2014 Draft

Steelers 2014 Rookie Watch 2.0

By Michael K. Reynolds

The demise of Kevin Colbert as a draft guru has been greatly exaggerated.

After a few years of milktoast performances the general manager of the Pittsburgh Steelers has come out swinging this year and the result has been one of the stronger draft classes in a very long time.

Although it’s still way too early to know for sure, all indications are this year may provide a foundation for many future years of excellence.

So how are the rooks doing on an individual basis? Here is your official Steelers Rookie Watch following the Buffalo Bills preseason game.

ROUND ONE: Ryan Shazier – LB

It’s uncertain if we actually saw Ryan Shazier on the field in person or if we had managed to stumble into the daydream of his agent. It was about as strong of an NFL debut as anyone could have hoped. Shazier excelled in coverage, against the run…and even in special teams. His interception was world class and his return allowed us to revel in the power of pure speed. Looks to be fast tracking to become the next in the long line of Steelers linebacking greats.

Arrow – WAY UP   |  53-Man Roster Spot – CLINCHED

ROUND TWO: Stephon Tuitt – DE

Stephon Tuitt succeeded against the New York Giants merely by showing he belonged with the starters. The bar of expectation was even higher for his second preseason match against the Bills. Although he didn’t clear it significantly he certainly continued to play well—especially considering his 30-yard hustle sprint to help break up a long play. Pound for pound, he’s already one of the best athletes on the team with the agility of an outside linebacker.

Arrow – EVEN   |  53-Man Roster Spot – CLINCHED

ROUND THREE: Dri Archer – RB

No one who still has well-tuned brain synapses is complaining much about the Steelers drafting of hyperwarping Dri Archer in the third round. He’s one of the most dynamic new players the team has seen in years. When he shifts to high gear there is a trail of stardust behind him as well as the debris of flailing opponents. If there is a complaint about Archer it’s that no one will kick him the ball.

Arrow – UP   |  53-Man Roster Spot – CLINCHED

ROUND FOUR: Martavis Bryant – WR

Bryant is a wide receiver who is currently more Larry, Curly & Moe than Jerry Rice. His untimely fumble against the Giants in game one essentially clinched his team’s loss. This week he almost rivaled the feat by helping the Bills defense out with their tip drill in what easily could have sunk the Steelers again. Yet, he clearly is flashing his ability to one day dominate corners in this league. How long with that take? Who knows? But, they won’t throw this fish back.

Arrow – EVEN   |  53-Man Roster Spot – CLINCHED

ROUND FIVE: Shaquille Richardson – CB

It was a lovely day to watch a football game Saturday against the Bills, but not if you’re desperately trying to secure a roster spot. Shaq was forced to sit this one out with another injury concern and he might find himself using the practice squad hot tub if he doesn’t make a move soon in the week ahead.

Arrow – DOWN   |  53-Man Roster Spot – POSSIBLE

ROUND FIVE(b): Wesley Johnson – OL

The young offensive lineman was drafted for his versatility but so far it’s been his invisibility that has been on display. He has yet to be overly impressive in practice or the preseason games. Fortunately for him, few of the second team offensive linemen have been either.

Arrow – DOWN   |  53-Man Roster Spot – POSSIBLE

ROUND SIX: Jordan Zumwalt – LB

Either Zumwalt is having a terrible time with injuries or the Steelers are conducting covert activities to ensure the former UCLA star makes it safely to the practice squad. Needless to say, the linebacker is going to need to mount a come-from-behind victory to pull off the 53.

Arrow – DOWN   |  53-Man Roster Spot – QUESTIONABLE

ROUND SIX(b): Daniel McCullers – DT

Everybody seems to love big Dan McCullers…except those centers who keep getting shoved into their quarterbacks. After being a draft afterthought at the bottom of the sixth round, McCullers has made such a cannonball splash at nose tackle that he has taken over from Dri Archer as the team’s most polarizing pick. The Steve McLendon McFan club members are shouting “Steve’s Great” while the McCullers McClan are responding with a “Steve’s Less Filling” chant (my apologies to our young readers for the outdated Miller Lite commercial reference). Still, a few others are saying, “Can’t we Scots just get along?” Can Mount McCullers continue his ascent to the top? You’ll know he has a remote shot if the coaches give him a fair run with the Ones against the Eagles.

Arrow – UP   |  53-Man Roster Spot – CLINCHED

ROUND SEVEN: Rob Blanchflower – TE

Blanchflower was a seventh round pick and so far he’s done nothing to replicate the rags to riches story of his fellow seventh rounder (2012), Kelvin Beachum. At this point the young tight end might need to channel some Gronk against the Philadelphia Eagles to have a chance of even remaining in the conversation of final roster selections.

Arrow – DOWN   |  53-Man Roster Spot – QUESTIONABLE

Notable Undrafted Rookie Free Agents

It’s really come down to two UDRFA’s with an outside chance of making the 53 at this point. Here’s how they fare following preseason game number two:

Howard Jones – LB

HoJo is one of the most intriguing players in camp. An athletic specimen he has added big-play capability to his preseason resume. It’s easy to dismiss Jones’ fumble recoveries and dashes toward the end zone as merely a player being in the right place at the right time. But if you run the tape slowly you’ll see a display of athleticism and desire for the turnover the team has lacked of recent. How many times have we seen the ball loose in the last couple of years where Steelers look like they are chasing a greased banana on a slip-and-slide? Can Jones find a home on the 53 with a role of special teamer? It may come down to whether he flies once again versus the Eagles.

Arrow – UP   |  53-Man Roster Spot – POSSIBLE

Josh Mauro – DE

If you cast a quick glance on the field you might notice a player who looks a bit like Aaron Smith. Tall and slender and holding the point. Oh…if only Mauro could fit those shoes someday! In the meantime, the Stanford alum is focused on merely being a card-carrying member of the Steelers during the regular season. He may be inching his way to that dream being a reality.

Arrow – UP   |  53-Man Roster Spot – POSSIBLE

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