelers added speed and playmakers to the offense. Running back Dri Archer was the fastest player at the NFL combine. Archer is undersized (5-8, 173), but has the quickness that is coveted in today’s NFL. The Steelers are hopeful Archer can become a Darren Sproles-type player, who helps on offense and in the return game. Pittsburgh lost Emmanuel Sanders in free agency, and hopes receiver Martavis Bryant can make up for some of that lost production. Bryant isn’t similar to Sanders … he’s big, rangy, and projects as more of a sideline receiver, that has the ability to stretch a defense vertically. Linebacker Jordan Zumwalt, and nose tackle Daniel McCullers are late-round picks that could find roles early on for the Steelers. Zumwalt is a violent hitter, and plays with a nasty streak. He’s a bit undersized and could be used in sub-packages, and as a special teams ace. McCullers dropped to the sixth round, but has the physical tools (6-6½, 350) to play in the league as a run-stuffing nose tackle. I really like what Pittsburgh accomplished: They got younger, faster and nastier on defense, and also added some playmaking ability to the offense.
Grade: B+

Pittsburgh Steelers – 2014 Draft Selections
1 (15) Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
2 (46) Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame
3 (97) Dri Archer, RB, Kent State
4 (118) Martavis Bryant, WR, Clemson
5 (157) Shaquille Richardson, DB, Arizona
5 (173) Wesley Johnson, OT, Vanderbilt
6 (192) Jordan Zumwalt, LB, UCLA
6 (215) Daniel McCullers, NT, Tennessee
7 (230) Rob Blanchflower, TE, UMass

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