Steelers go Showtime with drafts of Shaquille and Bryant

Jeff Gross

With the NBA playoffs in full swing, the Steelers drafted two players on Day 3 of the NFL Draft that brought a former powerful basket duo to mind.

The Steelers have Shaq and Bryant.

Maybe it's because of the NBA Playoffs dominating the part of my brain not fixated on the Steelers draft. Maybe it was due to too many hours of NFL Draft viewing. Maybe it's just simply because I'm a sports nerd.

Whatever the reason, the second the Steelers selected Arizona cornerback Shaquille Richardson just after drafting Clemson wide receiver Martavis Bryant, I immediately thought of the once great duo of Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant.

You might remember the days Shaq and Kobe dominated the NBA at the beginning of the 21st century. The duo lifted the Lakers to three consecutive NBA championships from 2000-02 before Shaq left town for Miami after the 2004 season.

The duo's names have continued to link since their breakup a decade ago, with both Shaq and Kobe sharing co-MVP honors at the 2009 NBA All-Star Game. On the third day of the NFL Draft, their names were linked together again.

Still looking for a tall receiver, the Steelers picked up Bryant in the fourth round. The Steelers then help fill their needs at cornerback by signing Richardson in the fifth round.

Being a lifetime Lakers fan, I had to laugh about the name similarity of the Steelers fourth and fifth choices. But once my flashback of Kobe series clinching lop to Shaq back in 2000 finally subsided, my focus was appropriately shifted back to how happy I was with both of the Steelers recent draft choices.

At 6'5''', Bryant gives the Steelers the tall receiver the wanted for a good price as he is a fourth round draft pick. But take away just the height factor, Bryant has other intangibles Steelers fans should be excited about. He's been lauded for his impressive speed, natural athleticism and ability to stretch moderate gains into big gains. As mentioned in an article I wrote earlier today, Bryant averaged over 22 yards per reception during his career with the Tigers.

Richardson will bring four years and 49 collegiate games worth of experience with to Pittsburgh. He had a knack for making big plays when the Wildcats needed it most. Richardson's key interception helped Arizona edge Nebraska in 2011, and his two critical picks keyed the Wildcat's upset of No.5 Oregon this past season.

As good as they were together, Shaq and Kobe had their fair share of confrontations both as teammates and later as adversaries. Bryant and Richardson will do the same as well; the two will surely line up against each other during practice this spring training. Hopefully for the Steelers, their fourth and fifth round draft picks will help lead to the same success that another Shaq/Bryant pair enjoyed over a decade ago.

I'm by no means comparing the exploits of O'Neal and Kobe to what I expect from Bryant and Richardson. But I am hoping that-with Bryant and Richardson on the squad- the Steelers can achieve what those Shaq and Kobe teams did: Win championships.

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