On Saturday we saw yet another shuffle of the Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line as Marcus Gilbert was flipped from right tackle to left tackle due to the knee injury suffered by rookie Mike Adams Thursday night. Taking the place of Gilbert on the first team at right tackle was Ramon Foster, who has predominantly played guard since making the team as an undrafted free agent back in 2009. This move has been termed by a few as being creative, but instead it is clearly a move out of necessity, and really just plain old desperation.
The move of Foster to tackle also signifies the lack of trust the coaching staff has in Trai Essex, and if you saw his performance Thursday night, you certainly can understand why. The Steelers are tackle poor right now as they wait for veteran Max Starks to come off the PUP list and Adams to heal. While offensive line coach Sean Kugler could get away with shifting Willie Colon back over to right tackle for the second preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts, it would side track the transition Colon is trying to make to left guard. Keep in mind that Colon had to sit out Thursday night against the Philadelphia Eagles with a minor ankle injury.
Although Kugler talked about working Gilbert some at left tackle during the OTA sessions this past offseason, it was only enough work in case the Steelers ran into a “break the glass” type moment like they are in right now with both Adams and Starks unable to play. When you look at the roster and the remaining possible tackle-types on it, you see Essex, Chris Scott, Kyle Jolly and rookie Kelvin Beachum. We discussed Essex already and the other three had just as bad of showings Thursday night when each them played outside. In reality, Scott and Beachum are really guard types moving forward, not tackles and Jolly is just a third team body.
Foster played right tackle back in college, so he is the best option that Kugler has right now other than putting Colon there. It is a preseason game, so Foster can expect a full half of work on the right protecting Ben Roethlisberger while he is in the game. Should Foster play well at the position, it further solidifies his spot on the roster this year because of guard and tackle position flexibility he would have. Should he not, he will remain just a swing type guard option just like Doug Legursky. The difference is that Legursky can also play center.
The timing of the Adams injury, like most injuries, did not come at a good time. Until either he or Starks is ready to go, the Steelers will turn to desperate measures on the offensive line and that is something that Kugler is pretty used to by now. This is not creativity from him, just desperation.