draftThe question throughout Steelers Nation since December 29, 2013, after the pain of not making the playoffs for the second straight year subsided, has been what positions will the Steelers focus on and who will they take in this year’s NFL Draft? Those questions have finally been answered this past weekend in New York City. The main needs of the team have been no secret this offseason. They went into draft weekend needing help at cornerback, defensive line, wide receiver, and offensive tackle. No matter who you may have spoken to around the city or listened to on NFL Draft broadcasts, the question wasn’t would the Steelers fill these needs, but in what order they would address them. However once they were “On the Clock”, everything seemed to change.
I was and still am a firm believer the biggest need the team has is at cornerback. Ike Taylor isn’t getting any younger and every other corner on the roster was either a late round selection or a minor free agent signing. When the 15th pick in round one rolled around I was elated to see Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard still on the board. I was already on the internet trying to order my black and gold Dennard jersey before the pick was even announced, then the Steelers did something that I am still trying to understand. The commissioner strolled up to the podium, looked into the camera as if he were looking directly into my eyes and said “With the 15th selection in the 2014 NFL Draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers select Linebacker Ryan Shazier, Ohio State.” At that very moment a collective feeling of shock rang out across Steeler Nation.
It’s not as if I feel he will be a bust. Actually, it’s quite the opposite. I feel Shazier will be a tremendous player for years to come. Physically, the kid is a beast. He ran a sub 4.4 40-yard dash, had a 42” vertical leap, is 6’1” and weighs in at 237lbs. The shock came from using the valuable and coveted first round pick not on a position of need, and for the second year in a row on an outside linebacker. However the word from the Steelers is he will roam the middle of the field next to Lawrence Timmons next season. Does this pick make the team better? Absolutely! Does it fix any of their biggest problems? Not in the slightest.
In Round 2 they took Stephon Tuitt, a Defensive End out of Notre Dame. I feel this is a tremendous pick. Projected to go in the first round, hernia surgery before last season slowed him during the year. The surgery does pose a concern in the future, but this kid can flat out play. He has a nose for the ball and makes this happen. I feel the Steelers will finally get from Tuitt what they thought they were getting when they drafted Evander “Ziggy” Hood.
With their 3rd round selection the Steelers once again left their fans scratching their heads. They took Dri Archer, a running back out of Kent State. The fastest player in the draft with a 4.26 40 time at the combine, Archer can flat out fly but does not fill a need. With Le’Veon Bell and the free agent signing of LeGarrette Blount, I am wondering when Archer will see the field.
With their 4th round pick they selected Martavis Bryant, a wide receiver from Clemson. Another physical specimen who is what Big Ben was looking for. At 6’4” with 4.42 speed, Roethlisberger will finally have the tall receiver he has coveted since the days of Plexico Burress. In the 5th round they finally addressed their cornerback need by selecting Shaquille Richardson from Arizona. I am not sure he will have much of an impact, but let’s keep our fingers crossed. They also selected Wesley Johnson, a center out of Vanderbilt in the 5th round. With two picks in the 6th round they selected Jordan Zumwalt, a outside linebacker from UCLA and Dan McCullers, a defensive tackle from Tennessee. Wrapping up their draft they selected Rob Blanchflower, a tight end from UMass.
Just as the case with any draft, only time will tell how well the Steelers did. We may look back in three years and rave about the tremendous job Colbert and Tomlin did, but then again we may look back and scratch our heads wondering what might have been if they only picked differently. This draft was very important for many reasons but none more so than solidifying the state of a franchise coming off of two non-playoff seasons at 8-8. Looking at this draft today I can say the Steelers drafted some amazingly talented players who may have an impact in the near future. The problem though is they still have glaring needs in multiple positions that could once again have them watching the playoffs from home.

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