Many draft experts, including the renowned Mel Kiper, give the Steelers a very high grade for what they just accomplished in the NFL rookie draft this past weekend. I’ve seen grades ranging from B to A-. While the Steelers picked up some very good young players, some of their selections were a bit curious and didn’t seem to fit the team’s most important needs.
In the first round the Steelers selected OLB Ryan Shazier out of Ohio State. While Shazier may be an ‘A’ player, the team truly needed to grab a shutdown cornerback here. Ike Taylor is heading into the last year of his contract and odds are he won’t be back in 2015. Even if he were to return, he’s not the same guy he once was. The teams’ biggest weakness is its secondary and they should have addressed this here. With Darqueze Dennard still sitting there, he would have been the guy to take. Or, since Dennard actually fell nine more spots, to division foe Cincinnati, the team should have looked to trade back to take him had they felt he would fall past 15.
First round Grade, B-. Shazier has great potential but the grade is simply brought down due to the biggest team need not being met.
The second round saw the team select 304 pound defensive end Stephon Tuitt out of Notre Dame.
Defensive End was most certainly a team need and Tuitt’s size will come in handy when defending the run. This pick also signals Brett Keisel will not be brought back for an additional year.
The black and gold clearly like Tuitt’s upside and he may even see starting reps this upcoming season.
Second round Grade, A-.
In the third round, Pittsburgh elected to select running back Dri Archer out of Kent State. Archer runs a 4.26 40 and can fly. He may have some immediate use as a special teams returner and a third down back but this pick makes little to no sense here. Archer will never be the starting running back with LeVeon Bell in front of him and it’s hard to imagine he’ll line up out wide often enough to validate this high of a selection. The team needed to draft a third down back but that could have been accomplished far later in the draft.
Third round Grade, D+. This pick would have been far better served on a corner or a safety.
The fourth round saw the Steelers finally draft a big wide out for Big Ben. Martavis Bryant out of Clemson is 6’4 and 211 pounds. He can be a big target in the red zone and on third downs and he might even compete for the number two wide receiver position immediately. The team desperately needed a guy like this and with a very deep wide receiver corps in this draft; they knew they could wait until the mid-rounds to grab a guy like Bryant.
Fourth round grade, A.
The fifth round saw the Steelers make two selections. The first of which was cornerback Shaquille Richardson out of Arizona. In my mind, Richardson should have been the second corner taken by this point in the draft for the Steelers and not the first. He’s a fifth round corner for a reason. He’s not going to be a shutdown guy and may be nothing more than a nickel package player. While the team needed this, and he was certainly the right pick for the round, it’s curious as to why they waited this long to take a player for their secondary.
First fifth round pick grade, B-. The pick grade is lowered a little bit since Richardson is the first corner taken and not what should have been the second.
The second selection the team made was Wesley Johnson, offensive tackle out of Vanderbilt. Johnson weighs in just under 300 pounds and is six and half feet tall. This is a good value pick here as you can never have too many offensive lineman, the Steelers have proven that season after season with the way that unit sustains injuries. Johnson could range from a solid backup player to a practice squad guy but at the very least he’ll provide the much needed depth this unit will need over training camp and pre-season.
Second fifth round pick grade, A.
The black and gold had two selections in the sixth round as well. The first of which was used on outside linebacker Jordan Zumwalt out of UCLA. This pick is mind boggling. The team certainly would like to have depth at the linebacker position but they didn’t need to draft two guys at outside linebacker. After they elected to go with Shazier in round one; that should have been it. This pick should have gone to another corner or this where the team should have eventually taken that third down back.
First sixth round pick grade, F.
The second selection went to 352 pound defensive tackle Dan McCullers out of Tennessee. This was a position the team certainly needed to ‘beef’ up and they did so with this McCullers. McCullers could challenge to be a starter this season and will certainly provide some much needed help on the run defense.
Second sixth round pick grade, A.
Finally, the Steelers wrapped up the draft with their seventh round selection of tight end Rob Blanchflower out of UMASS. Blanchflower most likely won’t make the team. It’s a seventh round pick so it’s hard to rip anybody here but it really just doesn’t make sense to pick a tight end at all, one of the most stable positions on the team. I would have been happier had the team taken a flyer on another offensive lineman, defensive lineman or even another player in the secondary (recurring theme anyone?).
Seventh round pick grade, C-.
Overall the team drafted a mix of good players in the right spots, good players in the wrong spots, players that fit needs and players that don’t. While they grabbed some ‘A’ grades, they also collected some F’s.
Time is the true measure of how this draft will ultimately be graded but initially speaking, I can’t give the Steelers more than a C+ for their efforts this draft. They seemed to miss the mark in some key areas and it’s hard to overlook the fact that they ignored the secondary position as if they had Richard Sherman back there already.
Mike Pelaia hosts the website Steel Nation Association www.steelnationassociation.com- Covering the Steelers and helping Children’s Hospital All Day Everyday. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.