While it has been true for many years in recent times that the Pittsburgh Steelers have gotten little productivity on offense or defense out of their rookie players, that has been less of a truism in recent years, particularly, perhaps, over the last two seasons.
While the Steelers have gotten some starts out of rookie offensive linemen over the years, they have gotten greater productivity from skill position players and defensive players in more complicated roles recently, which has been a change of pace—and frankly makes reviewing a draft class after its first season a more enjoyable task.
The Steelers selected nine players in the draft, though only six made the initial 53-man roster. Seven of them remain with the organization. While one undrafted free agent did spend some time on the roster, there are also a few who have spent time on the practice squad that are worth consideration as well.
Player: Shaquille Richardson
Draft Status: 5th round (157th overall)
It took the Steelers five rounds to finally address the cornerback position in the 2014 NFL Draft, much to the chagrin of many of the team’s fans, who felt it was high time that they tackle the area of need at the top of the draft.
Given how the previous season transpired, particularly with respect to the performance of the secondary, this decision likely only meets greater scorn now, and has increased the fervor of those seeking a cornerback with a premium selection.
For the most part, however, the Steelers have gotten by with mid-round draft picks at the position, and it seemed that they hoped Shaquille Richardson may be able to grow into a player in the future.
Richardson was previously recruited by Carnell Lake, the Steelers’ secondary coach, in college before he transferred due to off the field issues. At six feet and with decent speed, it seemed worth a shot.
Unfortunately, his short tenure with the team was plagued with injuries during training camp and the preseason, and he was limited to action in just one preseason game, in which he saw 19 snaps without registering any statistics.
Because he found it so difficult to even make it onto the practice field, it was believed that Richardson might wind up spending his rookie year on injured reserve. Instead, he landed on the practice squad, even with the Steelers keeping 11 defensive backs on the 53-man roster.
After Ross Ventrone was called up due to injury, the Steelers shifted things around on the practice squad, sending Richardson to the injured list. A short time later, the team agreed to an injury settlement with him. He is now one of the team’s two draft picks from last season no longer part of the organization.
Needless to say, the selection of Richardson proved to be a disappointment. The Steelers didn’t feel strongly enough about him to even carry him on injured reserve, despite his personal connection with Lake. Instead, they continue to search for answers.