“It’s not something that’s going to be given to them,” said Tomlin. “They’ll be given an opportunity to earn it. But I do believe that within this group there are some guys that are very capable of doing just that.”
For the last several seasons one of the principal weaknesses of the defense has been at one of the middle linebacker positions. The Steelers play a 4-3 defense, and the four linebackers are the primary unit responsible for both pass rushing and tackles. Lawrence Timmons has become a fixture inside, but he has not been teamed with someone who could also dominate in the same manner.
Pittsburgh’s first draft choice was Ryan Shazier, LB from Ohio State. They believe he has the speed and ability to play alongside Timmons. In his 29 games started at Ohio State as weak side, outside linebacker, he had 14 sacks for minus 107 yards, 44.5 stops for losses totaling 172 yards and nine quarterback pressures…returned his only interception 17 yards for a touchdown and deflected 15 other tosses…he also caused nine fumbles. The four starting linebackers starting for the Steelers will likely be Jason Worilds, Shazier, Timmons and last year’s first choice in the draft, Jarvis Jones.
Their second choice was DE Stephon Tuitt from Notre Dame. He is 6 feet 5 inches tall and weighs 303 pounds at only 20 years of age. He finished his career at Notre Dame with 127 tackles (59 solos), 21.5 sacks for minus 163 yards, 25.0 stops for losses of 176 yards and 27 quarter-back pressures…Caused four fumbles and recovered another that he advanced 77 yards for a touchdown…Deflected four passes, intercepted another in the end zone for a score and blocked one kick. He has exceptional quickness for such a large man.
It is very possible that Shazier and Tuitt could be in the starting lineup on September 7th.
Steelers’ other picks were; Dri Archer, who was a RB/WR at Kent State. At 5 feet 8 inches tall and 173 pounds, he may become their primary kick returner; Martavis Bryant, a 6 feet 4 inch 211 pound WR; Shaquille Richardson, a 6 feet tall and 194 pound CB; Wesley Johnson, a 6 feet 5 inch 297 pound OL; Jordan Zumwalt, a 6 feet 4 inch 235 pound linebacker; Daniel McCullers, a huge DL at 6 feet 7 inches tall and 352 pounds; and lastly Rob Blanchflower, a TE weighing 256 pounds, and 6 feet 4 inches tall.
In addition Pittsburgh acquired several free agents they believe will fill key vacancies on both offense and defense.
The coaches have challenges deciding who will make the final 53 man roster. Of the nine players drafted, they firmly believe the majority of them will remain with the organization when the season starts. The practice squad could be rich with future talent.