Grading the Steelers draft through three rounds

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

We are now through three rounds of the 2014 NFL draft. Read on to find out how the Steelers have fared so far with their selections.

Round 1- Ryan Shazier, linebacker

Pick grade- B+

I'm tempted to give this pick an A but that would be wrong. Shazier is a tremendously explosive athlete and a potential impact player on every down, which is something the Steelers defense could use in abundance. He also brings proven production from college and a reportedly great work ethic. It also hits on somewhat of a need for the Steelers, considering the importance of talented and versatile linebackers in Dick LeBeau's scheme, and what the Steelers had at the position in 2013. However Shazier comes with a couple of question marks ,which stop this from being an A grade. Can he transition successfully from an outside linebacker in a 4-3, which he was in college, to an inside linebacker in a 3-4? Is he big and strong enough to shed blockers at the second level and plug the hole? If he puts on weight can he maintain his explosiveness?

If these questions are answered positively, I would imagine this pick will be viewed as an A+ in a couple of years.

Round 2- Stephon Tuitt, defensive end

Pick grade- A+

Absolutely love this pick in the second round for the Steelers. Injuries hampered Tuitt's throughout his last year at college and stopped him from doing anything meaningful at the combine ,which is why a player who a year ago many seen as a top 15 talent has slid into second round ,where he is fantastic value for the grateful Steelers. Tuitt can hopefully step in right away and man one of the defensive end positions where the Steelers really had no depth, and potentially little real talent outside Cameron Heyward. But it is Tuitt's versatility that makes him such a perfect fit for the Steelers. He's big and strong enough to play the run like a traditional 5-technique gap eating defensive end we all know and love, and he has the athletic ability to chase down the quarterback on passing downs. His size/speed/strength combination will allow the Steelers to move him all around the defensive line, and in combination with similarly flexible Cameron Heyward, the Steelers will have a ton of options when they move to sub-packages (which is a hell'va lot these days).

Absolutely big thumbs up here for Kevin Colbert, could be a classic Steelers injury pick.

Round 3- Dri Archer, running back

Pick Grade- C-

Just when everything is going fantastic, that's when the Steelers decide to throw the curviest of curve-balls at us. Dri Archer has truly blazing speed, running a 4.26 40 yard dash at the combine. That makes him pretty much one of the fastest players in NFL history. I was adamant that the Steelers draft a speedy player who possesses a real, significant threat on every return and Dri Archer is absolutely that guy. Best case scenario for the Steelers, Archer develops into a Darren Sproles like player, extremely dangerous in special teams, capable of running and catching the ball out of the backfield and generally just being a complete menace when he gets into space. Given Archer's speed and agility that is entirely plausible. That's the good news, here's the bad...

Archer is now just a chore for Todd Hayley, who has to find ways to manufacture space for him to work because, due to his tiny stature, if he gets a solid hit he's not likely to be walking after. He certainly won't be running between the tackles any time soon. He is ,plain and simple, just a gadget player who will only see action very sporadically in certain prescribed situations. I have nothing against these players, and I'm extremely excited to see what he brings to the return game, but the third round is way, way too early draft a player who has to be force fed the ball. I believe Archer can potentially be successful with the Steelers, have a great impact even, but that's just too much of a risk when you could have gotten a player of similar build later in the draft.

Not a good pick in my opinion.

Overall Draft Grade- B+

In truth, I think the grade lies somewhere between a B and a B+ but I'm going to air on the side of optimism. Love the potential in Shazier, a quick twitch linebacker who has the ability to cover, play the run, rush the passer and make splash plays all over the field. You can't put a price on that. Likewise Stephon Tuitt brings boatloads of tantalising athleticism and potential, as well as a level of versatility uncommon in defensive lineman. Both picks could be seen at some point in the future as cornerstones of a great Steelers defense. Dri Archer on the other hand, brings the draft grade way down. Realistically there's only so much he can offer the Steelers, and while what he can offer is valuable (and quite probably very exciting), it is not worth the investment of a third round pick to watch Todd Haley give himself an aneurysm trying to get him the ball.

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