2014 Steelers draft recap: Mission Versatility was accomplished

Jamie Sabau

The Steelers clearly wanted to become a more versatile football team by the end of the 2014 NFL Draft. They succeeded in that plan.

PITTSBURGH -- From first-round pick Ryan Shazier to final selection Rob Blanchflower during the past three-day NFL Draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers recurring theme was to secure players with size, speed and versatility.

Not every player was big or fast, but they all were versatile. Many had two of those characteristics, and some even had all three.

"If you look at the men that we had an opportunity to select this weekend, you look at their size, their speed and their versatility,'' Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "Obviously, those are things that we value. We look to the upside of these young men and look forward to put them into the group that's already here.

"I think you covet speed, obviously, but it's football and not a track meet. And if you can get a capable football player who happens to be fast, it's an asset. And the speed players that we were able to acquire in this draft fit the bill in that regard. They are football players first who happen to be extremely fast.''

Shazier, the former Ohio State linebacker, has all three assets and immediately makes the Steelers a faster, more athletic defense. Second-round pick Stephon Tuitt has size and versatility, while Kent State running back Dri Archer is extremely fast and versatile. He can run the ball, catch passes and return punts and kickoffs. The Steelers already are designing packages for him.

"Return guys change games, and in my mind return guys are starters,'' Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said. "(And) when you can get a guy like that who can change a game, his kick-return ability is unique. It's really special. And whatever he can add to us offensively, we see some value there.''

Archer was highly productive on offense overall in 2012, Tomlin added.

Former Clemson wideout Martavis Bryant, according to Tomlin, wasn't just selected for his size. He was taken because he's a good, all-around talent.

"I didn't necessarily buy into the fact that a tall receiver was necessary,'' Tomlin said. "He's a capable receiver, one that's capable of producing big plays and proved that at Clemson. (And) he's a guy with some up-side.''

Tomlin also noted that there's an opportunity for some of these draft picks to crack the starting lineup. Shazier, Tuitt, Bryant and cornerback Shaquille Richardson could be in that group.

"I'm open to it, obviously, but that's not something that's going to given to them,'' Tomlin said. "They'll be given an opportunity and will have to earn it. But I do believe that within this group, there are guys who are capable of doing just that.

"(And) there have been some years where we've had an extremely strong (defensive) unit, and that made it a tough nut to crack (for rookies). So, we'll see what this group is made of, but I'm not going in what any preconceived notions about them.''

The Steelers get their first look at this year's rookie group, the draft picks and undrafted free agents, next Friday through Sunday at rookie mini-camp.

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