An average Joe's reaction to the Steelers top two picks

Jonathan Daniel

Cornerback and receiver were arguably the Steelers two biggest needs as they approached the 2014 NFL Draft. And the selections of linebacker Ryan Shazier and defensive lineman Shephon Tuitt in Rounds 1 and 2 had some fans scratching their heads--including my brother Joe.

Like most Steelers fans, Joe, my brother, overreacted to the team's top two selections in the 2014 NFL Draft.

It's not that he thought Ryan Shazier and Stephon Tuitt were necessarily bad players; it's just that he thought Pittsburgh should have picked other people (or positions), especially in Rounds 1 and 2.

When my brother first texted me, following the announcement that Shazier was Pittsburgh's top selection, I didn't think he was necessarily pleased, but I wasn't totally sure:

"What do u know about this Shazier kid? You read anything?"

After I quoted the Ohio State product's physical attributes that I found on the Internet (stuff my lazy brother could have found himself, instead of asking me like his last name was Kiper, and I was his big brother draft guru, and this was 1989), he texted: "Cause he's an athlete?"

I assume that was his way of asking if the Steelers simply drafted Shazier because of his athleticism and not production.

When I told him about Shazier's production with the Buckeyes, my brother then texted: "But we just drafted Jones,"  as in outside linebacker Jarvis Jones, the Steelers top pick from a year ago.

I understood my brother's point. At the time, both of us were a bit confused as to why the Steelers would go linebacker in back-to-back drafts--especially when nobody was initially sure if Shazier was going to play inside or outside.

When I researched a bit further and discovered Pittsburgh would be looking to utilize the blazing fast linebacker on the inside and informed my brother of this, he texted: "I didn't get the pick, though [family nickname omitted to save embarrassment]. We needed a db bad."

Maybe Shazier wasn't my brother's top choice, and he may have drifted a bit toward the negative side of things, but his reaction was mild, compared to what I heard and read from other members of Steeler Nation--including folks on a certain blog that often goes by a four-letter acronym:

"F&$k this draft"........."Sigh.....well, I guess I'll hope for the best. As of now, not a fan."............"Reach city."..........."Hate it. Hate it. Hate it."

In all fairness to my brother and the other Steelers fans who weren't enthused with the pick, I guess it was hard to blame them, considering corner may have arguably been the top need heading into Thursday night, and Darqueze Dennard, the accomplished cornerback from Michigan State who had been linked to Pittsburgh for quite some time, was still sitting there, just waiting to wear Black and Gold.

Dennard went to the Bengals nine picks later, and my brother informed me of this by texting: "We may regret that. I'm so mad we didn't take him, lol!"

Of course, my brother says that every year, but in this case, maybe he'll be right?

As the first round drifted to a close, my brother left me with one last text: "I just read that had [Eric] Ebron (the tight end from North Carolina) been there at  15 we were grabbing him. that's interesting and would of loved that pick."

I don't know what my brother's point was with that, but you know how siblings are.

The next night, as I drove home from the gym, I turned on the Steelers radio network coverage of Rounds 2 and 3 and heard hosts Gerry Dulac and Bill Hillgrove interviewing team defensive line coach John Mitchell, who, as the hosts put it, "looked like a kid on Christmas morning."

Coach Mitch was gushing over the fact that Pittsburgh had used its second round pick to select Stephon Tuitt, the huge defensive lineman from Notre Dame that many fans coveted in the first round.(Coach Mitchell may have been happy on Friday as he heaped tons of praise on his new protege, but you just know he's going to make that kid cry in training camp. Be warned, young Stephon. Be warned.)

Anyway, not surprisingly, even before I could get one foot in the door of my apartment, my brother texted:

"Stephen Tuitt? D end notre dame?" (My brother doesn't know spelling and capitalization.)

I guess that was my brother's way of asking why the team didn't go for a corner or receiver (another apparent hot need) in Round 2.

In fact, this was confirmed when he texted: "Where's our wr and db???!!!! Colbert is pi$$ing me off man. We have glaring needs and we haven't addressed one yet."

With all due respect to my brother (which is to say, very little), one could argue that both inside linebacker and defensive line were glaring needs, what with James Farrior, 39 and out of football, still the best option at inside linebacker; and Cam "Benchzilla" Thomas, a free agent defensive lineman the team picked up in the offseason, as maybe the top candidate to replace the departed Ziggy Hood and the hopelessly unsigned Brett Keisel.

My brother went on to say: "Dennard is going to be good u watch. Shazier may be good also but we should of grabbed him [Dennard]."

You might think my brother is a bit irrational, but allow me to put on my Devil's Advocate cap.

Unlike in the 2011 draft, when people were crying for Pittsburgh to take a corner on the heels of the secondary being embarrassed during the 2010 season by the likes of Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, the Steelers going corner high in 2014 may have been the most logical choice.

Three years ago, when the Steelers were on the clock with the 31st pick, some first round candidates who were available at corner were Ras-I Dowling out of Virginia and Aaron Williams from Texas.

Both players wound up going in the second round, and neither has made much of an impact as of yet.

Therefore, when the Steelers picked Cameron Heyward, a defensive end from Ohio State, it was a value pick that met a need--a need that, while certainly not pressing, was inching toward the top of the list.

Kevin Colbert, Pittsburgh's general manager, often talks about never reaching and drafting for need. And in most cases, that's a sound theory.

However, just like the past two years, when value met need quite nicely, allowing the Steelers to select guard David DeCastro and Jones, respectively, Dennard had a college resume every bit as accomplished as Shazier, and was certainly a valuable option sitting there at 15 who could have addressed a major need.

And though it's very possible that Tuitt could be a steal of a second round pick, it's hard to ignore the fact that some great value was still sitting there at both corner and wide receiver (neither position having been addressed with anything higher than a third round pick since '08).

One could say corner is a position that could be addressed in the first round next year. And a Devil's Advocate may say that's another year or two of growing pains and developing in Dick LeBeau's defense (just ask Shazier and Tuitt a year from now).

One could say running back Dri Archer, the team's compensatory pick in Round 3, while not a receiver, has the speed and explosiveness to be a match-up problem out of the backfield and dangerous in the return game. A Devil's Advocate might look at the 173 pound Archer and say, "Chris Rainey."

An optimist could say that the Steelers will be fine at receiver, considering Markus Wheaton, the team's third round pick from a year ago, played very little in 2013 due to injury, and could break out in Year 2. A Devil's Advocate might say, "Hey, we have enough small receivers. We need a taller guy."

An optimist will then raise with one Martavis Bryant, the 6'4 receiver from Clemson that Pittsburgh picked up in Round 4. A Devil's Advocate could then call with the 6'3 Justin Brown, an Oklahoma product the Steelers used a sixth round pick on a year ago who is currently on their practice squad.

Finally, as with any draft, it's impossible to predict how things will work out. But while the optimists have much ammo to justify the Steelers direction in the top of the draft, you can see where the skeptics like my brother may be more than justified in their angst.

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