Steelers mail: Ryan Shazier's draft slot

June, 21, 2014
Jun 21
2:00
PM ET
Thanks for all of the great questions. I got enough of them that a second mailbag will run Monday. If you have a question please send to @ScottBrown_ESPN with the #steelersmail. And away we go ... @ScottBrown_ESPN: I'd say it has to do with his position as much as anything. Inside linebackers aren't nearly as valued as quarterbacks, offensive tackles, defensive ends/outside linebackers and cornerbacks. That is why many of the Pittsburgh writers, myself included, were so surprised when the Steelers used their first-round pick on Ryan Shazier. I think a lot of us fixated on a position, such as cornerback, while coach Mike Tomlin said the Steelers were looking to add a playmaker on defense. They think they did that with Shazier, who just happens to play a position that frequently produces good players later in the draft. Also, Shazier still went high in the draft even if he was not a top 10 selection, and the guy has had to practice in pads let alone play in a game. We are far from knowing just what the Steelers have in Shazier though he looked really good in the offseason practices. @ScottBrown_ESPN: Put it this way: I like your side of the wager. I see the Steelers going 10-6 or even 11-5 this season for myriad reasons. I think the offense builds on what it did in the second half of last season when it led the Steelers to a 6-2 finish. The defense should be better too based on the speed that the Steelers have added. The schedule is favorable as the Steelers, who haven't traveled long distances well, play just one game out of their time zone. And the AFC North is there for the taking given some of the losses the Bengals sustained and the questions I still have about Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton. What worries me about the Steelers is the lack of depth at outside linebacker and whether they will get a consistent pass rush from starters Jason Worilds and Jarvis Jones. To me, Jones is the key to the defense improving significantly in 2014. If he doesn't make a big jump in his second season the defense could have problems. Injuries are an X-factor, as always, but I think you made the right call. @ScottBrown_ESPN: Antonio Brown looked fantastic, and he is really a fun player to watch even in practice without pads. Brown is such a smooth route runner, seems to catch everything and is so good in the open field. He is also a tireless worker, and during the offseason practices he was almost always one of the last players off the field. The extra work he puts in is a strong indication that Brown doesn't think he has arrived even though he has already made two Pro Bowls. A lot of that has to do with his not forgetting that he lasted until the sixth round of the 2010 draft. I see another big season for Brown, barring injury, though it will be tough for him to even approach the numbers he put up in 2013. @ScottBrown_ESPN: It is really tough to tell, especially with linemen like Wesley Johnson and Daniel McCullers, since the Steelers did not practice in pads. We did see Johnson's position flexibility, which will be a key to his making the 53-man roster, and he didn't back down the day the fifth-round pick and defensive end Cameron Heyward got into a fight during an 11-on-11 drills. McCullers is a project, and we will find out a lot more about him during training camp, particularly if the 6-7, 352-pounder can consistently stay low enough, something that is a challenge for a man of that size. Blanchflower looked good during the offseason practices and I think the Steelers like him. If he performs well when they put the pads on he could win a roster spot over Michael Palmer and David Paulson. At worst, I think Blanchflower makes the Steelers' practice squad. @ScottBrown_ESPN: I think Cortez Allen is the most likely of the players you listed to sign a multi-year contract. The Steelers, in my opinion, have little choice since he is the only long-term starting cornerback on the roster right now. The Steelers have not approached Jason Worilds about a new deal since he signed the one-year, $9.754 million contract they had to offer the outside linebacker when they used the transition tag on him. I think they will wait to see what he does this season, which will be his first one as a full-time starter, before offering the kind of deal Worilds is likely seeking. I think Ben Roethlisberger signs a new deal after this season since he still has two years left on his contract, and I'm wondering if the Steelers take a wait-and-see approach with Marcus Gilbert. He has been OK at right tackle but I'm not sure the Steelers make a long-term investment in him, especially since they can turn to Mike Adams if Gilberts walks after this season.

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