Sunday, May 11, 2014

Steelers Draft Speed And Power - Did They Get Better? Day 1 & 2

Do you know who Bizarro is? He is a sometime-super villain in DC Comics who was created as a "mirror image" of Superman, does and says everything in an opposite or backwards manner and even lives on the cube-shaped planet Bizarro World. To bring it into more of a pop culture light, the t.v. show Seinfeld, which inserted some kind of Superman reference into every episode, even popularized the term "Bizarro World" to mean a situation or setting that is weirdly inverted or opposite of expectations.

That's what the three days of the NFL Draft for the Pittsburgh Steelers felt like. 

Everyone just knew the first and second day would bring a cornerback and a wide receiver, and the third day defensive linemen, offensive linemen and maybe a running back or tight end or both. 

Everyone was wrong.

Going in to round one Thursday night, the consensus was that the Steelers would take either WR Mike Evans (if he was still there) or one of three cornerbacks, Darqueze Dennard, Marcus Gilbert or Kyle Fuller. Though, even with Dennard falling right into their lap at #15, much as another cornerback did in 1987, they passed on him and selected Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier instead. - http://ifitaintsteel.blogspot.com/2014/05/steelers-draft-ryan-shazier-in-first.html

To be clear, Shazier IS a good pick. He's fast. He has great "see-to-do" allowing him to get to the ball carrier quickly. He's fast. He has very good tackling technique which allows him to wrap up so that he misses few tackles. He's fast. His speed and power make it so that he stops the ball at the line of scrimmage or in the backfield a lot. Just ask former Wisconsin back Montee Ball (2012) - http://t.co/5wOlAq6TtV

And did I mention he's fast? He ran an "unofficial" 4.36/40 at his Pro Day. He ran an official 4.38/40 at the NFL Scouting Combine. Steelers GM Kevin Colbert, though, said they themselves clocked him at 4.4/40. But what's a few centiseconds between friends?

"I think he's going to be a problem (for offenses)," Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said of Shazier. "He's going to get on people quicker than they know."

LeBeau further offered, "He's probably the fastest linebacker in this draft and he will instantly become one of the very fastest in the league....He has as much range and intuitive reaction as any of the great Ohio State linebackers."

Then, in the second round, they took Stephon Tuitt, defensive tackle out of Notre Dame. He has defensive end speed with defensive tackle size, 6'5" and 304 LBs, and strength, 31 reps on the 225-pound bench press. He notched 21.5 sacks in three seasons with the Fighting Irish, including 12 in his 2nd-team All-America year of 2012. - http://youtu.be/v8xFIkZtGX0

He definitely looks the part and also has prototypical dimensions for a five-technique DE with long arms to ward off blocks. He holds his ground at the point of attack, can stack and shed and has excellent movement for his size.

The drafting of a second defensive player in as many picks is a nod to the Steelers knowing that the reality was that they must get younger on defense. With longtime starter Brett Keisel being an unrestricted free agent, Tuitt, as well as Shazier, could possibly compete for reps right away. 

"Both of these players, if all develops as anticipated, are going to get a whole lot of playing time," LeBeau said in an interview after Tuitt was drafted. 

“Sometimes in the past, we've been in a position where our draft picks don't necessarily have to play for a year or so," LeBeau continued. "This is definitely not the case in this situation. Our depth is a challenge....We are getting quality players and quality depth. Both of these players, if all develops, are going to get a lot of playing time."

Specifically of Tuitt, LeBeau said, "You always have to have a big guy on the field and Tuitt suits that no matter what the down and distance is."

The Steelers third selection, a compensatory selection, was running back Dri Archer. He was one I had wanted after doing my due diligence earlier in the offseason, and he is one who could be used in various ways. - http://youtu.be/uX4IAY3d2io

"Steelers plan to use Archer at RB and WR, will move him around everywhere," said Steelers beat writer Ed Bouchette from his Twitter (@EdBouchette) account. "Plus, he will return kicks and plan to work with him on punts."

He is only 5'7 3/4", 173 LBs, but had some of the best numbers in NFL Scouting Combine history, including a 2014 Combine best 4.26 in the 40-yard dash: 

40 Yrd Dash: 4.26
20 Yrd Dash: 2.34
10 Yrd Dash: 1.47
225 Lb. Bench Reps: 20
Vertical Jump: 38
Broad Jump: 10'02"
20 Yrd Shuttle: 4.06
3-Cone Drill: 6.86 

The number that stands out even more so than the 40 time was the 20 reps on the 225-pound bench press. A number that prompted Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin to say that "he's not small, he's short." - http://tinyurl.com/kjcj86e

The Kent State product often lined up as a slot receiver for the Golden Flashes and could do the same for the Steelers. He averaged 7.2 yards per carry at Kent State. 

According to Nolan Nawrocki of Pro Football Weekly, Archer was clocked at 4.16 "on one official handheld Combine watch." Steelers RB coach James Saxon said the team had Archer timed at a sub 4.2 also. 

That's fast. In fact, that's "Oh, sh*t!" fast. 

According to DraftNasty.com, and something fellow WVU fans will appreciate, Archer is “even more naturally explosive and elusive than...Tavon Austin.”

If Archer is even as explosive and elusive as Tavon Awesome, the Steelers will have found someone who can play human ping-pong with NFL defenses.

Hopefully, therefore, after Chris Rainey and LaRod Stephens-Howling, the third time's the charm. 

The question remains, then: did they get better? The round one results would seem to suggest yes. Though the position of cornerback wasn't addressed, there were areas of need that were. Though Archer could easily have been found in the next round, he's a playmaker that the Steelers can and will make use of sooner rather than later. As is the case with all three of the first three draft picks.