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Saturday, May 10, 2014

Three rounds, no corner

The Steelers went into the draft with four obvious needs: Cornerback, wide receiver, defensive line and inside linebacker.

OK, the inside linebacker need wasn't a great one, but they did want to upgrade the position after shuffling Vince Williams, Terrence Garvin, Kion Wilson and even safety Troy Polamalu through the position after Larry Foote was injured in the regular season opener last season.

Through the first three rounds of the draft, the Steelers have addressed two of those spots and kind of added a player to one of the others.

And with six picks remaining in the draft's final four rounds - one each in the fourth and seventh rounds, and two each in the fifth and sixth - don't be surprised if Pittsburgh moves around to grab some players it covets to fill the remaining needs.

It wouldn't shock me at all if the Steelers traded their fourth and a sixth round selection to move up to the early part of the fourth round today and acquire a cornerback.

I like Pierre Desir of Lindenwood, who is raw but still on the board, but there are still a number of developmental guys still available. At this point, however, you're going to be getting a guy who's too something: small, slow, raw, etc.

Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau did go on record Friday as saying he liked the team's DB depth.

@ LeBeau also went on record as saying that he expected both Ryan Shazier, the linebacker the Steelers selected in the first round, and defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt, whom they selected in the second round, to not only contribute this season, but to push hard for starting jobs.

That statement was completely out of character for the Steelers, but it does tell you a lot about the team's current depth.

Shazier and Tuitt are both talented, to be sure, but the days of taking guys and sitting them for a year are while they learn are out the window.

@ The one thing the Steelers have definitely done at this point is improve their team defense.

After the New England game last season, it was very apparent that they just didn't have the team speed on defense to compete with those kind of spread passing attacks.

But with the addition of safety Mike Mitchell in free agency and Shazier at linebacker, the Steelers have gotten a lot faster on that side of the ball.

@ Speaking of faster, it was all about the speed with third-round pick Dri Archer.

Archer was a guy I liked enough to preview on the draft series I did for ESPN 970-AM strictly because of his speed and versatility.

He was officially clocked at 4.26 seconds in the 40 at the combine, which is plenty fast enough, but a number of teams, including the Steelers, had him at sub-4.2.

Yes, he's only 5-8 and 173 pounds, but he's lightning in a bottle.

Archer also lined up in the slot on passing downs and caught 99 passes at Kent State, where he averaged 12 yards per reception and 7.2 yards per carry over the course of his career. He also scored four touchdowns on kickoff returns in just 18 career attempts since most teams tried to keep the ball away from him in that role.

Archer did have some fumbling issues in college - he had 13 in about 450 career touches - but he also scored 40 touchdowns in those 450 or so career touches. In fact, his 40 touchdowns were one off the team record of 41 set by one Josh Cribbs. And we all know what a pain in the behind Cribbs was to the Steelers over the years.

Could the Steelers have used a big receiver instead? Certainly. And there were still a number of them available, including Clemson's Martavius Bryant.

But Archer will have a bigger impact this season than Bryant ever would have. The Steelers will find ways to get the ball into his hands five or six times per game, and they will be five or six plays that will make everyone in the stadium hold their collective breath.

The Steelers took a chance a few years ago with Chris Rainey. Archer is Chris Rainey all over again, only a lot faster.

He could create all kinds of matchup problems. If you have him run routes out of the backfield, there's not a linebacker in the league who will be able to run with him.

And if you have to use a corner on him, that is one less corner to cover somebody else.

@ As for the big receiver, I still like what I saw from last year's sixth round pick, Justin Brown in practice over the final month or so of last season.

Brown is a big kid who showed some soft hands and the ability to high-point the ball. Ryan Moye was more polished and made more plays in the preseason last season, which is why he got the spot on the regular season roster last year, but I'm not counting Brown out of the competition this year.

There's also Darius Heyward-Bey hanging around.

@ The thing some people are forgetting about when they talk about the Steelers' passing game is the fact that LeVeon Bell is going to be a big part of it.

Despite missing three games at the start of last season, Bell nearly broke the team record for receptions by a running back. He'll do so this season and likely catch close to 70 passes.


Anonymous said...

I would quote Earl Weaver on team speed, but I'm too happy with how this is turning out.

First year where I'd heard of their top three picks beforehand. I think all three guys could contribute this season.

-Zac in Tempe

Henry said...

if he's there in the 4th, Antonio "Tiny" Richardson is the pick.

It's a no brainer. It gives us insurance if Gilbert or Adams suck (or both.

Anonymous said...

"The Steelers took a chance a few years ago with Chris Rainey. Archer is Chris Rainey all over again, only a lot faster."

and without the character concerns

im assuming....

Dale, do you think Archer being drafed means they've given up on Stephens Howling?

Patrick said...

after Rainey,I really don't understand the Archer pick and will have a hard time being convinced.

Too small is too small in this league. And the comparisons to shorter guys with good success should start and end with their build. This guy just isn't worth the pick at 97

Anonymous said...

Agree with Patrick. Very, very bad pick in the 3rd. He will get hurt in preseason for sure. Can't be 165 lbs and last (he is no where close to 180). Even a handful of plays. Lebeau is past due. Time to realize ur corners r terrible and push for better.

adamg said...

Haley likes scat backs in his offense. Plus, other than A Brown, they have no true KRs, on the team right now.

Anonymous said...

I LOVE WHAT THE STEELERS HAVE DONE SO FAR! This team has shown they are not rebuilding. They went out in free agency and signed players to fill holes in the line-up and add depth so that they could be able to not draft "need" players. Shazier, Tuitt, and Archer will all contribute this year. And for all of you that can't understand the Archer pick, do you remember watching Felix Jones return kickoffs?

Archer is a plug and play offensive weapon. We don't need a workhorse RB with Bell and Blount already intrenched. This guy will put every defense on their heels and will be used as a slot WR as much as a RB. Love this guy.

Dobreshunka said...

Too small is too small? I guess you wouldn't want Tavon Austin, Dexter McCluster, or Darren Sproles on the Steelers? I was expecting CB too, but Dale makes a good point about depth after Gaines, and he was gone. Everyone seems to forget that are two starting CBs for 2014 were locked in well before the draft.

Anonymous said...

The last time we used a first round pick on a corner we got Deon Figures (enough said). As far as the to small issue, Ernest Givens gave the Steelers headaches for years and never got injured.

Frank Beans said...

He's about the size of a McCluster and a Tavon Austin. He gives them another weapon that can contribute right away and he fills a need as a kick returner. What's not to like? So what if he is small. What matters most is if he can play and help the team now.

Frank Beans said...

From the post gazette...

They intended to draft Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert, thinking he could still be available with the 15th overall pick. Gilbert would provide a need at a position where longtime starter Ike Taylor is in his final season with the Steelers and there is little depth.

But when the Browns took Gilbert at No. 8, the Steelers shifted their target to wide receiver Odell Beckham of LSU. But, when the Giants drafted Beckham with the 12th overall pick, the Steelers made the move to take Shazier, even though they have three young players who they think can play next to Lawrence Timmons on the inside — Vince Williams, Sean Spence and Terence Garvin. Williams, the incumbent starter, and Garvin were rookies in 2013.

The Steelers had Shazier rated so much higher than anyone else on the board they felt they couldn’t pass on him.

Dale Lolley said...

Yes, Stephens-Howling would probably be a luxury at this point. No reason to bring him back.

They were not happy with their inside linebacker play next to Timmons last season. They were OK with Williams' play on first and second down by the end of the season, but he was lost in pass coverage.

Remember, though, Williams was a sixth-round draft pick. He was taken for depth, not as a starter out of the gate, which is what he wound up being.

Anonymous said...

Who's old and slow now Warren Sappsucker

Homegrown Misanthropist said...

Why on earth are the Browns stacking CB's, do they still have Joe Haden?

Anonymous said...

maybe they don't intend to resign him? Or a power play to tell him and his agent they've got other options. They're in negotiations currently. anything goes

Homegrown Misanthropist said...

I like what they did on the defensive side of the ball. If you look at the draft as a manifestation of their thought process, they certainly believe that most of the secondary problems where caused by the DB's constant need to bring run support. Loved the first two picks, after that, not so much but let's hope at least 1/3 of them work!!(picks 3 to 7)

Patrick said...

look at Austin and McCluster's numbers. I know Austin had big moments last year, but I wouldn't want him. You don't see many players that size have a long career? As someone else said, Sproles is a thickly built guy. As is Ray Rice, MJD etc. Archer is just not built like that and I think considering the needs on this team, he was too high.

Anonymous said...

Patrick is a narcissist.