When Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin sat down to try to put into words a summation of the team’s three-day draft haul, he hit the nail on the head with the following description: “there’s size, there’s speed, and there’s versatility”.
“Obviously”, he went on, “those are things that we value”, and it shows in the selections that they made over the weekend.
Day one was all about speed when they added Ryan Shazier to the defensive makeup, an inside linebacker with sub-4.4 speed, which was the fastest at his position and one of the fastest players throughout the entire draft process.
We got a bit of all three on day two, starting with size. The Steelers looked to reinforce their defensive line with the selection of Stephon Tuitt in the second round, the six-and-a-half-foot beast of a defensive end, whose playing weight is between 310 and 315 lbs.
Then we have the pure lightning in a bottle that is Dri Archer, the team’s pick with the first overall compensatory selection in the third round, who is said to have timed a sub-4.2 40. His combine number stood at 4.26. Whatever his exact speed, it looks like he’s being fast-forwarded in comparison to the rest of the field when you watch him play.
Meanwhile, Archer presents the Steelers with a myriad of options on both offense and special teams. The slight athlete can line up in the backfield, in the slot, or out wide, and he’s a deadly kick returner with the potential to grow into a punt returner as well. As an all-around player, he’s certainly more compelling and versatile than a Chris Rainey or a Reggie Dunn.
Round four, meanwhile, saw a collision of size and speed that goes by the name of Martavis Bryant, the tall wide receiver that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been coveting for the better part of a decade.
While he may be far from polished, he has immense potential, and his 6’4” frame and 4.4 speed give him the physical edge over most of his competition.
Fifth-round cornerback Shaquille Richardson has promising size and speed for his position as well, though neither certainly jump out. His fellow fifth-round pick, on the other hand, is the embodiment of versatility.
Offensive lineman Wesley Johnson comes to the NFL with a wealth of starting experience in the collegiate ranks, and he’s gained that experience at tackle, guard, and center. Despite starting 51 games, he drew just two holding penalties through his entire amateur career.
While the Steelers envision Jordan Zumwalt as an inside linebacker, many believe that he has the capability of being an inside-outside player. And given the reality that he may well be the ninth linebacker on the roster this season, offering versatility won’t hurt his case. Many players in a similar position have gone inside and out in the past, including Stevenson Sylvester and Terence Garvin recently.
The Steelers ended their draft with Rob Blanchflower in the seventh round, a tight end with decent size, but the real exclamation mark on Tomlin’s size, speed, and versatility mantra landed at the end of the sixth round with a big, big splash.
That is when they took the mammoth nose tackle Daniel McCullers, a 6’7”, 350+ lbs. gorilla of a man. Of course, there’s a reason he was taken at the tail end of the sixth round. As Tomlin described him, he’s “a size prospect”, and almost certainly will redshirt as a rookie. The reality is that he needs to learn how to harness his size, of which he has plenty to spare. But he certainly fits with the theme of the weekend.