By Jeremy Hritz
Dave Bryan wrote an interesting article the other day about the availability of Alabama guard Chance Warmack at number 17 when the Pittsburgh Steelers make their pick in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft. While the Steelers have invested heavily in the offensive line over the last several years, including last year’s selection of David DeCastro, it seems probable that the player that Mike Mayock called the “best player in the draft” will be available to become a member of the black and gold offensive line.
While it may seem unlikely that the Steelers would burn another draft pick on the offensive line in the first round in 2013, the pick may make more sense than it does at first glance.
There is no question that there are numerous question marks on offense, especially at wide receiver, running back, and due to injury, tight end. However, the likelihood of a first year skill player setting the league on fire is not guaranteed. If the Steelers selected Warmack at number seventeen, not only will the Steelers have guaranteed a line that could play together for several years, but they could field what could be one of the elite offensive lines in football, and the impact of such a line could compensate for some of the areas of need at the skill positions.
Ideally, an offensive line composed of Mike Adams, Warmack, Maurkice Pouncey, DeCastro, and Marcus Gilbert would afford Ben Roethlisberger time to throw the football that he has never enjoyed during his career, not only addressing his injury history, but also giving his receivers more time to get open. Additionally, the issues that the team has experienced running the football last year could potentially dissolve as they would have an offensive line at least with the tremendous potential of creating running lanes. Selecting the Warmack in the first round would still enable the Steelers to pick up a wide receiver and a running back in the later rounds.
The biggest question here is whether or not the Steelers see enough value in Warmack to pull the trigger at 17. With the rumblings that Kelvin Beachum will move to left guard, the Steelers may feel confident moving in another direction in the first round; however, will any player they select at 17 be able to have the type of impact that Warmack could have? The complexity of the defense will make it difficult for an outside or inside linebacker to come in and start year one, so why would the team use a pick knowing that the emphasis is on winning now? And is there that much of a gap between receivers forecasted to be selected in the first and second round this year? Not much. And as far as selecting a running back in the first round, based on the outcome of the selection of Rashard Mendenhall years back, it is unlikely the Steelers will do so this April.
Does this mean that the Steelers will select Warmack? No. But the longer you examine the context of the pick and secondary effects, it begins to make a great deal of sense.
Investing in another early pick on the offensive line can extend Roethlisberger’s career. And the longer that he is in Pittsburgh and healthy, the more opportunities that the Steelers will have to bring home more championships.
Hopefully the “Chance” is there for the Steelers in April.