2014 Draft

Steelers 2014 Rookie Watch 1.0

By Michael K. Reynolds

Is the preseason meaningless? Ask that question of any NFL rookie and general manager and they’ll look at you like you’re smoking crack.

Jobs to support families and the future of the team are on the line every practice and especially during preseason matches.

Here’s how the Pittsburgh Steelers rookie class of 2014 is faring following the first preseason match against the New York Giants.

ROUND ONE: Ryan Shazier – LB

Few rookies enter the Steelers grounds with a roster spot reserved, and even rarer is to come in with the title of starter. But such is the case with Ryan Shazier, this year’s wonder man. His offseason and camp workouts have been eye-popping. Unfortunately, because of a “boo boo” causing him to miss the first preseason game, fans and coaches must wait with bated breath for his debut on the battlefield.

Arrow – EVEN   |  53-Man Roster Spot – CLINCHED

ROUND TWO: Stephon Tuitt – DE

The old plan of the Steelers defense was to groom defensive ends for years before they received regular season playing time. No more. Stephon Tuitt has a strong chance of making the starting unit by September and his play against the Giants didn’t hurt this from happening. Although his play wasn’t amazing he certainly seemed to belong with the Ones.

Arrow – UP   |  53-Man Roster Spot – CLINCHED

ROUND THREE: Dri Archer – RB

No one drew more deep sighs and consternation than Dri Archer when his name was announced as a Steelers pick on draft day. But with a spectacular debut (in just a few plays) like he had against the Giants, Archer may end up being this year’s best value pick for the Black and Gold.

Arrow – Up   |  53-Man Roster Spot – CLINCHED

ROUND FOUR: Martavis Bryant – WR

Steelers fans were outraged when their team passed on Martavis Bryant in the second and third rounds of the draft. But when he was available at the fourth round he was declared a true steal. Whether that proves to be the case appears to be months if not a year or so away. Although he certainly flashed his raw talent at times he seemed overmatched by the bright lights and big city moment of the game.

Arrow – Down   |  53-Man Roster Spot – CLINCHED

ROUND FIVE: Shaquille Richardson – CB

The play of “Shaq Daddy” was rather unnoticed against the Giants and for the cornerback position that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The team has yet to see the spark of ability that has coach CarnellLake so excited.

Arrow – EVEN   |  53-Man Roster Spot – PROBABLE

ROUND FIVE(b): Wesley Johnson – OL

Wesley Johnson is earning his stripes on the team through versatility. Which is why it was interesting that the only position he played against the Giants was center. With his best position being left tackle, the likely culprit keeping him from getting time there was Mike Adams, whom coaches wanted to get a good look-see.

Arrow – EVEN   |  53-Man Roster Spot – PROBABLE

ROUND SIX: Jordan Zumwalt – LB

Everybody’s “Rudy” pick of 2014, Jordan Zumwalt’s fiery disposition will make him a fan favorite—if there is room for him on the team. It hasn’t helped that Zumwalt has been injured. He’ll be a tough decision for the team because he probably isn’t ready for the 53-man roster this year, but would could be snagged before making it to the practice squad. The Giants game didn’t bring much clarity.

Arrow – EVEN   |  53-Man Roster Spot – QUESTIONABLE

ROUND SIX(b): Daniel McCullers – DT

Everybody loves a gentle giant. Just ask Ike Taylor who was hooting and hollering for the big fella against the Giants. McCullers has already proven his naysayers wrong who thought he would be a complete bust. He is most definitely a work in process, but with his ability to move the pile it’s unlikely they won’t find a place on the team where he can confidently call Pittsburgh home.

Arrow – UP   |  53-Man Roster Spot – PROBABLE

ROUND SEVEN: Rob Blanchflower – TE

The bell is tolling for young Rob Blanchflower. He has yet to flash positively in practice, has been injured and is at a position where the Steelers may not take too many players this year. This week may be critical for Blanchflower to start making himself heard.

Arrow – DOWN   |  53-Man Roster Spot – QUESTIONABLE

Notable Undrafted Rookie Free Agents

Time waits for no one…and especially undrafted rookie free agents trying to dent an NFL roster. Either your arrow is pointing up or your grip on the cliff’s edge is starting to give.

Here is how some of the notable UDRFA are faring after preseason game one.

Howard Jones – LB

Had it been a different year Howard Jones would have already been pressing for a roster spot. But with the team flush with quality linebackers it’s going to be tough to make the final cut. Fortunately, he can play on the edge where the team is thinnest. Although he is being hyped for his game against the Giants his regular field play was modest, despite being in the right place at the right time for the fumble recovery. Still, for Jones the key will be special teams, and if he continues to make an impression like he did against the Giants he could be bumping one of the veterans off the squad.

Arrow – UP   |  53-Man Roster Spot – QUESTIONABLE

Josh Mauro – DE

The man from Stanford will have to be excellent at math to get a spot on the 53. That’s because the numbers game is working against him. Probably a shoe-in for the practice squad he’ll have to impress even further in the next couple of weeks to get in the team’s stadium rotation.

Arrow – EVEN   |  53-Man Roster Spot – QUESTIONABLE

Eric Waters – TE

A bit of a practice phenom, the lack of time on the field against the Giants for Eric Waters was baffling. It certainly didn’t help his cause, which is tenable at best.

Arrow – EVEN   |  53-Man Roster Spot – DOUBTFUL

Brendon Kay – QB

It wasn’t a good sign that Brendon Kay didn’t get artificial turf stains on his jersey against the Giants. Of course, it DID help him that neither the number two or number three quarterbacks for the Steelers did much to impress. Kay’s one shot may come this Saturday.

Arrow – DOWN   |  53-Man Roster Spot –DOUBTFUL

Chris Elkins – G

If you are an undrafted free agent you MUST shine brightly at every moment you have. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen for the underdog Elkins against other backups and he’ll need something big next week to keep in the running.

Arrow – DOWN   |  53-Man Roster Spot – DOUBTFUL

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