After taking linebacker Ryan Shazier out of Ohio State in the first round, the Pittsburgh Steelers still had a good amount of holes to fill on their roster in the later rounds of the draft. In the second round, they added to their defensive line with the big defensive end Stephon Tuitt out of Notre Dame. In the third round, they got the speedy running back Dri Archer out of Kent State.
Stephon Tuitt addressed a big need on the defensive line for the Steelers. Standing at 6’5” and weighing 304 pounds, he is big enough to play either defensive end or defensive tackle in Pittsburgh’s 3-4 system. He had a huge year in 2012 when his Fighting Irish made it all the way to the National Championship, earning 12 sacks on the season. In 2013, Tuitt took a big step back in his sack total, which was cut to only 7.5 on the season. He was unable to do most of the drills at the combine after a fracture was found in his foot that also kept him from participating in his pro day. Even with his foot keeping him out of most of the combine, he was still able to demonstrate his strength by putting up 31 reps on the bench press. A big issue for Tuitt in his time at Notre Dame was his weight and whether or not he could keep it low enough to be at his optimal strength and speed. At one point he was all the way up to 322, but before the draft he was able to stay at a desirable playing weight of 304.
Running back was not a need coming into the draft for the Steelers, but because of Dri Archer’s athleticism and versatility, he can help the offense immediately. Archer excelled at the combine putting up the fastest 40 time at any position since Chris Johnson’s 4.24 by clocking in at 4.26. At Kent State, he played at both the running back and slot receiver positions and excelled at both. In 2012, he had over 1400 yards rushing and 500 yards receiver and set a record at Kent State for single season touchdowns with 23. In 2013, injuries hurt his production and he gained substantially less yards in both rushing and receiving. Even with his injuries, he really regained draft position momentum with his incredible show of athleticism at the scouting combine. Scouts were drooling over his 40 time and it led to him being one of the most talked about people at the combine and raising his draft stock dramatically. Now the Steelers have him and will implement him into their offense in many different ways, using him as an overall weapon rather than just the traditional tailback.
Both players fill a specific need for the Steelers, one on defense that is pretty straight forward, and one on offense that can be a weapon moved all over the field. Stephon Tuitt is a defensive lineman who can moved anywhere along the line and will make their line both younger and stronger. He fills a specific need with the losses of Brett Keisel and Casey Hampton over the last two seasons. The Notre Dame product will bolster the defensive line that has other young players such as Cameron Heyward and Steve McClendon, and help to cover the losses of Keisel and Ziggy hood in this offseason. Archer did not fill an immediate need because he is listed at running back, but he can be used in a lot of different ways including slot receiver and return man. He can be an immediate weapon for Big Ben and in special teams. Even though Archer is not a traditional receiver he can help at the position, but the Steelers will likely look for more receiving help in later rounds of the draft.
The Steelers addressed some needs in the second and third rounds of the draft but still have more to add in the later rounds. Stephon Tuitt and Dri Archer look like immediate impact rookies, but only time will tell. Wide receiver, corner back and the offensive line still need to be addressed, but Pittsburgh looks like a team with a plan in this year’s draft.
Commentary By Max Petkevicius