Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Are You Ready to Start? Rookies Traditionally Don't Crack the Opening-Day Lineup, but This Crop Could

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Are You Ready to Start? Rookies Traditionally Don't Crack the Opening-Day Lineup, but This Crop Could

Article excerpt

The theme of the 2014 draft could well be, "Welcome to the Steelers; yes you can start for us this season."

Long held down by veteran talent in front of them, the new rookie class which will gather on the South Side for their first camp this weekend will have chances few others have had in this century in Pittsburgh.

Even coaches who were reluctant to speculate on the immediate prospects of rookies past were more than willing to project their new draft picks as possible starters in 2014. That's how it was with their first two picks, and again Saturday with the first one they drafted.

Martavis Bryant, a 6-foot-4 wide receiver with speed and the "other" receiver next to Sammy Watkins at Clemson, has the ability to line up with Antonio Brown this year, his new coach said.

"I'm not going to say that he is going to start, but potentially he could," said wide receivers coach Richard Mann.

"We feel like we got a guy to put opposite of Antonio Brown."

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who has pined for a tall receiver since the day Plaxico Burress walked out the door in 2005 as a free agent, was said to be thrilled that they drafted Bryant. So were they. They thought when they passed on him in the third round, they weren't going to get him.

"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder," Mann said. "He lasted. We were delighted we were able to get him. Felt like a second-, third- round guy."

The Steelers added six more selections on the third and final day of the draft to go with the three on the first two days.

They tried to fill another need when they drafted cornerback Shaquille Richardson of Arizona with their first pick in the fifth round. With their compensatory pick in the fifth, they selected versatile offensive lineman Wesley Johnson of Vanderbilt.

They chose their second inside linebacker of the draft, UCLA's Jordan Zumwalt, with their first of two picks in the sixth round, making what had been a thin position a little crowded. Vince Williams, a sixth-rounder a year ago, wound up starting 11 games there as a rookie after a season-ending injury to Larry Foote. Inside linebacker Ryan Shazier was their first-round pick Thursday night from Ohio State.

Their compensatory pick in the sixth round delivered 6-7, 352- pound nose tackle Daniel McCullers of Tennessee, now the biggest man on their roster. He weighed 420 pounds at one time in high school. They went from Big Snack in Casey Hampton to possibly Big Mac at nose tackle.

"He's a big guy," defensive line coach John Mitchell acknowledged. "Those types of guys are hard to find. I'd rather work with a guy who's too big than a guy you can't see when he gets down in his stance."

"He's an obstruction," general manager Kevin Colbert said. "The size is intriguing."

As Colbert noted, the Steelers got the fastest man in the draft in Kent State halfback Dri Archer, their third-rounder who ran a 4. …

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