By Montel Hardy @MH_On_Sports on June 30, 2014
After a disappointing 8-8 season in 2013, the Pittsburgh Steelers are looking to regain dominance of the AFC North. The 2014 draft class makes the Steelers younger and more versatile at key positions. It also provides a few immediate contributors.
Ryan Shazier is a tough player who translates well as an outside linebacker or edge rusher in a 3-4 defense. Shazier's raw talent and energy will shine with time and guidance from the plethora of experienced linebackers in Pittsburgh.
Stephon Tuitt is a great talent as a defensive end, but struggled with with consistency at Notre Dame. Given his deceptive quickness and strength, he can be a bigger contributor later in the season if he earns a starting role. Tuitt can really help Pittsburgh in rushing situations. Last year, the Steelers finished 21st in the NFL against the run.
Though he is a third-round selection, Dri Archer may be the biggest draft addition for the Steelers because of the versatility he brings to their offense. Expect Archer to line up at halfback and wide receiver to help stretch the field with his outstanding speed. Adding his youth and playmaking ability can make the Steelers' offense more potent than it's been in a while.
Martavis Bryant can also have an immediate impact on the Steelers' offense depending on how well he masters the offensive playbook. He is a big, speedy wide receiver who is a great fit in Pittsburgh's vertical passing attack. Look for him to earn reps as the third receiver and to eventually become on of Big Ben's favorite targets. Bryant potentially has the most upside in this draft class.
Shaquille Richardson is a good young corner who has the size and strength to compete with bigger, stronger receivers of today's game. He will have to adjust his mindset to fit his new defensive scheme, so as he becomes a better student of the game, he will see increasing time on the field. For now, expect him to be a special teams contributor.
Maurkice Pouncey's injury last year dealt a tough blow to the Pittsburgh Steelers' offensive line. Wesley Johnson's raw talent will add depth to the center position. Expect him to be a Steeler for a while as Pouncey's longtime backup.
Though he was overshadowed by Anthony Barr at UCLA, Jordan Zumwalt has the better linebacker skillset. Zumwalt has a great instinct and a great football mind, and both were apparent in much of his college tape. He will need time to get stronger and quicker to better be able to make plays at the pro level, but he could be a regular contributor after a couple of years.
Daniel McCullers will most likely be a special teams defensive tackle. He played nose tackle at Tennessee and did a fine job anchoring his position, but was very slow off the ball and getting to the backfield. Expect him to use his strength and limited mobility to help free a teammate up to block a punt or field goal for now.
Blanchflower was brought in to be a blocking and short-yardage receiving tight end for the Steelers. In time, he can fill the same role that Matt Spaeth does, and has better upside.
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