The 2012 NFL draft is now complete and the Pittsburgh Steelers added three offensive linemen in the form of Stanford guard David DeCastro, Ohio State tackle Mike Adams and guard Kelvin Beachum as part of their nine selections. With the draft and free agency now behind us, it is time to take the yearly look at the state of the Steelers offensive line moving forward into the offseason workouts.
Maurkice Pouncey – Pouncey is entering his third season now and is already a two time Pro Bowl center. The left ankle that caused him to miss Super Bowl XLV against the Green Bay Backers and the Wild Card game last year against Denver Broncos has been surgically repaired this offseason and all signs point to him being ready to go full speed when training camp gets underway. Pouncey is the rock and leader of the offensive line and he should have no problems picking up the offense and gap schemes that new offensive coordinator Todd Haley institutes. Pouncey is great with his line calls and only the injury bug can prevent him from having his best year yet. He will have no problems adjusting to whoever lines up on either side of him at guard.
Willie Colon – Colon was the picture of health his first four seasons in the league, but the injury bug has cost him all but one game the last two seasons. Colon tore his Achilles prior to the start of the 2010 training camp and that cost him that entire the season. Last year he suffered a torn triceps in the first game against the Baltimore Ravens and he was placed on injured reserve yet again. He is reportedly 100% recovered now and ready to start the season at right tackle. The only way that doesn\’t happen is if the rookie Adams is somehow deemed ready by the end of training camp to start at left or right tackle. Should that be the case, the mythical move inside to right guard could take place. It would be pretty shocking for Adams to be ready to start by then, so look for Colon to be the week one right tackle, a position he excelled at prior to being plagued by injuries.
Marcus Gilbert – Gilbert took over at right tackle in week two of his rookie year after Colon went down for season and that is where he stayed. He needed shoulder surgery this past offseason and was told to be prepared to be the left tackle this upcoming season. All signs point to him opening up on the left side unless the aforementioned rookie Adams is ready to play left tackle week one and that is a long shot to happen. At worst Gilbert starts the season at right tackle if Adams pulls off a miracle. The long term future for Gilbert is likely at right tackle assuming Adams develops, but he will need to hold down the left side until Adams is ready.
David DeCastro – It is hard to imagine the rookie not being a week one starter at one of the guard positions. With all likelihood it will be at the right guard spot and only changes if Colon is forced to kick inside because of an emergence of Adams. Like I said, that is a very unlikely scenario to unfold out of training camp, but I am not willing to rule it completely. The only other way DeCastro starts on the left side and not the right is if the Steelers determine that Ramon Foster is best suited to play right guard, where he started at most of last season. DeCastro of course would have to be playing left guard for that to happen. It is not out of the question for him to be the week one starting left guard, but I have a feeling they want him on the right side at least initially. I hate to use the cliché “plug and play rookie”, but that is what he is. He\’s that good.
Ramon Foster – Foster is most likely going to be a week one starter at one of the two guard positions and the best guess coming out of the draft is that it will be on the left side with DeCastro taking over the position that he played more than adequately last year. Foster is certainly not as an accomplished move guard as DeCastro, but when asked to trap in 2011, he was more than adequate. He started at left guard against the Seattle Seahawks in week two last year when Chris Kemoeatu was sidelined with a balky knee and he played very well. The only way Foster is not a week one starter hinges on the development of Adams. If you are placing bets, bet Foster starts week one at left guard.
Doug Legursky – With the addition of DeCastro, it now seems that Legursky is likely to return to his role as the swing interior lineman, and more importantly the backup center. He can play all three interior positions in a pinch and that versatility can not be understated. Legursky also still possesses great short area quickness and has been known to get a snap or two every now and again at fullback in short yardage and goal line situations. He will dress for every game, but likely will not start or play unless an injury occurs. He is an asset to the team in more ways than one.
Mike Adams – I discussed Adams so much above I forget to post his own bit. You know the story with him. He has all of the tools that need to be organized inside the tool box. He lacks core strength and needs to dedicate himself more to his profession now. He has great feet and a nice kick. He is agile enough to go second level when needed. While he could initially get looks at right tackle, he has played left the most and the Steelers hope he is the long term solution there. Speed rushers will be his nemesis like most tackles in the league. He presented great enough value in the second round for the Steelers to stick their neck out for him after he showed them he wanted to be back on their draft board. He has a high ceiling, but it is up to him whether or not he wants to achieve it. I doubt he is ready by week one and he would figure to be inactive for the first few weeks. He could surprise though and the upside would be that he could start week one at left tackle. Pre season will tell us a lot about where he and his head is at.
Trai Essex – Essex was brought back on a one year deal and looks as trim and fit as he ever has. Like Legursky he has position flexibility and can play all five positions on the offensive line in a pinch. The Steelers no longer consider him a starter, but he is pretty good odds to make the 53 man roster at this point with the experience and versatility that he brings to the table. He will of course have to earn his roster spot in training camp and I am willing to bet he does just that. It will be interesting to see how all of his conditioning has helped him this year at training camp.
Jonathan Scott – Scott really appears to be on the outside of the bubble looking in right now after the draft and his $2.2 million base salary in 2012 is a huge thing that the Steelers can\’t overlook. He is not starter material and is a huge liability at left tackle. He is a backup right tackle at best, and baring an injury, will be a long shot to make the 53 man roster. There is an outside chance that he could get released prior to training camp starting.
Chris Scott – Scott will likely make it to training camp, but that will likely be the end of the road for the Steelers 2010 fifth round draft pick. He was given every opportunity last year in training camp and the preseason to win the right guard spot and disappointed. He is not right tackle material either and his best shot at sticking with the Steelers would be by making the practice squad. I am not holding my breath for that to happen.
Trevis Turner -Turner is a big boy and it is hard to deliver a solid analysis of him based on the limited preseason tape we have on him from last year. Based on what I did see, he is at best a swing tackle and he could be a surprise at training camp with a year under his belt on the practice squad. If Jonathan Scott is not in the Steelers plans as a backup in 2012, there figures to be a swing tackle spot that could be up for grabs depending on how many linemen will be retained. He could also be an option for another year on the practice squad as well.
John Malecki – I like to call Malecki, “Legursky light”. He is now considered a guard/center type after learning the center position last year. He will be a huge long shot to make the 53 man roster and will need to show his versatility in the preseason to have a shot to return to the practice squad again. Like Turner, we just do not have a lot of preseason tape on him, especially against good competition to properly break down his play. He is regarded as a hard worker and I look forward to watching him play again in the preseason.
Kelvin Beachum - The undersized left tackle will move inside after being drafted by the Steelers. He is unique in that he has long legs and a short torso and that allowed him to play tackle at SMU. He is not a strong trap blocker or agile in open space. He does use the lower half of his body well for leverage and that will help him when moving inside. He can long snap reportedly so that is a plus, but it is hard to see him beating out Greg Warren. When you don\’t hear the name of Warren talked about a lot it is usually a good thing. Beachum is a project, and based on the numbers, his best bet is to spend a year on the practice squad. Stranger things have happened, but it will take one hell of a training camp to beat out a guy like Essex.
Desmond Stapleton – He is the younger brother of Darnell Stapleton and was signed as an undrafted free agent. He has a thin frame and is short on core power and strength. He was one of the last linemen in and that usually ends with them being the first linemen out. I do not believe he is even practice squad material based on the little tape I have seen of him at Rutgers.
Ryan Lee – Lee is a left guard from Furman and the only tape I saw on him was his game against Florida. I must admit he moves good and appeared to hold his own against top notch competition. That being said, his best shot would be to make the practice squad.
Post Draft Prediction 53 Man Roster Offensive Linemen
C Maurkice Pouncey
LT Marcus Gilbert
RT Willie Colon
RG David DeCastro
LG Ramon Foster
G/C Doug Legursky
T Mike Adams
G/T Trai Essex
T Travis Turner