Not only did the Steelers draft two cornerbacks over the weekend, they also drafted two offensive linemen in the form of 2nd round draft pick Marcus Gilbert out of Florida and 6th round selection Keith Williams from Nebraska. Much like I did with my post draft look at the Steelers cornerback situation, I will now give you an early look at the Steelers offensive line as it stands today following the draft depth chart wise. The Steelers kept 9 linemen on the active roster in 2010 and may be forced to keep as many as 10 this year depending on how the free agency situation shakes out with Willie Colon.
Here is the Steelers offensive line situation as we know it today under offensive line coach Sean Kugler.
C Maurkice Pouncey – There is not really too much to be said as far as Maurkice Pouncey goes. He will really progress even more after having a full season under his belt and word is that he has fully recovered from the ankle injury suffered against the Jets in the AFC Championship game that caused him to miss the Super Bowl against the Packers. He is the rock of the Steelers offensive line going forward.
LT Max Starks – The last report in late March was that left tackle Max Starks has been medically cleared and working out in Arizona after missing the second half of the 2010 season with a neck injury. Starks is signed through 2012 and if indeed fully recovered, he should be the opening day left tackle in 2011. The drafting of tackle Marcus Gilbert will help to push Starks even harder.
RT Flozell Adams – According to recent reports, Flozell Adams has said he wants to return to play his final year under contract with the Steelers if he can start. Adams is scheduled to earn 5 million in 2011 and there was no signing bonus attached when they signed him prior to the start of the Steelers 2010 training camp. If a salary cap is put into place, the Steelers might ask him to take a pay cut though. In addition, Adams future may be tied to the status of Willie Colon whose free agency status has yet to be determined. Should Colon return to the Steelers and not be kicked inside to right guard, Adams might be set free after one season in the black in gold. Adams is still seeking a Super Bowl ring and might be enticed to stay at a lower price.
T/G Willie Colon – Before the lockout began, Colon was tendered as if he will be a restricted free agent, but that could change depending on how the labor situation pans out as he just as easily could wind up finally hitting the market as an unrestricted free agent. The Steelers are saying they want him back and Colon wants to return as well, but probably with a new 2-3 year deal. If he his retained as a restricted free agent for one season, he could be kicked inside to the unsettled right guard spot if the Adams is retained as well. If Adams is let go and Colon is retained, he is the odds on favorite to open the season at right tackle assuming he is totally healed from his Achilles injury that cost him the entire 2010 season. His status holds the answers to several questions on the 2011 offensive line depth chart. He remains the biggest wild card on the offensive line moving forward.
LG Chris Kemoeatu – 2010 was certainly not the best season that left guard Chris Kemoeatu has had with the Steelers. He is under contract through 2013 and is the odds on favorite to be the starting left guard once again in 2011. The Steelers drafted left guard Keith Williams and left tackle Marcus Gilbert this past weekend. Gilbert has played all four spots on the line, while Williams is merely a true guard. Neither figure to be ready to beat out Kemoeatu for the left guard spot out of camp so Kemoeatu should be the guy, but needs to up his level of play tremendously in 2011.
G Ramon Foster – Ramon Foster ended the season as the Steelers right guard and at worse should make the 53 man roster as a swing guard and could indeed still be in the running to keep his starting gig. His status is also tied closely to Colon and whether or not he is retained and kicked inside. He has a leg up on the rookies in regards to his in-game experience and understanding of the system, so it is hard not to see him making the 53 man roster at this point.
C/G Doug Legursky – When Pouncey was forced to sit out the Super Bowl, it gave Doug Legursky an opportunity to show he can handle the starting center job in case of emergency. He played well against the Packers and also showed he can also play both guard positions in a pinch in 2010. He is an exclusive rights free agent who almost certainly will be back as the 2011 ultimate swing interior lineman for the Steelers and backup center.
G/T Trai Essex – Although Trai Essex showed his swing capabilities at both guard and tackle in 2010, it will not be enough for the Steelers to bring him back in 2011 more than likely. He is an unrestricted free agent and could get an offer to sign elsewhere as a backup lineman. If he remains unsigned come the start of the season, he would be a phone call away should the Steelers suffer multiple injuries to the line in 2011.
T Jonathan Scott – The status of tackle Jonathan Scott could be tied to both Adams and Colon as well. Scott progressed immensely, late in the season after taking over for the injured Starks, after a very rocky start, but he is currently an unrestricted free agent and in limbo. The Steelers reportedly have had some dialogue with him prior to the lockout and should either Adams or Colon not be back in 2011, Scott could be re-signed as the swing tackle. Like Essex, if he his not brought back and does not sign elsewhere, he would only be a phone call away should disaster strike. He is serviceable and has played for offensive line coach Sean Kugler for a number of years.
T Tony Hills – The Steelers tendered restricted free agent tackle Tony Hills prior to the start of the lockout and the only guarantee is that he will be in camp. He has under performed since being drafted in the fourth round of the 2008 draft and has been a huge liability in his limited paying time. It would take some unforeseen circumstances for him to make the 53 man roster. He better take plenty of pictures while in Latrobe as it will be the last time he sees it as a member of the Steelers.
T/G Chris Scott – Is he tackle? Is he a guard? We just do not really know anything about the Steelers 2010 5th round draft pick as he missed all of training camp and pre season after injuring his foot prior to training camp while working out back in Tennessee. He remained on the Steelers PUP list until Starks was placed on injured reserve and finally got some well needed practice which was likely limited in reps. He will be in a battle with the rookie Williams for a place on the 53 man roster, but has an outside chance of making the roster depending on the status of Colon and Adams combined with the decision of if the Steelers choose to keep 9 or 10 offensive linemen this year.
T Marcus Gilbert – There is no doubt that the Steelers 2011 2nd round draft pick Marcus Gilbert will make the 53 man roster and coach Kugler has said he will train him at both tackle and guard spots once practices begin. It is hard to see him starting right out of the chute though and he will likely be a backup tackle when the season begins. The Steelers hope that by his second season that he is ready to start at either the left or right tackle spot.
G Keith Williams – The biggest area of weakness that 2011 6th round draft pick Keith Williams is his pass blocking as he is regarded as a much better run blocker coming out of college. Kugler said following his selection that he has pulling capabilities and will be trained at both guard positions when practices begin. Considering the depth issues the Steelers have at guard, I think it would take Williams falling on his face completely to not make the 53 man roster. At the very worst, he will be placed on the Steelers practice squad if he clears waivers, a move the Steelers will be very hesitant to make. His best case scenario is a quick progression under the tutelage of Kugler and winning the right guard spot with hopes he can replace Kemoeatu on the left side in 2012.
G/C Dorian Brooks – When Pouncey was placed on injured reserve for the Super Bowl, Dorian Brooks was activated to the 53 man roster after spending the season on the practice squad. He was inactive for his one game on the roster and trained to be an emergency center and swing guard in 2010. He was re-signed to the Steelers offseason roster following the season where he will once again look to compete for a position on the Steelers practice squad in training camp.
T Kyle Jolly – Like Brooks, tackle Kyle Jolly was re-signed to the offseason and will compete in training camp for a spot on the practice squad. He has zero chance at making the Steelers 53 man roster.
G Nevin McCaskill – Another offseason roster signing was guard Nevin McCaskill, who has bounced around on various practice squads since going undrafted in 2007. He is a long shot to even make to Latrobe once the Steelers start signing their rookie draft picks. Should he make it to camp, his best case scenario is winning a spot on the Steelers practice squad.