Ray Fittipaldo's Steelers chat transcript: Post-draft edition



Poll Question: Which of the Steelers draft picks will go on to have the best career? Ryan Shazier (44%) Stephon Tuitt (41%) Dri Archer (5%) Martavis Bryant (10%)

Touchdown Joey: Do you see Shaquille Richardson as any higher on the depth chart than guys who have already been in the system like Isaiah Green or Demarcus Van Dyke?

Ray Fittipaldo: Well, it's a position where the Steelers needed some depth. They only have three corners with significant NFL experience -- Ike Taylor, Cortez Allen and William Gay. Taylor is entering his final year. Allen is entering the final year of rookie contract and Gay is nearing 30. So it would appear there is room for Richardson to make some contributions, if not this season then in future years. But I do have to say that Dick LeBeau and Carnell Lake mentioned how much they like some overlooked guys on the roster. The two guys mentioned by Lake by name were Antwon Blake and Brice McCain. So maybe CB wasn't as big of a need as we all thought or the Steelers didn't like the guys after Gilbert and Fuller. We'll never know, but I thought it was interesting that LeBeau and Lake both mentioned how much they liked those guys who didn't see much time on the defense last season.

Guest: what is your assessment of the draft? Did we get a strong corner and a good wide receiver after passing up all the good ones early?

Ray Fittipaldo: WR Martavis Bryant, the fourth-round pick from Clemson, has a lot of upside. WR coach Richard Mann was surprised he lasted until the fourth round. There appear to be some maturity issues with him, but he has the size (6-4) and speed (4.47) to be a very good NFL player. Richardson, the fifth-round CB from Arizona, was not rated all that high. There were several other CBs on the board rated higher by the draft analysts. The Steelers took him because Lake was comfortable with him having recruited him. We'll see how both work out. It's important to remember that players taken after the third round don't always end up playing in the NFL. The Steelers cut a fifth-round CB in training camp last year. His name was Terry Hawthrone.

skeeziks: could you see Shazier moving to the outside if Worilds moves on after next season?

Ray Fittipaldo: Shazier has the versatility to probably do that, but the Steelers said he will play inside. I don't know if you want to start someone out inside as a rookie and then move him after one year.

Touchdown Joey: I was amazed to see that Dri Archer did more reps of 225 lbs. than Mike Adams. Watching his tape, I don't see why this guy can't be a Tavon Austin type (valuable player but probably not deserving of the heights he was drafted at last year). Thoughts?

Ray Fittipaldo: Shorter guys have shorter arms so it's easier for them to put up a lot of reps in the bench. The opposite is true for big guys with longer arms. That's why some big and tall like Adams don't lift as much. It doesn't necessarily mean they're weak per se. The Archer pick is interesting. Some believe they reached for him. Kevin Colbert said he views special teamers as starters so it appears they will use him a lot on special teams right off the bat. That would mean he'll be the punt returner, too. And he has potential in the offense. If he can be a Darren Sproles type of player the Steelers will have gotten a steal. If he turns out to be Chris Rainey then he'll be viewed as a bust.

Matt: Does Jordan Zumwalt have to beat out someone on the roster (Williams, Garvin or Wilson) to make the team or will they carry more linebackers?

Ray Fittipaldo: Well, you have Timmons and Shazier on the team for sure. I think they like Vince Williams even thought they drafted over him twice, so I think he'll make it, too. So Zumwalt would be in a roster battle with guys like Terence Garvin and players of that ilk. I hear Zumwalt is a really good special teams player. The Steelers special teams have been kind of blah the past few years, so if he can make an impact there he'll earn his way into the roster.

Brett: Do you think that the Steelers lack of interceptions is due to not investing any high draft picks on cornerbacks since Chad Scott?

Ray Fittipaldo: Some of it for sure. They don't really have any ball hawks back there. Their defense is built around the front seven. This draft drove that point home even more. They want pressure from the front seven and they want the secondary to limit big plays and tackle receivers for short gains. That's the way they play. Interceptions would be nice. They need more big plays, but their defense is not predicated on that.

Kevin: I kno wit's way too early to know for certain but do the Steelers scouts know beforehand if next years draft class potentially has a good amount of top notch CB's? Or is it too early to say with underclassman etc?

Ray Fittipaldo: Too early on all of the positions. I remember in the fall, when the Steelers were 0-4 and there was all that stuff about Roethlisberger being reported, some yahoos from the NFL Network made a big deal out of Kevin Colbert being at the Clemson game a few days earlier, presumably in their minds, to watch Tahj Boyd. Was Boyd even drafted? That's how silly draft speculation can be in September and October.

Touchdown Joey: Do you think the WR coach saying Bryant could be a candidate for starter was just to motivate a guy who had question marks on his work ethic? Hard to figure a guy so raw coming right in and starting.

Ray Fittipaldo: Richard Mann wasn't the only position coach saying those types of things this weekend. John Mitchell said the same thing about Stephon Tuitt, and Dick LeBeau said it about Ryan Shazier. I don't want to read too much into it, but Art Rooney II has said in the past the Steelers have to do a better job of developing their young talent. Maybe the coaching staff is more committed to that this year. Or maybe they'll be forced to do it this year because the roster wasn't very talented last year. I don't know if Bryant starts, but it's not all that difficult for WRs to make plays as rookies. Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown did it in 2010. Brown made some of the most important plays for the Steelers in their run to Super Bowl XLV.

Johnny C: Hey Ed...I am a little worried about the OLB position...any word if Jarvis Jones and his conditioning? Who besides Harrison is out there that we can sign for depth

Ray Fittipaldo: Ed's chat is tomorrow, but I'll answer your question. Harrison seems like an option after they failed to take an OLB. Give him a veteran minimum contract with incentives. As for Jones, offseason training started a few weeks back and he'll be out there for OTAs in a few weeks. The coaches are expecting a big step from him this year.

Catlo: Who is the "in house" CB that provided the Steelers with the confidence to not address the CB position until the 5th round?

Ray Fittipaldo: Lake mentioned Antwon Blake and Brice McCain by name. Isaiah Green and Devin Smith also are on the roster. All are free agent signings who joined the team within the past year or so.

Tship: Jerry, Although I still would have taken Dennard in RD1, I can see the Shazzier logic and Tuitt was a great pic, but the pick that may haunt them for corner has got to be Archer, not that he will not be an asset but aren't you looking for starters in round 3 not someone that would be a role palyer. There were corners with 3rd roudn grades available how can they justify htis?

Ray Fittipaldo: If they didn't like Dennard enough to take him round 1 then maybe it makes sense for them not to take one in the second or third either.

D.Lucas: Which drafted rookie can you see cracking the starting lineup first?

Ray Fittipaldo: Best opportunity is for Stephon Tuitt because of the lack of depth there, so I'll go with him. Shazier has a shot too and will play a ton in subpackages because of his speed anyway.

Bob: What is the most we can expect from Bryant this year? Number 2 wr? Number 3?

Ray Fittipaldo: Red zone threat. It would be great for the Steelers if he developed into a starter as a rookie. That would mean he played very well and produced some stats.

mikeflores16: There is talk that the Titans may release Michael Roos. Any chance the Steelers try to sign him if that occurs?

Ray Fittipaldo: I hadn't heard that. Roos, I think, is getting older, but he obviously played a long time for Munchak, so it would be a possibility I suppose.

mikeflores16: Do you have jersey numbers yet on the new additions?

Ray Fittipaldo: Shazier is No. 50. That's the only one I know for sure.

Chris: The first 2 picks in the draft told me 1 thing: the Steelers believe what I believe that you stop the pass by hitting the passer by taking Shazier and Tuitt and latter getting McClullers. Do you think they can achieve that end this year despite not taking a corner, or are they waiting to get a really special prospect next year?

Ray Fittipaldo: Despite what the coaches said about starting positions being open Steelers rookies have had a hard time contributing right away in years past. So it might be wishful thinking to believe those guys specifically will make the pass rush better. The more likely scenario is for Jarvis Jones and Jason Worilds to take the next step in their development and get to the QB more than they have in the past.

Renegade: Do you know anything about the UDFA players in terms of any having a legit chance to make roster or practice squad?

Ray Fittipaldo: Let's give them a chance and see what they do in camp. I don't think anyone had ever heard of Terence Garvin last year at this time and he made the roster.

eric: Is there a real chance Martavis Bryant starts, and wheston kicks inside? Seems like the most lethal idea. Speed/speed/size

Ray Fittipaldo: If Bryant forces his way into the offense then I think you'll see some more four-wide sets than last year. Lance Moore is a lot WR, at least that's where he was effective for the Saints. So I'm not sure where Wheaton would fit in if indeed Bryant does beat him out .

Renegade: Yes 2015 draft talk now is silly.Tahj Boyd was pick 213 by NYJ. A replacement for Ben? Hahaha!

mikeflores16: Do you believe Worilds and Allen will be resigned before the start of the season?

Ray Fittipaldo: Hard to tell at this point. Pouncey might get done, too. They'll have some $ after June 2, but I don't know if they'll be able to do Worilds, Allen, Pouncey and sign their picks with that $8 million or so they get for making the Woodley cut.

Steelerboi: If Sean spence is healthy could it be possible to have him and shazier on the field at the same time

Ray Fittipaldo: Not sure how that would be possible as long as Timmons is here. Maybe long-term because Timmons is getting up there in age, but probably not this season. Plus, we still have to see if Spence can stay healthy. The coaches are pleased with his progress, but he has not endured a long training camp. The facts are no one knows how that knee will hold up.

Guest: Does the Stephon Tuitt pick essentially end any chance of brining back Da Beard for one more year?

Ray Fittipaldo: It would appear that way unless there are some injuries between now and the season.

Big City: Seems to me that this staff has a great track record of taking untouted corners and developing them into solid players in their system. Given that, I have no qualms with them ignoring the position in the draft. Agree?

Ray Fittipaldo: To a certain extent. But for every Ike Taylor and Cortez Allen there are Ricardo Cocloughs and Joe Burnetts and Crezdon Butlers. They need to hit on Richardson and develop him into a player because of the uncertainty beyond the 2014 season. Either that, or sign a CB in free agency next year.

SteelMike58: Will we have any meaningful competition at Punter this year? I know we signed the Wing guy out of LSU....

Ray Fittipaldo: Plus Adam Podlesh a month or so ago. They'll battle it out.

Chunkles: Ray, how does a 6'-7" 350lb nose tackle fall to the Steelers in the 6th round? Were there some red flags about this guy that the Steelers may have picked him regardless?

Ray Fittipaldo: Well, first of all how often do you hear of a 6-7, 350-pound nose. Those guys are short because they have to play with leverage. One of the biggest reasons he fell was because he doesn't play with leverage. He's a sixth-round pick for a reason. When a reporter tried to make a comparison between him and Casey Hampton on Saturday Tomlin shot it down and basically called him a project.

Gary: I heard a lot from the media that the Steelers like Gilbert and fuller better than shazier and only took him because the corners were gone. Is this accurate or is speculation? Because Tomlin and Colbert sure seem to like shazier an awful lot and I have not heard them make one mention of Cornerbacks.

Ray Fittipaldo: We have reported that the Steelers liked Gilbert, who was gone to the Browns at No. 8 and Odell Beckham, who was gone to the Giants by No. 12. I'm not sure about Fuller to be honest.

John: How do you see Dri Archer fitting in? Lining up in the backfield or in the slot? Would it be likely that he and Bell could both be in the backfield on 3rd down?

Ray Fittipaldo: I'm sure Todd Haley has his ideas, but if you look back on how he implemented Rainey and Stephen's Howling, they were used out of the backfield for the most part.

Tyler: Stephon tuitt cracks the starting line up first along with martavis Bryant I see him goin pro bowl in a couple years. Also I think Vince Williams is goina to show much improvement this offseason along with conditioning to get the most field play this season

Zio Guido: I think the Big Mac selection may be getting overlooked. IF he can plug the middle and keep two o line men engaged it sure frees up a lot of options for the defense.

Ray Fittipaldo: Ideally that would be the case, but he'll have to earn his way onto the roster and then earn playing time.

SteelMike58: Ray, Isn't McCullers too tall for NT, I always thought they were supposed to be shorter so they can gain better leverage?

Ray Fittipaldo: Yes, I mentioned earlier he is definitely a different type of nose. I'll be anxious to see how he looks in camp.

Deon Figures: Why not bring in more undrafted free agent CBs? Is the hope they can pick up one after roster cuts elsewhere?

Ray Fittipaldo: According to LeBeau and Lake they like the ones they have. They were almost effusive in praising them this weekend.

Chunkles: Was there a pick in this years draft from any team that left you still scratching your head?

Ray Fittipaldo: Tom Savage. I thought he was a priority free agent and he was taken at the top of the fourth round. His saving grace is going to a coach who has a track record developing QBs

Vic: Hi, do you believe the steelers reached for some players in this year draft ? Or on contrary, did they stole other ? (Sorry for my english, it's a french fan here :) )

Ray Fittipaldo: Welcome Vic. Only time will tell. I mentioned earlier some people thought the Steelers could get Archer in the fourth or fifth round. By contrast, Zumwalt had a fourth-round grade by some so maybe he'll turn out to be a steal. Martavis Bryant had a second-grade by some as well, so he'd be in the same boat as Zumwalt. Could be great value picks that fell for whatever reason.

Bahama J: Ray....Do you know what experience Archer has with returning punts...I know he is a killer Kick Returner but not many chances to return kicks anymore. His fumbling is a concern as well, NO?

Ray Fittipaldo: I don't know this for sure, but I want to say I heard somewhere along the line this weekend that the Steelers will teach him how to return punts. I'll have to check on that, but I don't think he has a ton of experience doing it.

James_Pittsburgh: Did you notice what other teams in the division were going for in the draft? Did the Browns, Bengals and/or Ravens draft some guys that could give the Steelers problems down the road?

Ray Fittipaldo: Ravens got CJ Mosely so I am sure people will be comparing him and Shazier. The Bengals took Dennard, who everyone on the outside thought the Steelers would take so he'll be the subject of a lot of comparisons, too. And of course, the Browns took another Steelers target (Gilbert) and Johnny Football, who could be the starter in Week 1 at Heinz Field.

NaplesDave: Hi RF, too much concern about drafting a CB? There seem to be experienced good, not great, DBs after teams make cuts that can be short term fixes for the Steelers. Thoughts?

Ray Fittipaldo: It will be a bigger concern if the pass rush doesn't improve. Without a pass rush last year the secondary was picked apart. Why expect it to be any different this year with basically the same personnel except for Mike Mitchell taking the place of Ryan Clark?

James_Pittsburgh: What's the word on the Tightend the Steelers drafted? I got the sense he is like a typical blocking/good hands TE that the Steelers normally use.

Ray Fittipaldo: Yes, Blanchflower is a solid in-line blocker and a good pass catcher. Fits their mold. I'd say they took him so they can move David Paulson out. Paulson does not block well and he hasn't produced much as a receiver. Also, they need a long-term backup after Matt Spaeth is done playing.

Bahama J: Ray, any idea as to why Dennard fell as far as he did? I still think we should have picked him...I think Shazier was a wasted pick.

Ray Fittipaldo: He didn't fall that far. He was considered a mid-round pick and he was taken at No. 24. Some of the reports on him being "grabby" with his hands might have concerned some teams. I guess there were some concerns about getting holding and PI calls.

Steelerboi: Could we see shazier at olb

Ray Fittipaldo: Doesn't appear to be the plan. They said he will play inside.

JamesinNYC: Why Zumwalt, he is Williams 2.0 doesn't really add anything and they had other things to fill?

Ray Fittipaldo: He's a sixth-round pick. If he turns out to be a good special teams player, so what? That's where you find your special teamers.

Zio Guido: Of the late round picks(4-7) who do you think has the better updise potential to make the team?

Ray Fittipaldo: I think several will make the team. They used a fifth-round pick on the OL from Vanderbilt (Wesley Johnson) so maybe Cody Wallace or Guy Whimper won't be with the team in the fall. Zumwalt will push Garvin. Blanchflower will push Paulson and Palmer. Competition is good for everyone and this roster needed some good competition.

Big City: Will Johnny "Football" be making his professional debut at Heinz Field?

Ray Fittipaldo: Good question. That would be fun to cover. I'll say no, but it's the Browns and you never know what decisions they'll make. They might do it for marketing reasons.

Mo: With the Steelers not taking a corner until the 5th round, do you see Shamarko playing CB at all this year?

Ray Fittipaldo: He can cover in the slot, but I'm not sure that's where they want to use him.

James_Pittsburgh: I like the move to put Archer on special teams to return punts/kicks...I think it is a smart move not having Brown return punts since he is our primary receiver and hopefully won't be winded when he takes the next snap on offense.

Ray Fittipaldo: Brown is good at returning punts, but he is frustrating to watch because he calls for fair catches when he has so much room in front of him. The Steelers had poor field position last year in many cases because Brown fair caught too often. If Archer can return punts I think it will be good for everyone involved in the offense.

Jake: Hi ray, which pick did you like the most of the draft picks? And I was wondering what your thoughts were on Michael Sam?

Ray Fittipaldo: I like the idea of having a bigger target for Ben to throw to, but Bryant has to be productive. He can't be the next Limas Sweed or Fred Gibson. As for Sam, he's a seventh-rounder and I'm not so sure he'll make that team.

Drew: Bonjour Vic! Bienveneau a Etats Unis! Allez Steelers!

John Q.: Can we all agree that Shazier's nickname should be Shazam? Can you tell Timmons to name him Shazam at camp? Thanks.

Renegade: I think Shazier is a great pick with his speed in every package but especially for pass coverage. That should allow Troy to return to the true SS position, shouldn't it? Troy is a great, tough all time Steeler in my book but not a LB like forced on him last year.

Ray Fittipaldo: Yes, I don't think Troy will be playing as much LB as last season.

Tony R: From Tony...Shazier played college at 225, if Spenser comes all the way back do you see possibly Shazier replacing Troy I 16

Ray Fittipaldo: No. Keith Butler pointed out that James Farrior played at 225 too. If the defensive linemen do their job these smaller LBs can run around and make tackles.

Ray Fittipaldo: OK, that's it for today. Thanks for taking part in the chat. We'll do it again next week.


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