Day 3: Steelers Fill Playmaking Needs

The Pittsburgh Steelers believe they reeled in quite a haul of prospects out of the 2014 draft. Dale Lolley has the rundown.

Locked in the spin cycle of NFL mediocrity, the Pittsburgh Steelers went into the weekend's draft looking to add playmakers.

After a three-day haul that included nine draft picks, the team feels confident it did just that.

"We got five defensive players and four offensive players," said general manager Kevin Colbert. "We got somebody for every position group except at quarterback. We realize we got some good players, but they're not finished products. Each one will have a different challenge. We're excited about it."

Pittsburgh selected a pair of potential first-year starters in linebacker Ryan Shazier and defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt in the first two rounds Thursday and Friday night. After adding speedy running back/wide receiver/kick returner Dri Archer as a third-round pick Friday, the Steelers went into Saturday's final four rounds with needs at wide receiver and cornerback.

They addressed both early.

After making the decision to select Archer over Clemson wide receiver Martavis Bryant in the third round Friday night, the Steelers caught a break when Bryant was still available in the fourth round.

Like Archer, Bryant (6-4, 211) is a game-breaker. Playing opposite Sammy Watkins, the first receiver taken in this year's draft, Bryant caught 42 passes for 828 yards and 7 touchdowns last season.

For his career, he averaged 22.2 yards per catch on 61 receptions with 13 touchdowns, not getting a lot of playing time working behind Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins, a first-round pick of the Houston Texans in 2013.

"In previous drafts, this kid would have gone probably in the second round," said Colbert. "But with the depth of the receivers, we were fortunate he was available to us in the fourth. He's big and he's fast and he's raw. He's got a lot of upside."

The Steelers finally drafted a cornerback – a position many considered their top need - in the fifth round, taking Arizona's Shaquille Richardson.

Richardson (6-0, 193) was originally a recruit of Steelers defensive backs coach Carnell Lake when Lake was still on the staff at UCLA. But Richardson and two others were accused of stealing a purse and UCLA wanted him to sit out his first semester while charges were sorted.

"I had moved on to here by then, but he called me and asked what I thought he should do," said Lake. "I asked him what his other options were and he told me Arizona. I told him to take it."

The charges were later dropped and Richardson went on to have a solid career in Arizona, recording 189 tackles, 10 interceptions, 3 forced fumbles and 2 fumble recoveries in his career.

"I cannot complain," said Lake. "I think we got a good one."

With their four main perceived needs filled in the first five rounds, the Steelers moved on to improving their roster depth with their remaining picks, acquiring versatile offensive lineman Wesley Johnson of Vanderbilt, linebacker Jordan Zumwalt of UCLA, massive 6-7, 354-pound nose tackle Daniel McCullers, and tight end Rob Blanchflower.

In McCullers, who said former Steelers nose tackle Casey Hampton was among his favorite players, the team got a potential nose tackle who was the biggest player in this draft.

"McCullers is an obstruction," said Colbert. "Why was he there in the draft when he was there is hard for me to say, but the size is intriguing. When I made the visit to Tennessee in the fall, I came away saying this guy is gigantic and can play defense.

"Big guys are hard to come by these days."

After the draft, the Steelers agreed to terms with 10 free agents, including a pair of former Stanford standouts, defensive end Josh Mauro and defensive end Devon Carrington.

Also added were offensive linemen Chris Elkins of Youngstown State and Will Simmons of East Carolina, defensive linemen Ethan Hemer and Roy Pilon of Louisville, linebacker Howard Jones of Shepherd, quarterback Brendon Kay of Cincinnati and tight end Eric Walters of Missouri.

(Dale Lolley appears courtesy of the Observer-Reporter.)

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