Lack Of Depth On The Steelers Offensive Line Still Exists Following The Draft

One of the two main arguments that I made for the Pittsburgh Steelers drafting North Carolina guard Jonathan Cooper in the first round of the 2013 NFL draft, should have fallen, was the fact that there is no solid depth on the teams offensive line. Cooper of course didn\’t fall, nor did Chance Warmack for that matter, so the same depth issue exists now that the draft is completed.

The Steelers starting five is set, but the players that will make up the bottom end of the offensive line depth chart is anything but that. Currently, the sixth offensive lineman appears to Kelvin Beachum, the Steelers seventh-round draft pick from last year. Outside of some poor play at both left tackle and left guard last preseason, Beachum only managed to see playing time, albeit extended, at right tackle last year in the regular season.

Now, there had been talk last season that Beachum could eventually be groomed to be the backup center, and for that matter, the ultimate swing offensive lineman capable of playing all five positions on the offensive, but as for now, none of that has happened. Will that begin during the OTA sessions? We shall see.

Outside of Beachum, the Steelers also currently have John Malecki on the roster. Malecki can play both guard spots as well as center, but can he play those positions well enough to warrant being the seventh man on the Steelers offensive line? No offense to him, but from what I have seen so far, I have my doubts.

Behind both Beachum and Malecki now currently sits a group of interior linemen that consists of futures players and undrafted free agents. Of that group, only Joe Madsen, Mike Golic Jr. and Ivory Wade, according to my research, have experience at the center position. The chances of one of those three making the 53 man roster right now would appear to be unlikely, but I won\’t rule it out until I get to see each of them play. If one of them were to make the final roster, you would think that he would have to get work at center during the preseason.

So what are the other options that the Steelers have as far as a backup guard/center. Doug Legursky remains a free agent, but this is the same player that forced the Steelers to temporarily move starting center Maurkice Pouncey to left guard last season after Willie Colon went down injured. Legursky is a liability at both guard spots and I am pretty sure that the Steelers coaching staff is well aware of that by now.

Another option could be free agent offensive lineman Antoine Caldwell, who the Steelers had in for a visit earlier in the month. The former third-round draft pick of the Houston Texans can play both guard and center and also has experience playing in a zone blocking scheme that the Steelers figure to use more of in 2013. Perhaps his asking price is too high right now or perhaps he was waiting to see how the draft went for several other teams that might have interest in his services before making a decision to sign somewhere.

As far as the backup tackle spot goes, I have already mentioned that Beachum will more than likely make the roster, but beyond that, you would figure the Steelers would want at least one more tackle capable player on the roster. While general manager Kevin Colbert has recently said that the team hasn\’t closed the door yet on veteran Max Starks possibly returning, he would have to do so knowing that he would have to play for the minimum and that he wouldn\’t be a starter. Starks said late last year that he would be open to returning to Pittsburgh in 2013, but not as a backup. For now, we will just have to wait and see how that situation pans out, but he would be my main target if I were Colbert.

The good news, as far as the tackle position goes, is that we found out last year in both the preseason and the regular season that starting guard Ramon Foster can play right tackle in a pinch. Add that to the fact that both Marcus Gilbert and Mike Adams are considered to be left tackle capable by the coaching staff, and perhaps it means the Steelers think that there is a possibility for them to carry only eight offensive linemen on the 53 man roster this year.

It\’s still early in the offseason, but I have a feeling that at least one experienced interior lineman that can play center will be signed to the roster at some point prior to training camp. Will it be Caldwell or Legursky, or do they have someone else in mind?

  • Jefferson_St_Joe

    It’s clear they will need to add depth at tackle. Starks wuold be nice. Jonathan Scott, not so much.

  • hergieburbur

    This was the one area I felt we completely ignored in the draft, after spending so much on it the past few years. We are solid at the top, but injuries could derail us in a hurry.

  • hergieburbur

    Gaahh! You scared me. When I first looked at your post all I saw was Assblock Scott. 🙂

  • steeltown

    Ivory Wade is my early favorite,of the undrafted players.. he’s played multiple positions and has a lot of experience….. I could also see Legursky re-signed if John Malecki fails to impress

  • steeltown

    Starks would be nice

    Also currently Foster and Beachum can both serve as backup RT… LT is the issue, lets hope Gilbert and Adams both show promise in camp at LT, that way whomever wins the spot, the other can be kicked over (serve as backup LT) if one is injured.. and let Foster or Beachum play on the right side.

    After the first 4 Rds of the draft, which we used to fortify other positions, the OL talent is drastically reduced in terms of depth and overall grade. Any one of the UDFA’s we signed could possibly serve as depth (think Foster or Legursky)

    Again, Im reaching here, but undrafted player Ivory Wade, listed as an interior lineman has also started at OT in college, versatility is a nice thing to have, but I’ll wait till I hear some positive feed back in camp

  • hergieburbur

    That is what I am hoping/expecting.

  • charles

    I think O-line is in very good shape. Starks played exceptionally well last year, we would be wise to resign him. You are right about a possible backup to Pouncey, and barring major injury there could very well be a dominating group here with 3 possible pro bowlers.

  • G/C depth is really a Glaring need to me and it was not addressed….Legursky is NOT the answer here. The guy can play one spot which is Center. We already have a Legursky in John Malecki. They need to bring in a guy who can move like he is not running in wet concrete and preferably has extensive experience in a zone block scheme. Caldwell could fit the bill if his back issues are behind him. They may wait to see who else gets flushed off rosters now that the draft is over as well. As far as Starks goes, we have Adams, Gilbert, Beachum and Foster in a pinch so I am thinking that Max will not be in training camp.

  • zyzak

    He did? Then why don’t they want him?

  • Nolrog

    I agree completely that we need OL depth, but Warmack and Cooper aren’t depth guys. They are starters. That’s why I didn’t think there was any chance we’d draft them.Honestly, I was very surprised that they didn’t draft any OL depth at all. That’s really a bigger need than a 3rd string QB.

  • dgh57

    I think we came close to drafting a backup o-lineman in between our 2 4th rd. picks. Barrett Jones was taken off the boards soon after us by the Rams! If he slid to our 2nd 4th rd. pick I think we draft him instead(just a theory of mine) of QB Landry Jones.

  • hergieburbur

    Do some research, he did. They don’t want him because of age and money. This isn’t Madden. you can’t always keep the best guy at every spot, especially with young guys waiting in the wings. Then, there is the fact that they have said repeatedly they might re-sign him down the line.

  • I do not think money or pass blocking or even age was the issue but instead his abilities in the run game…definitely not the most mobile guy on his feet which is clearly where the team is heading.

  • hergieburbur

    That is part of it too, but we are such a heavily right handed running time (I forget the number but it is like 70-75%), that I don’t think it was the major factor. At least not specific to running. Zone blocking, now that is a different story, he isn’t mobile enough for that overall. But then, some people can’t understand how schemes change from year to year.

  • zyzak

    That’s right, he’s too slow run blocking, he was not exceptional at anything. Check pro football focus

  • Eric MacLaurin

    I wouldn’t limit salary to the league minimum but I also would be trying to get a starting guard with Foster moving into the backup slots for most of the line positions. I think it is worth overpaying to have foster as the replacement guy.

  • Kevin Gobleck

    I really like the guy from WVU i think he has good potential to him

  • hergieburbur

    We don’t run to the left very much. And he graded out as the second best OL we have behind Pouncey IIRC. He isn’t mobile enough for the zone, is older, and expensive. Yet, they are still open to his return. Dave has put up a ton of articles on this. I guess you missed them.

  • LucasY59

    I would’ve been very happy if that had happened!

  • I think you are kind of answering your own question when you say we never run to the left. Why do you think that is? That was the goal last year before Decastro at right guard was injured…to pull to the left. Now that Colon is gone, we now need a left guard that can effectively pull as well and Foster has not shown he can consistently do it. That is why some of us are concerned with the lack of depth at the Guard/Center position. Tackle is fine for now.

  • hergieburbur

    Keep in mind, we have been a right handed running team since the days when Smith and Faneca were on the left, if not longer. Being right handed is not from Starks, but more likely allows Starks to play LT for us at all.

    And I am with you on C/G, they are much more shallow than OT. We have 4 guys that could play OT if needed.

  • SteelersDepot

    Duh!!!!!!!!! Foster would become the depth. Does that REALLY need to be spelled out for you?

  • LucasY59

    I was a little disappointed that they didn’t sign OT’s Xavier Nixon, Luke Marquardt, Chris Faulk, or John Wetzel as UDFA’s. IMO Tackle was much more of a need than G/C (sign Legursky back) the only OT UDFA they signed was Farrell and it looks like he is just a camp body, but they signed 5 G/C’s? (most being camp bodies) would also be nice if they could get last years UDFA Ryan Lee back from the Saints

    My guess is they will bring back Starks, he hasn’t received interest from any other teams. (he should be willing to come back, and if he wins the LT spot then he starts, if he doesn’t he’s the backup and he shouldn’t complain about being beat out. he’s not old enough to retire, so he should play for 2-3 years even if it is as a backup)

  • Steelers want to run to the LEFT too now…ok?

  • Nolrog

    You can’t expect to have an offensive line completely filled with high round draft picks and expect the skill positions not to suck. There has to be a balance. This is exactly the position we found ourselves in. The starting OL is fine. Foster is a decent guard. As you said, we need depth. You get depth later in the draft.

  • steeltown

    I see potential in him to.. and the OT from Penn St Mike Farrell

  • dgh57

    I had posted earlier that if we draft Cooper/Warmack that we kill 2 birds with 1 stone!! Why? Because your backup in Foster was already on the roster! They came close to drafting a backup o-lineman between our two 4th rd. picks when the Rams took Barrett Jones just a few picks later. I believe that was their intended target with their 2nd 4th rd. pick! But B. Jones wouldn’t of been needed if Cooper/Warmack were drafted.

  • dgh57

    How will the skill positions suck? We drafted Bell & Wheaton! Then next years draft we’ll get maybe more skill position players, and so on! There is no guarantee that Gilbert and Adams will ever see their 2nd contract with this team and I’m inclined to think they won’t!

  • David Edward

    I think they will bring back Starks after June 1 unless some other team suddenly thinks they need to make him a good offer (which is unlikely). Otherwise, Starks would have to wait until someone gets hurt in camp and a team needs him…maybe he is banking on that but I doubt it. Here’s how I see the OL situation shaping up heading into camp…
    Pouncey and DeCastro are set at C and RG. Foster is the frontrunner for LG but Beachum will get a shot there too (and they might give Beachum a try at C so that he can become a Trai Essex-type and backup everywhere). Gilbert and Adams will get time at both LT and RT. Malecki is the Legursky and is probably a better G than Leg but not as good at C. They sign Starks as insurance. There’s the 8 OL, and they keep one more from the undrafted group…Embernate is the frontrunner, but one of the C’s has a good shot provided they can handle the other interior positions as well. Also, they will keep options open to see who gets cut after June 1 and possibly bring in a vet or two. I guess, in summation, it would surprise me if they didn’t bring in a vet one way or another after June 1, whether it be Starks or someone else.

  • hergieburbur

    You misunderstand me, I am not campaigning for Starks at all. I am saying why he was successful in previous years and the older offense we ran. I have actually been pretty critical of their right handedness, and did a couple of posts about how staying to the right so much made them predictable and easy to stop last year. Teams knew they could cheat to the side, and that was a problem.

  • Bill Bob

    The OL is fair at best foster would be a good backup but is not a good starter If cooper was there they would have drafted him. I do hope the UDFA’s show something. They will add a veteran OL before training camp.

    From watching a lot of video of Landry Jones he seems to have a good arm and moves well in the pocket steps up when he needs to

    Accurate with his throws and has an upside. Understands how to get the ball out fast to his receivers in the type of offense Hayley wants to run and Ben does not want to run. I know this is going to make people mad but in a couple years he may be a good backup and be a better fit at QB. Ben has taken a beating holding the ball to long he may force Ben to embrace the system.

  • SteelSpine

    Yep, before I saw this headline I had been thinking we ignored OL. It’s because we had many positions of high need, more high needs than draft picks in 1st 3 rounds, we weren’t going to get immed help at some needs. Even thru round 7 we had other needs in addition to OL.

    Another need didn’t fill for same reason of had so many other needs, is DE. Ziggy becomes a FA, dunno if Heyward will earn a next contract from Steelers, & Keisel is on last legs. So need at-least 1 (probly 2) new DE to groom now to start at DE in 2014. Sure we drafted a developmental DE late, he has great tools, but so green that we cannot now count on him starting at DE beginning 2014.

    I figured whichever needs we don’t draft we’ll have to take our chances with what we already have. There’s no basis to feel comfortable about our OL, because our OL has not yet shown to be good. The posts of our “solid OL” are only hopes. And Adams being “left tackle capable” is yet to be seen in games because thusfar on passblocking he’s been a matador, so maybe that was in private in fronta coaches. Yes I know Adams was a rookie. But not solid passblocker until it shows in games.

  • SteelSpine

    I agree. I think the loser of LG battle betw Foster & Beachum gets to compete for RT (against Adams/Gilbert). It’s early for Beachum to be any starter, but he developed at end of last year at RT – showed he deserves a chance to compete for LG sooner than later. If by chance Beachum is developed enough to start at LG, I think Foster is more suited for RT than LG because Foster has length for OT but lacks nimble feet to pull at G.

  • Nolrog

    They won’t now (or the problems are lessened), because we addressed them. They did before the draft because we kept spending 1s and 2s on the lines for the last 4 years.

  • Nolrog

    You don’t draft a starter when you need a back up. By that logic, we should have drafted the best QB available to start for us because we needed a back up QB or traded up to get Vacarro to start for us because we needed a back up safety.Obviously absurd. We drafted Jarvis Jones to start for us, because our pass rushing has been terrible for the last 2 years (directly resulting in a lack of turn overs.) But instead of addressing that critical need, you would have drafted a starting guard so we could have a back up.

  • Exactly.

  • Stephen Dale

    As David said, some of the UFDA’s will be looked to for depth and 2-3 of them may well stand a chance to make the PS ( Embernate and Wade come to mind).

  • steeltown

    I have a feeling they will retain Hood after this season.. and he shouldnt break the bank either. So, Hood and Heyward will be the starters in 2014..I think Heyward will impress when given the reins, that being said, depth is needed. Yes, McLendon can kick over, but we need more depth and I expect them to draft a DE in the early-mid Rds next year (to replace Al Woods) and to groom along with N.Williams

    I think they might bring in a vet FA OL at some point and being that Foster and Beachum can play Tackle, they might consider Legursky or Antoine Caldwell. Although I am excited to see a few of the UDFA’s compete in camp

  • JDR

    early for Beachum to start? he did last year after the 35th injury to the OL, everybody on the line beside Beachum and Foster are 1st or 2nd rounders.. Ben will get his buddy Starks to come back and there you go, how many more linemen do we need?
    people who dont know shit like to talk shit on starks, yet he’s been the best(at times) and most consistant OT we’ve had. I dont get the Starks hate, he does his job well and hasnt spent near as much time injured as the rest of the ol, he has saved a couple seasons the past few, even after they tried their hardest to rid him… he and Ben are best friends and that means a lot when you’re counting on a guy to cover your blind side, we can only hope Starks comes back

  • JDR

    if he wasnt from st pen you wouldnt give 2 shits about him…tired of these ped st and wvu scrubs taking up space and the yinzers that cry for them to stay…pediphile st sucks and hasnt been good for a while, wvu is 2nd rate and will never have a winning season till they get out of the big 12, their midgets from their gimmick offense will do nothing in the nfl, realize it and you be able to make clearer judgements

  • Did the Steelers think they would lose Schmarko Thomas to the Raiders, Rams, or Cowboys if they waited to pick him with their fourth round pick? Or did they trade up because they saw two available talents that warranted the trade? If so, I can’t believe that Landry Jones was the 2nd of those talents! Nor did Colbert and Tomlin act like they couldn’t wait to select him. In their first four picks, they submitted the picks as soon as they were on the clock. They would have acted likewise if Landry Jones was the target they traded a 3rd round pick in 2014 to snag. Instead they dithered before making the selection (I WISH they would have taken Khaseem Greene!).

    Between their first and second fourth round picks, The Raiders took QB Tyler Wilson, the Rams took Barrett Jones, and the Cowboys grabbed CB B.W. Webb. The latter two were highly regarded for positions of need. I suggest the Steelers were hoping for one of these and goofed. Perhaps they thought that of the four (Thomas, Barrett Jones, Webb, and possibly Wilson if they had their eyes on him, which I doubt), that Thomas stood the least likelihood of being available for their second 4th round pick. Sadly, I think they fumbled their Jones’s and lost. Your thoughts?

  • JDR

    drafting a 3rd string qb instead of John Simon will hurt for a while, especially now that he plays for the purple browns… you cant have enough good pass rushers, and another season of being fat lazy and injured Woodley needs to go, actually Worlids looked pretty good at Woodleys spot (or wooodley was that bad) and I’d like to see worlds at lolb and Jones at rolb, who says thats not the plans anyway?

  • JDR

    for most of them, yes… you dont have to know anything or actually played football to write stupid comments on a football message board… the fact we’re talking on a computer, leaves open the tendency that most posters are nerds, old people or women, and got this “computer” thing to work… these are the people that bring the ire and hate of other teams’ fans upon us and make it seem that all steeler fans are a bunch of half wit hillbilly yinzers.. these are the people who booed Bradshaw, the people who think we are a running team even though we have one of the elite QB’s to ever play… we havent been a running team since the Mel Blount rule, we won the last 2 superbowls of the 70’s with a high powered passing offense, went to 2 superbowls under Cowher as passing teams (the O’Donnell team was the first to run 5 wides and the team that won was carried through the playoffs by our franchise QB)… we ran more than passed much of the 80’s for lack of a QB..

  • mokhkw

    I’ve been thinking that resigning Starks – should he not land anywhere else like Ari – would be a no-brainer but with the change to a Zone scheme & his age I’m starting to think they make look at other alternatives.

    As mentioned earlier, they’ve had Caldwell ( OG-C ex Texans) in for a visit recently and they also had him in about a year ago as a RFA. I believe he will be signed at some point in lieu of Legursky.
    IMO the Texans have had the best OL in the last 3 years and if he is brought in may very well bump Foster from the starting line-up. As we’re aware, Foster can fill in at OT if need be, he was an OT in college.
    Could it be that the Steelers are planning to sign Caldwell & expect him to beat out Foster for the LG spot? That would mean that Foster could back-up OT & G & Caldwell would replace Pouncey if he got injured. Usually the Steelers dress 7 OL but if the above was to play out it would be possible to dress 6 – risky as that is – and still cover any injury that may occur. Multiple injuries would be another thing of course.
    If they did dress 7 then it’s likely Beachum would be the 7th OL.

  • dgh57

    You draft a STARTER to be a STARTER!!! It’s as plain and simple as that!!! Foster is a serviceable starter only and a backup if Cooper/Warmack are drafted!!! Sure we needed to improve the pass rush but last I looked we also needed to improve the RUN GAME!!! It STUNK to high heaven last year! Is not improving the run game more critical? It improves your time of possession and keeps your defense off the field and rested!!

  • JDR

    these are the people who bitch everytime ben even throws an incompletion, they live to have something to bitch about… they waited 21 years for a real QB since Bradshaw and some of these schmucks are ready to just give up on him?
    they are the reason no young people stay in the area. i cant even stand to watch a game around them (even my parents or in laws) and when i meet people who are fans that didnt grow up in pittsburgh area, they cant believe this is how they really are.. they ask “is everybody like that up there?” i have to tell them no…some are worse, but you’ll never see them as they never go more than 10 miles from the place they were born. I think the Rooney rule was created because of the shame Rooney felt being around some of the most bigotted rednecks anywhere… you know, the people who want a coach fired who has gone to 2 superbowls in his 1st 4 years as a coach, that deflect any positives he has done and credit the last guy whos gutless aproach cost us a few more trips to the SB

  • dgh57

    Neither did it before the draft! We draft Cooper/Warmack starter and backup(Foster) both solved!! Next we draft Bell & Wheaton skill positions solved(or at least partially) Without a solid o-line up front it doesn’t matter if you have Jerry Rice and Emmit Smith both in your backfield your offense is going to be sluggish! I saw 1 stat that said our running game was near the bottom at 1.7 yards before a RB was touched!! That needs to be improved on and a solid line up front will improve that. IT ALL STARTS UP FRONT!!!!!!!!!