NFL Draft: Brice McCain

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PITTSBURGH -- A wrap-up of the Pittsburgh Steelers' draft. Click here for a full list of Steelers draftees.

[+] EnlargeNotre Dame
AP Photo/Frank Franklin IIThe Steelers expect big things from Notre Dame defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt.
Best move: Taking Notre Dame defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt in the second round. The Steelers had no bigger need than at defensive end, and they were smart to pounce on Tuitt, who had been widely projected to go late in the first round. The 6-foot-5, 303-pounder has the ideal build for a five-technique defensive end, and he also has the pass-rushing skills to move inside when the Steelers go to their nickel package. Tuitt had 21 career sacks at Notre Dame, and the Steelers are convinced his play slipped last season because recovery from double-hernia surgery compromised his training and caused him to put on too much weight. Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said Tuitt is back to his 2012 playing weight when he dominated for the Fighting Irish, and they expect him to play significantly as a rookie if not start at some point in 2014.

Riskiest move: The Steelers took just one defensive back in the draft and they didn’t select cornerback Shaquille Richardson of Arizona until the fifth round. That won’t do anything to allay the anxiety of Steelers’ fans about the state of the secondary and specifically cornerback where Ike Taylor isn’t getting younger and where there isn’t much depth. Steelers defensive backs coach Carnell Lake said he is confident free-agent signee Brice McCain and Antwon Blake, who played almost exclusively on special teams last season, can be key contributors this season. They better be since the draft didn’t deliver the reinforcements at cornerback that most thought it would.

Most surprising move: The Steelers bypassed a cornerback and wide receiver in the third round to take speedy but diminutive running back Dri Archer. This looks like a luxury pick since the Steelers had more pressing needs when they selected the 5-8, 173-pounder. Archer ran the fastest 40-yard dash time (4.26 seconds) at the NFL combine, and the Steelers plan to carve out a role for him in the offense. ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. has compared Archer to Darren Sproles because of his explosiveness and versatility. Steelers wide receivers coach Richard Mann said Archer reminds him of former Browns scatback/receiver Gerald “Ice Cube” McNeil. “He’s not small,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “He’s short.”

File it away: First-round pick Ryan Shazier will be an immediate difference-maker as a rookie -- and will make multiple Pro Bowls if he stays healthy. His speed is such that defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau has said he envisions playing Shazier all over the field. Lake said he will gladly take Shazier as a safety if linebackers coach Keith Butler doesn’t want him. Butler, when told that, smiled and said “I’m not in favor of doing that. Shazier can make mistakes and has make-up speed to get back into position and make plays.” Butler scoffs at the notion that the 6-1, 237-pound Shazier is undersized for an inside linebacker at this level. Butler said former Steelers inside linebacker James Farrior played between 225 and 230 pounds in the latter part of his carer, including 2010 when he made the Pro Bowl. “A lot of times young linebackers get in their head, ‘I have to weigh 250 or I have to weigh 260 [pounds] but can they move? Can they get where they need to be when they need to be there? This guy can do that.”
PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers have nine picks in the 2014 NFL draft. This is the ninth in a series that looks at the nine positions they could address in a week.

Our final look is at cornerback.

Added: Brice McCain

Lost: Curtis Brown

Skinny: The Steelers have twice taken a pair of cornerbacks in their past five drafts (2009 and 2011) and their need at the position is such that they are likely to do it again this year. Cornerback is one of the deeper positions in the draft though it is not as strong as wide receiver. Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard would be an ideal pick for the Steelers as he is tough, physical and regarded by ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. as the most complete cornerback in the draft. The biggest question with Dennard is whether he will be available at No. 15 as several teams picking ahead of the Steelers, including the Lions and Rams, could take a cornerback. The Steelers hosted Dennard as well as projected first-round picks Kyle Fuller of Virginia Tech and Bradley Roby of Ohio State for pre-draft visits. One small-school prospect to watch is Pierre Desir of Lindenwood. Desir showed excellent ball skills at the Division II school in Missouri, and he held his own against better competition at the Senior Bowl. Desir has good size and the Steelers have had success taking cornerbacks from smaller schools as they drafted Ike Taylor out of Louisiana-Lafayette in 2003 and Cortez Allen out of The Citadel in 2011. Both were fourth-round selections though the Steelers might have to take Desir in the third round if they really like him.

Draft likelihood: High

Extra points

Last CB drafted by the Steelers: Terry Hawthorne, 2013, fifth round

Last CB drafted by the Steelers in the first round: Chad Scott, 1997

Last CB taken 15th overall in the draft: Tye Hill, Rams, 2006

CBs drafted under Kevin Colbert/Mike Tomlin: Eight

CBs drafted under Colbert/Tomlin still with the Steelers: Two

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