The Pittsburgh Steelers normally like to carry eight or nine offensive linemen on their 53 man roster during the season. As we sit here in March, they only have six linemen under contract that we can pencil in as definitely making the roster.
Once you get past Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, Marcus Gilbert, Mike Adams, Ramon Foster and Kelvin Beachum, it makes you wonder who the other two or three players will be that will round out the group.
For starters, the Steelers still do not have a clear-cut backup center on the roster that can also serve as an interior guard swingman. Doug Legursky is still an unsigned unrestricted free agent, and while it is possible that he might ultimately be re-signed, he is a known liability at both of the guard positions. Sure, John Malecki is under contract, but he has long been regarded by many as being Legursky-lite. He has a lot to prove in training camp this year. Unless the Steelers plan on developing Beachum to be the ultimate five position swingman, this needs to be addressed between now and the draft.
What about a third tackle? Do the Steelers have one on their roster right now? Beachum played right tackle last season due to injuries to both Gilbert and Adams. Long-term, however, he looks to be more of an interior guy that can play right tackle in a pinch and playing left tackle has to certainly be out of the question for him, even though that was his primary position at SMU.
The re-signing of Foster was a smart choice. His position flexibility and durability likely made that decision an easy one. He showed in the season finale against the Cleveland Browns, and even early in the year during the preseason, that he could play right tackle in addition to both guard spots. But do the Steelers really regard him or Beachum as the third tackle on the team?
What about Max Starks? Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette wrote on Tuesday that the Steelers didn\’t seem to have interest in bringing him back, and besides, Starks said after the season ended that he still thinks that he can start and that he is not interested in returning to Pittsburgh as a backup. We will see if both sides change their tune after the draft, but as of right now, it seems unlikely that he will be back.
The Steelers reportedly called about Jake Long prior to him signing with the St. Louis Rams, but that call was likely made to find out if he had somehow been marked down by accident, as there is no way he could have been afforded otherwise. His brother Joe Long was signed by the Steelers late last season to the practice squad, but he will never be confused for his bother and figures to be a training camp body at this point.
The free agent tackle market is pretty thin right now. Eric Winston, who played for new offensive line coach Jack Bicknell Jr. last season with the Kansas City Chiefs, is currently available, but his price tag is likely to high.
Unless Legursky and a reliable free agent tackle are signed between now and draft day, you would think that both of these positions will remain in play during the draft. Position flexibility will be a must for an interior lineman, should one be drafted. Would this mean that Jonathan Cooper could still be in play in the first round? I\’m still not ready to rule that out as a possibility, especially if Legursky remains unsigned. Cooper can play all three interior positions and it would allow Foster and Beachum to be the backup right tackle. Whoever starts at right tackle, be it Gilbert or Adams, would be the backup to other one at left tackle. That makes sense.
So while the 2013 Steelers offensive line is shaping up to be a good one, they are still a few missing pieces that need to be added between now and training camp.