Grading the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2014 NFL Draft Picks

Grading the Pittsburgh Steelers' 2014 NFL Draft Picks

Steelers Helmet
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers are an aging team, and a multitude of injuries have led to problems on both sides of the ball. Ben Roethlisberger isn't any younger, and some believed the Steelers would look to draft his eventual replacement in this year's draft. It didn't happen, and though they addressed some areas of need, the Steelers still have a lot of question marks heading into the season.

Here's how their 2014 draft class grades out...

1st round (No. 15 overall): Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State

Ryan Shazier
Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

1st round (No. 15 overall): Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State

Shazier
Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

It was something of a surprise to see the Steelers take a linebacker with the 15th overall pick, especially when they are incredibly thin in the secondary. Because of that, they had been widely believed to be taking Michigan State standout cornerback Darqueze Dennard. But Shazier is an aggressive, mobile linebacker with a high motor who doesn't quit. He can help make their linebacker corps better on day one.

Grade: A

2nd round (No. 46): Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame

Tuitt
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

2nd round (No. 46): Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame

Tuitt
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers kept the focus on defense in the second round, looking to shore up a defensive front depleted by free-agency defections. They addressed that with their second pick and may have found a terrific bargain in Notre Dame's Stephon Tuitt. He has tremendous upside and has the ability to be a real impact player. The knock against him is his durability and the fact that he can't shed blocks as effectively when worn down.

Grade: B+

3rd round (No. 97): Dri Archer, RB/WR, Kent State

Archer
Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

3rd round (No. 97): Dri Archer, RB/WR, Kent State

Archer
Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

With two solid defensive choices in the first two rounds, the Steelers shifted their focus to offense by taking Dri Archer. The versatile Archer can line up in the backfield or as a receiver, and is explosive at either spot. Though his size is a concern, as will be his durability against NFL players, the Steelers believe Archer will give them another weapon and add a potentially electrifying element to their offense.

Grade: B+

4th round (No. 118): Martavis Bryant, WR, Clemson

Bryant
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

4th round (No. 118): Martavis Bryant, WR, Clemson

Bryant2
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Though not as electric – or coveted – as former teammate Sammy Watkins, Martavis Bryant is a solid receiver with a tremendous amount of upside. He has a great blend of size and speed (4.42 in the 40), and in his time at Clemson, displayed potentially elite-level skills. Bryant gives the Steelers a deep threat, and a big, physical receiver who can punish smaller DBs. He can be a playmaker on day one for Pittsburgh.

Grade: A

5th round (No. 157): Shaquille Richardson, CB, Arizona

Richardson
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

5th round (No. 157): Shaquille Richardson, CB, Arizona

Richardson
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

With their next pick, the Steelers shifted the focus back to defense by taking University of Arizona CB Shaquille Richardson. Though speedy and talented with a tremendous amount of upside, Richardson can be overly-aggressive and find himself getting burned often. It's a habit that led to his benching at UA. The big question about Richardson is whether he can learn to be more disciplined in the NFL and be effective in the secondary.

Grade: C

Round 5 (No. 173): Wesley Johnson, OL, Vanderbilt

Johnson
Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports

Round 5 (No. 173): Wesley Johnson, OL, Vanderbilt

Johnson
Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports

More of a project, Johnson has the raw skills that line coach Mike Munchak loves. He's strong and quick, and though not a mauler, can be very physical – traits that the Steelers love in their linemen. Johnson also adds some much-needed youth and depth to a line that will have multiple free agents after next season. If he lets Munchak mold and shape him, Johnson can be an outstanding lineman. If not, Pittsburgh has a problem.

Grade: C+

Round 6 (No. 192): Jordan Zumwalt, LB, UCLA

Zumwalt
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Round 6 (No. 192): Jordan Zumwalt, LB, UCLA

Zumwalt
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Though he's not projecting as an immediate starter – and some question whether he'll even make the opening roster – Zumwalt is smart, a hard hitter, fiery leader and plays with a chip on his shoulder. He's often underestimated and makes the most of his abilities. Look for him to latch on to Pittsburgh's roster via special teams at first. He's not the most athletic guy, but he has some of the intangibles you want in a linebacker.

Grade: C+

Round 6 (No. 215): Daniel McCullers, DL, Tennessee

Mccullers
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Round 6 (No. 215): Daniel McCullers, DL, Tennessee

Mccullers
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

At 352 pounds, Daniel McCullers is a mountain of a man. The trouble is that he's not very quick, and doesn't have terrific lateral movement. He has raw talent, and his size can make teams double team him, freeing his teammates up to get into the backfield. McCullers is a project at this point. If he can refine his skills, he has the potential to be a force. If he can't, he's just another late round pick that didn't pan out.

Grade: C

Round 7 (No. 230): Rob Blanchflower, TE, UMass

Blanchflower
Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Round 7 (No. 230): Rob Blanchflower, TE, UMass

Blanchflower
Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Blanchflower doesn't appear to be a factor in Pittsburgh's offensive game planning. He's got good size and decent speed, but he seems to be destined to be more of a run blocking specialist in Pittsburgh than anything – assuming he even makes the roster. Good run blockers are a commodity in the NFL, and if he can chip in with a few catches over the season, it's a bonus.

Grade: C-

They Addressed Some Needs, But the Aging Steelers Still Have Lots of Question Marks

Ben & Mike
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

They Addressed Some Needs, But the Aging Steelers Still Have Lots of Question Marks

Ben & Mike
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Though they picked up some help in some areas they needed it, the Steelers still have a lot of holes to fill. Though still a good team, they're playing in an increasingly tougher division as age and injury are beginning to catch up to them. Unless they can get younger, and get younger fast, there will be a lot of cold, long winters in Pittsburgh.

Draft Grade: B-


Around the Web