Thursday, May 15, 2014

Speed And Power - Day 3 & UDFAs: Did The Draft Improve The Steelers?


"This time, I think we might...take our chances with the other guy from Clemson. Not Sammy [Watkins], but the other receiver from Clemson [in the second round]," said Taylor," Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor said this past April 22 on his TribLiveRadio show. (brackets ours)

Better late than never. 

It was actually with their fourth pick of the 2014 NFL Draft, that the Pittsburgh Steelers selected wide receiver Martavis Bryant from the University of Clemson. The very wideout that we at If It Ain't Steel had been clamoring for on social media and in a blog article as early as immediately after his performance at the NFL Combine. - http://ifitaintsteel.blogspot.com/2014/03/steelers-post-combine-nfl-draft-look.html?m=1

Since then, however, we have done our due diligence with an even deeper research on the man. After watching approximately 30 minutes of highlights with no sound or influence, this is what we saw:

He has great straight away speed and break away speed. His route-running ability is still about average, but he got better as the season went on, which is in his favor. He is fairly adept at the fly, drag, 7, 8 and 9 routes. When he runs those curl routes, though, they aren't tight enough. He needs to be taught to make much harder cuts and sell them to keep NFL CBs off of him. Also, as we already knew, he catches too many balls with his body. 

He needs to be more aggressive at going after the ball, but has a high catch radius and gets the ball at its apex. His blocking ability is also wanting, but his overall ability, upside and potential are very promising. 

Steelers WR Coach Richard Mann likes him also, saying that they "got a big WR, something different than we have now. A guy I've been hunting. Been wanting a tall WR all draft." Mann also pointed out that if Bryant had stayed in college another year that he "could've been a first-round pick." 

Bryant gives the Steelers a tall receiving threat who is also a big-play threat. And though he averaged just under 20 yards per catch in his college career, Mann pointed out that "he'll be a great weapon in the red zone for us." 

There has been a number of articles written that purport that Bryant could start game one next season. Is that true, Mann?

"I don't think that it's fair to him to say that he will start. You have to come in and work."

That's what we think, too. As do Antonio Brown and Markus Wheaton. 

The next pick that brought the Bizarro World reference in part one of this two-part article was cornerback Shaquille Richardson out of Arizona. The 6'0", 194-pound CB ran a 4.43/40 at his Pro Day and has been clocked as fast as a 4.38/40.

Smooth athlete whose skill set -- great size and length, good wingspan, great in zone but can play man and often wins at the line of scrimmage, more consistency is needed in his technique but has good ball skills, has the ability to trigger off of his backpedal, fills the gaps and lanes against the run, and also played on special teams -- reflects head coach Mike Tomlin's words after the draft regarding playmakers. 

"You covet speed, but it's football not a track meet. If you get a capable football player who happens to be fast, it's an asset.”

Steelers defensive backs coach Carnell Lake likes Richardson's size and speed also, mimicking the sentiments of his being good in coverage. He should like him, though, Lake recruited Richardson when Lake was an assistant coach at UCLA. 

Lake and defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau both say that CB wasn't as pressing a need as perceived. 

"We have more numbers there than people realize," LeBeau said. "We may have great players in building and they haven't had chance to show us." Lake echoed those words saying that Brice McCain and Antwon Blake will help Steelers. - http://ifitaintsteel.blogspot.com/2014/04/steelers-sign-brice-mccain-bring-in.html

With their second compensatory pick, the Steelers next took OT/OG Wesley Johnson from Vanderbilt. 

At 6-5, First Team All-SEC OLineman has nice height and strength, but isn't quite 300 pounds. He'll need to gain more muscle and overall weight to survive in the NFL. His versatility, though, makes him potentially very valuable, much like Kelvin Beachum before him. - http://tinyurl.com/pfkuaak

We had mentioned Jordan Zumwalt as a Steelers possibility in a previous piece written after the NFL Combine because he's a taller, versatile linebacker (6'4") with fairly good length who played multiple linebacker positions in college. 

He's agile with good laterally movement, acceleration, and the ability to elude blockers in space. He shows good technique keeping his shoulders square to the line of scrimmage and can be disruptive in the backfield in blitzes. Lacks NFL-caliber strength, but loves to hit and can deliver blows harder than his frame would seem to indicate. - http://tinyurl.com/mvhs66k

Daniel McCullers, the Steelers 2nd 6th round selection, is a behemoth of a defensive tackle out of Tennessee. He stands nearly 6'7" and tips the scales at 352 pounds. - http://ifitaintsteel.blogspot.com/2014/03/secondary-may-be-key-but-steelers.html

After the selection, Steelers defensive line coach John Mitchell made the understatement of the year: "Daniel is a big kid."

In related news, water is wet, fire is hot and Donald Sterling is a bigot. 

McCullers is so big he's on both sides of the family. 

McCullers is so big, he uses the Tennessee interstate as a Slip `n Slide when it rains. 

McCullers is so big that the last time he jumped for joy he got stuck. 

McCullers projects as a space-eating nose tackle (and eating damn near e'erything else), but is bigger than what the Steelers are used to at the position. Coming out of college, both Casey Hampton (6'1", 320 LBs) and Joel Steed (6'2", 300 LBs) were much shorter and smaller than Mount McCullers. 

And as far as his space eater attributes, we definitely need a true plug at nose guard, but the Steelers were in their sub packages most of the time last season (60%-65% of the time). That means, on average he'd only be on the field for about one, maybe two, out of three downs. He'd have to be incredibly agile and athletic to warrant staying on the field in those sub packages, something which he is not. 

As The Sports Xchange said of him, the "Steelers want their nose tackles to eat up blocks and McCullers is big enough to eat up several. He is the biggest man on their roster right now. A little tall for nose tackle, so playing low will be a test for him."

He does have good potential and upside, though. McCullers at times would practically bully opponents and it's a $22 cab fare to get around him, slowing down the ball carrier and allowing time for LBs to get to the point of attack. - http://tinyurl.com/lrne4mj

Rob Blanchflower, a 6'4", 256-pound tight end out of UMass, was the Steelers' final pick of the 2014 NFL Draft. - http://tinyurl.com/n323rau

Overall grade for the Steelers' 2014 draft at this point(ITALICS) would have to be a B+ -- still could've and should've gotten another cornerback, but that's probably the worst we can say considering that all other needs were addressed. Good job, Colbert & Co., you definitely improved the team. Now bring on the season. 

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TIDBITS: The Steelers minicamp is May 16-18. These are players you will also see there:

UDFAs: On offense: QB Brendon Kay (Cincinnati), TE Eric Waters (Missouri), OT Kaycee Ike (UAB), G Will Simmons (East Carolina) and G Chris Elkins (Youngstown State).

On defense: DE Josh Mauro (Stanford), DE Ethan Hemer (Wisconsin), LB Howard Jones (Shepherd) and DT Roy Philon (Louisville).

S Jake DeMedal (St. Francis) and DB Devon Carrington (Stanford) have tryouts with the Steelers, and Penn State OL Adam Gress will also work out with the Steelers at rookie minicamp this weekend. - http://tinyurl.com/oevq4wv

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2014 Steelers Draft Class Twitter handles and what Jersey #'s we Know:
Ryan Shazier: #50 @RyanShazier
Stephon Tuitt: #91 @DOCnation_7
Dri Archer: @Dri_Archer1
Martavis Bryant: #10 @ThaBestUNO
Wes Johnson: @wjohnson67
Shaq Richardson: @Dr4_Richh
Jordan Zumalt: Not on Twitter
Daniel McCullers: @_BIGDAN98
Rob Branchflower: @Rob_Blanch

Thanks to Matt Vargo for doing the leg work on these.