Steelers Get Dream Pick in Round 2, Followed by Mel Kiper’s Projected NFL Offensive ROY in Round 3

The Pittsburgh Steelers faced an ideal scenario in round No. 2 of the 2014 NFL Draft on Friday when they had their choice between two of the top defensive linemen for a 3-4 scheme and multiple top-flight receivers who may have been selected in the 1st round of another draft pool that did not feature so much talent and depth.

The Pittsburgh brass wisely used the 46th overall pick on Notre Dame’s Stephon Tuitt, the most natural, 5-technique 3-4 defensive end prospect in the entire draft. The 6-foot-6, 312-pound Tuitt would have been a 1st-rounder in almost any other year.

Veteran Pittsburgh defensive line coach John Mitchell went even further, stating that Tuitt would have been a probable top-10 pick this year had he not been hindered by a sports hernia throughout a 2013 junior season when he let his weight balloon to 335 pounds.

Despite his injury problems, Tuitt still recorded 7.5 sacks and 49 tackles in 2013, which followed a sophomore campaign in which he tallied 12 sacks, 47 tackles and 3 forced fumbles in leading Notre Dame to a BCS title game appearance.

Tuitt possesses the natural country strength (465-pound bench press, 31 reps of 225 pounds at the combine) and core base needed to hold up against double-teams in rush defense as a 3-4 end, a position where he already has extensive experience in Notre Dame’s scheme. He also will quickly rival the man he will likely replace in the starting lineup, Brett Keisel, as the Steelers’ best pass rusher ever among 3-4 ends.

I still would prefer the Steelers bring back Keisel for one more season, but veteran Post-Gazette reporter Ed Bouchette tweeted the drafting of Tuitt now makes that unlikely. Tuitt will be given every chance to immediately win a starting defensive end spot opposite of budding star Cameron Heyward, an athletic pair that should anchor the Steelers’ defensive front for the next 7-9 years and ultimately be compared to the Keisel-Aaron Smith duo in Pittsburgh history.

His selection also makes the Steelers’ opening-round choice of Ohio State inside linebacker Ryan Shazier look much better, since the speedy, but the not-so-stout, new inside linebacker duo of Shazier and Lawrence Timmons both need a strong defensive front in front of them that frees them up to make plays in space.

 

Archer Offers Immediate Help in 2014

Unfortunately the draft did not break how the Steelers were hoping for leading up to their late 3rd-round compensatory pick, which was used on diminutive (5-7, 173 pounds) Kent State receiver/running back/return specialist Dri Archer, who recorded the fastest, official 40-yard dash time (4.26 seconds) at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine. Despite his speed, I have never seen such a visceral reaction to a Pittsburgh draft pick among Steeler fans on message boards, comments sections after newspaper articles and Twitter.

I must admit that I did not like the idea of using a 3rd-round pick on a utility player who will likely never be anything more than a situational slot receiver who gets a few snaps at running back, and serves as a return specialist, which is no longer a key facet of the NFL due to kickoffs being moved up. Couldn’t the Steelers have waited until today to draft Oregon’s Anthony Thomas, who is very similar? Moreover, the Steelers have never effectively used such a utility player in recent memory, with Dwight Stone probably the most successful of a forgettable group that last included Chris Rainey.

However, all of the receiver prospects the Steelers were hoping would fall to that spot did not. The only other real alternative was South Carolina’s 5-foot-9 Bruce Ellington, a better slot receiver prospect, but nowhere near the athlete of Archer. The Steelers were wise not to gamble on Clemson’s 6-foot-4 Martavis Bryant, whose hands and mental acuity make Limas Sweed look like my fellow Erie native Fred Biletnikof.

If I were the Steelers general manager, I would have taken a developmental corner in round No. 3 in hopes that player would become a starter in 2015. My preference among corners would have been athletic Lindenwood project Pierre Desir. Corner would not have been a concern if the Steelers had used their 1st-round pick on Michigan State Darqueze Dennard, in which case I would have used this 3rd-round pick on the BPA at a secondary need, which would have been Arizona State outside linebacker Carl Bradford or Tennessee offensive tackle Antonio Richardson.

In all, there were 12 players that I would have selected before Archer, including eight cornerback prospects, some of whom will undoubtedly still be available for the Steelers in round No. 4.

However, none of those prospects would likely play as much as Archer in 2014. In fact, none of those 12 players would be high probabilities to ever become starters for the Steelers. In contrast, Archer is going to make an immediate impact. Before this draft, ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper, Jr. predicted Archer as his NFL offensive rookie of the year over Sammy Watkins. Let that statement sink in. While I would make Watkins the strong favorite to win that award, Kiper’s statement might change your opinion of this pick. It surely impacted mine.

Archer has played all three roles (scatback, receiver, return specialist) throughout his entire football career, including high school. Like Tuitt, Archer’s 2013 season was hindered by injury (an ankle). But he compiled an NCAA best 2,577 all-purpose yards and a Mid-American Conference high 23 total TDs in 2012.

This guy is a playmaker who will touch the ball 5-10 times per game, capable of going the distance any time he gets free in space. He can serve as a No. 3 or No. 4 tailback and No. 5 receiver on gamedays, while returning kicks. His versatility will be an asset. Unfortunately, he fumbles too often, is not overly bright (missed the 2012 season due to academic ineligibility) and will likely have difficulty staying healthy after absorbing NFL hits.

But the Steelers took the player that could best help them win in 2014 in Archer. In fact, they did the same thing in the 1st round with Shazier and in the 2ndwith Tuitt. In no round this year could they have drafted another player who would see more action this fall. Hard to complain about that strategy.

I wanted Dennard in the 1st round, because a No. 1 corner in 2015 is more important to NFL success than an immediate upgrade as the No. 2 starting inside linebacker. But make no mistake, Shazier will have a much easier time quickly winning a starting job and making a quick impact in 2014 than Dennard would have in Pittsburgh, which rarely relies on rookie corners regardless of their talent-level.

 

Day 3 Strategy

Now the Steelers need to make good developmental picks and add depth throughout the remainder of this draft. Although there appears to be only one open roster spot for corners, Pittsburgh may still want to draft two. In fact, I would seriously consider Oklahoma’s Aaron Colvin if available in round No. 4 and then stash him on injured reserve for the 2014 season. Colvin would have likely been a 2nd-round pick with an outside chance of moving into the 1st round had he not tore his ACL at the Senior Bowl.

The Steelers could then come back and take another corner in one of their four total picks in rounds 5 and 6, who would provide immediate depth.

Regardless of what they do today, the Steelers will likely have the same top cornerback trio of aging Ike Taylor, Cortez Allen (who the Steelers may want to now consider signing to a long-term, team-friendly deal before the 20134 season like they should have with Keenan Lewis before allowing him to leave to the Saints as unrestricted free agent) and William Gay in 2014, which is certainly not ideal. Brice McCain, a slot corner who saw action in 72 games with the Texans over the last five years, provides a slight upgrade over the trio of  poor players the Steelers’ used as No. 4 corners last year.

But that’s all the corners on the current roster besides undrafted street free agents who never made an NFL roster. Further, all of those four players are known commodities, since each has seen extensive action in their four NFL seasons. So who the hell is Dick LeBeau talking about in this quote that has not had a chance to show their talents on the field?

“I think there are still some good ones in the draft,” LeBeau told the Post-Gazette before round No. 3 on Friday. “I feel good about the cornerbacks we have and we have more numbers than people realize. At these other positions we have people that I at least know about, let’s put it that way. We may have great players in the building already; they just haven’t had a chance to show us that they are great.”

Whatever. Such a ridiculous comment would have likely been further questioned by Pittsburgh media had it not been made by the affable and legendary 76-year-old defensive coordinator.

Expect the Steelers to draft 1-2 cornerbacks today with their six picks today, while also possibly looking to add depth and competition at areas such as outside linebacker, receiver, offensive tackle, running back, nose tackle and tight end.

 

Redirect Your Anger Over the Archer Pick

The Steeler fans’ disgust with the Archer pick made little sense considering who else was still available at that spot. Their anger instead should be at the Steelers’ front office for idiotically trading away their 2014 original 3rd-round pick last year, which could have been used to select Ole Miss’, 6-2, 226-pound receiver Donte Moncrief or solidify the defensive line for the next decade by stealing Notre Dame nose tackle Louis Nix with the 83rd overall pick where he actually was selected.

The irritation should not be in that the Steelers traded this pick away to draft strong safety Shamarko Thomas in the 4th round of the 2013 draft. Instead, it’s that the Steelers could have likely taken Thomas four picks later instead of wasting a 4th-rounder on a third quarterback in Landry Jones, who will likely never see the field. That is why you (A) don’t trade away future picks and (B) don’t use a 4th-rounder to draft a third quarterback who will never play over a franchise player in his prime while bypassing serious needs.

Regardless, the Steelers had a very good day No. 2 of the NFL Draft. They also need a few hits among day No. 3 draft prospects this year, because this team lacks depth. Remember that the likes of Antonio Brown and Keisel were taken in the last two rounds, which is why today matters so much.

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  • Rob D

    Great writeup…

  • Ted

    Relatively pleased with the Steelers’ four picks, but the talent now at CB is essentially drained after round 4. Shocked and disappointed this major 2015 need was not addressed in the draft, but yet a No. 2 ILB and a utility offensive player were?

    • Rob D

      Agreed. Don’t see how anyone can look at our corners and not think “Geebus, we need a talent infusion fast” …WE’d all better hope that Ike has one titanic year left in him..we are going to need it.

    • Cols714

      I’m totally fine with the Shazier pick, but the RB in the 3rd seems dumb.

      • Rob D

        Yes..it just seems, as Randy said yesterday, like a total luxury pick.

  • Ted

    12 and 28 picks before the Steelers’ selections in round 5 and still good players available early in the 5th who can make this team in 2014 and potentially help down the road, including:

    CB Marcus Roberson, Florida
    CB Vic Hampton, South Carolina
    CB Terrance Mitchell, Oregon
    CB/S Antone Exum, Virginia Tech
    OLB Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas
    OLB Adrian Hubbard, Alabama
    OLB Howard Jones, Shepherd
    RB Lance Seastrunk, Baylor
    OT Antonio Richardson, Tennessee
    OT James Hurst, North Carolina
    DE Kelcy Quarles, South Carolina

    • Rob D

      This is where my knowledge (if you can call it that..lol) drops off. So I’ll be watching for those names..who do you like with the first pick in Rd. 5, Ted…if you had to pick

    • Rob D

      Shaq Richardson, CB

      • ted

        I had him in one of my four mocks in the 6th round, but was worried that was too early. We brought him in for a visit and like him evidently, but he’s not ranked among the top 318 prospects in the draft by ESPN (meaning he shouldn’t be drafted) and is dubbed a 6th- or 7th-rounder by NFL.com

        We did this last year with Hawthorne in the 5th and he didn’t even make the team. Let’s hope Richardson fares better, but I would have rather taken a higher-rated OLB here and take a chance that Richardson would still be available later in the 5th or in the 6th. But still you have to like his athleticism.

        • Rob D

          Would you take another corner in this round? Exum or Roberson still on the board, I believe..

          • Ted

            No, there’s no roster spot for them. Richardson and Golden are the No. 9 and No. 10 DBs. 10 would be the absolute max that would be kept. Now, I could see us taking another cornerback today and hoping one turns out, but it makes no sense based on roster needs.

            For the next 3 picks, I would look for an OL, an OLB, maybe RB, maybe DL, maybe TE,

          • Rob D

            Cool…

  • dennisdoubleday

    I like the Archer pick because one pick addresses needs at KR/PR, scatback, and slot receiver, all in one roster spot.

    And they took Bryant, anyway, so what say you about that, Ted? I think it’s a good risk to take in the 4th round.

    Tuitt was the guy I wanted, wouldn’t have complained much about taking him at 15, huge steal.

    Absolutely agree about the Landry Jones pick, what a waste. I assume they made the trade to get Thomas 4 picks earlier because they feared one of the teams in those intervening picks was going to take him.

    • Intropy

      Bryant was a great pick in the fourth. I think he’s pretty much on par with Moncrief who went almost a round earlier and people around Steelers web sites seems to be high on.

  • ted

    Really would like to take Jackson Jeffcoat, OLB, Texas, with this second pick of the 5th rd. Brought him in for a visit, good bloodlines, was projected 3rd-round with boom-bust label, but would be great value at this spot. Need a young OLB to groom, too.

  • Rob D

    WE up…

    • Intropy

      Since it’s fun to play GM. I select Colt Lyerla.

    • Rob D

      Wesley Johnson…C..

  • Intropy

    Top of the 6th, who do we target? Just tossing some ideas out there:

    TE Colt Lyerla,
    OT Antonio Richardson,
    CB Rashad Reynolds,
    CB Louchiez Purifoy,

    • dennisdoubleday

      Well, Jackson Jeffcoat looks like a huge value in the 6th. The Joey Porter connection could lead to Shaquille Barrett, depending on what Porter thinks of him.

  • Intropy
  • Rob D

    Just read someone who had Zumwalt in the 3rd round in his private mock….lol…I guess he’d be happy with him! I have no idea..UCLA kid..

    • Rob D

      He was a guy who visited the STeelers..must have liked what they saw and heard.

  • Cols714

    The more I read about that desir guy the more I think they should’ve taken him in the 3rd.

    • Rob D

      Yep. me too..

      • Randy Steele

        I’ve read that the Steelers badly wanted Rice’s CB Philip Gaines in the 3rd, but the Chiefs nabbed him a few picks before the Steelers got to the podium.

  • Rob D

    We took the man mountain..McCullers DT Tenn.

  • Rob D

    Rod Blanchflower..TE…our final pick….

  • Bob Shallenberger

    What’s wrong with CB Marcus Roberson, Florida and OT Antonio Richardson, Tennessee? These guys should have been gone long ago…

  • EasyLikeSundayMorning

    I post this at BTSC:

    The knock on Archer is fumbling. But let’s look at the positives.

    Roughly the same size as Dexter McCluster but faster than Mike Wallace. Second fastest combine time of last decade. Eighth most bench presses at this year’s combine. Calvin Johnson’s incredible stride length despite being 9 inches shorter. In the last two seasons, his yards per carry were 8.99 and 7.8 yards. Not yards per catch, yards per carry. Stop and think about that for a second. And think about it again. And think about it a third time because that’s insane. Can return kickoffs, providing a significant upgrade there.

  • EasyLikeSundayMorning

    I based my mock draft on round grades and body types at positions I assumed we’d draft guys. So no special (or much of any) knowledge on my part. But I had Bryant in the third. So I can’t complain that we got him in the third.

    • EasyLikeSundayMorning

      Sorry, meant got him in the fourth round.

  • EasyLikeSundayMorning
    • Rob D

      And it’s entirely accurate..lol..nobody really knows till they hit the field.

  • drobviousso

    Well Ted, I”m kind of surprised at how mad you aren’t over the Archer pick (as I assumed you were when I joked on twitter), but your logic is sound.

  • Eric
  • Scot Hickerson

    Dri Archer is a 2014 version of tavon Austin. only the steelers didn’t have to give up a 1st round pick for him. The Rams were chicken to let Austin do anything last year. The steelers will put Archer to the test. There is huge value in what he can do in all aspects of the game. Is it me or was Coach Tomlin talking to the side of Gm Colberts head about Archer in the after the draft press conference, It’s like tomlin wanted Archer and Colbert didn’t Archer was an awesome choice because of his running ability, receiving ability and return skills. Archer is like drafting 3 players in one.

    FYI TED Landry Jones will be Bens Replacement. They will finish Ben’s contract and go with Jones.. Landry is Pittsburgh’s Aaron Rodgers they cut Brett Favre loose with 4 years left in his career. Landry is better than you think.

  • Rob D

    http://www.steelers.com/news/article-1/Steelers-Agree-To-Terms-With-10-Rookie-Free-Agents/f848aa23-8192-4dc9-a984-6e1dab9ae192

    Particularly intrigued by Mauro (DE who a lot of people liked),Howard Jones (OLB) and errrr..that’s it. Although I still have qualms about not taking a CB early and the choice of Archer WHERE they picked him (not the player per se..I think he’s a exciting, bullet like phenom)..I think this was a very good draft overall. Many of those guys are going to have an impact as soon as the coming year. WE got a lot faster and deeper in key positions. (note to Pens fans, the Habs are not be

  • Randy Steele

    Couldn’t agree more with you, Mr. Kian, about last year’s totally moronic pick of Landry Jones. The consequence of that is the Steelers lost out on one of many players much more attractive, at least in the long term, than Archer.

    That said, I don’t want to be one of the fans who automatically dismiss Archer outright as unfit to play NFL football. I want him to hit the field with a vengeance and prove his critics, including me, wrong.