Cumberland Times-News

Football

May 11, 2014

Steelers focus on speed during busy NFL Draft

Pittsburgh took four offensive players and five defensive players with its nine picks

PITTSBURGH — Mike Tomlin insists his team went looking for contributors and not track stars during the NFL draft.
The fact the Pittsburgh Steelers picked up some of the quickest players on the board turned out to be a bonus. Now the group labeled “old” and “slow” by critics hardly looks like either.
Pittsburgh took four offensive players and five defensive players with its nine picks, including linebacker Ryan Shazier, running back Dri Archer and wide receiver Martavis Bryant. All three turned in blazing 40-yard dash times during the run-up to the draft. All three are expected to make an immediate impact on a team trying to return to the NFL elite after consecutive 8-8 seasons.
“They’re football players first who happen to be extremely fast,” Tomlin said.
Versatile, too. Secondary coach Carnell Lake joked that Shazier — whom the Steelers took with the 15th overall pick in the first round — could easily move from inside linebacker to safety if linebackers coach Keith Butler didn’t want the Ohio State star.
Archer ran for 1,429 yards at Kent State as a junior, averaged 7.8 yards per carry last fall and is expected to be in the mix in both the passing and return game when training camp opens in July.
Though the 6-foot-4 Bryant finally gives quarterback Ben Roethlisberger the kind of big target that pays dividends near the goalline, Bryant also averaged nearly 20 yards per reception in 2013 while lining up next to Sammy Watkins at Clemson.
“I know that Big Ben knows how to get the ball down the field and they’ve had some great wide receivers over the years,” Bryant said. “He loves throwing the ball deep and I just want to come and help.”
Wide receivers coach Richard Mann believes Bryant could be a starter in the NFL, perhaps sooner rather than later. The team hasn’t had a true “big” receiver since Plaxico Burress left for the New York Giants in 2005. Antonio Brown made the Pro Bowl last season and set a team record for yards receiving in a season with 1,499 but at 5-10 isn’t the type to go up and get it. That won’t be a problem for Bryant.

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