Steelers Coach Jack Bicknell Jr. Says Biggest Concern Is Developing Depth On Offensive Line

All throughout the offseason I have voiced by concerns about the Pittsburgh Steelers depth on their offensive line and on Tuesday new offensive line coach Jack Bicknell Jr. said he shares that same concern during his talk with the media.

“We have to develop some backups. That\’s my biggest concern right now,” said Bicknell following the Steelers first mandatory mini camp practice of the 2013 season. “I think the starting five will be fine, although you know, especially the two tackles, they\’re a little bit untested; they\’ve got to be able to last for a 16-game season. I think my big concern right now is developing some of these backups so that you\’re ready to at least have seven on game day and then the eighth if you need him.”

Outside of the Steelers starting five, it is clear that Kelvin Beachum is the sixth man. Beyond that point, however, is where it becomes a little cloudy as to who the seventh and eighth man will be that makes the final 53 man roster.

Right now, it appears as if Guy Whimper and Joe Long are both battling for one roster spot with John Malecki and undrafted free agent Nik Embernate possibly battling for a backup interior spot on the roster. Being as Malecki has been around the team for quite a while and can also play center in a pinch, you really have to like his odds as we sit here in June. The Whimper versus Long battle, however, will likely go on throughout training camp.

While it is hard to read too much into what Bicknell said as far as numbers go, you have to wonder if the Steelers are seriously considering only carrying eight offensive linemen on the 53 man roster instead of nine. Despite all the injuries over the course of the last several seasons, head coach Mike Tomlin has never really been afraid to dress only seven offensive lineman on game days, and I suspect the versatility of Beachum will allow him to do that again in 2013.

Should eight wind up being the final count on the 53 man roster, there\’s a chance that both Embernate and Mike Golic Jr. could be headed for the practice squad if Long makes the final cut. However, should Whimper win the backup tackle spot instead, then Long would more than likely be back on the practice squad which could mean Golic could be gone for good.

The Steelers have still yet to put the pads on; however, and Bicknell addressed that on Tuesday as well.

“This (offseason practices) is teaching everything, and once we get into preseason camp and there\’s pads on, now you get a real good semblance of what your team can do, ” said Bicknell.

I am, I'm me. 40 something, retired and a life long Steelers fan.
  • JohnnyV1

    He should be concerned, and made very good points about neither projected starting tackle making it a full 16 games, ever. They had two guys (Starks, Legursky) that got away and you just can’t win like that. You have to have a solid, versatile 6th, 7th and 8th guy, and we don’t.

  • cencalsteeler

    Well said.

  • Shea Fahr

    Perhaps the Steelers wait until the big NFL purge at the end of camp and pick up a Vet or two if the young ones cannot show something in camp. There should be enough cap space left to do so depending on what extensions if any get done.

  • 2443scott

    i really hate the words practice squads …some these rookies and line men should start getting on special teams then they would be available in a pinch ….its not like steelers had very good special teams lately so why not toss these guys in there and see what they got …many times you see guys just filling holes on special teams and walk back to side lines like they did something when they didnt ….rather see more these guys doing any thing then sit on bench or pactice squads for 3 years then on 4th say contract year with out even doing any thing

  • Shea Fahr

    I remember when Keisel would run down the field on special teams…that had to be terrifying to be the opponent.

  • SteelersDepot

    you do know that you can only carry 53 players on a roster, right?

  • cencalsteeler

    My thoughts exactly. No need to press the panic button yet, let’s see how this camp plays out, we’ll be o.k. when the dust settles.

  • RMSteeler

    IF the NFL and owners ever get their increase to an 18 game season, the players association should demand a roster increase to 60 active players plus an equal percentage increase in their cut of the increased revenue. With the seemingly increase in the number of injuries that sidline players a game or more, I think 53 is bare bones now. Yeah, there’s the practice squad, but teams seem to rather sign a FA vet from home on the couch instead.

  • Eddy

    Isn’t Ryan Lee is unsigned? He seems like a good enough player to belong on the Steelers 90 man roster and fight for a roster spot.

    Dave, any information on why teams all seem to be avoiding him?

  • Shea Fahr

    Absolutely! Put those young men in pads and set them loose. I have a feeling things will shake out just fine.

  • cencalsteeler

    Just read that Rod Woodson is helping out during camp. Hopefully the young secondary is soaking it up. It’s not every day you get to learn from the likes of Lake AND Woodson. Just awesome news!!!!

  • steeltown

    Agreed… Lake and Woodson… awesome

  • steeltown

    8 OLinemen on the 53man roster… I don’t like that one bit
    Its been discussed before, this season we will most likely only carry 4RB’s instead of 5 like we did last season and also 4 Safeties instead of 5 and maybe 6DL instead of 7… we should definitely use one of the extra roster spots on OL

    If the past has taught us anything, its that this Team needs to carry an extra LB and an extra OL player

  • Mike.H

    if you fellow Steelers fans need an upbeat mood picker upper, go to youtube and type in Chris Fu’matu Ma’lafala’s big 45yd run.

    Wowza… Great blocks by interior linemen #66, Faneca, 79, Essex and #77 Smith…

  • Stephen Dale

    Don’t disagree about lack of depth along the OL, just that , IMO, Kelvin Beachum is not one to count on to provide NFL-quality depth. there should / must be better options than him.

  • Bradys_Dad

    Losing Lego is going to come back to haunt us. Guy Whimper …. really ???

  • Chuck

    Lee was signed by the Rams. No one but the Steelers is avoiding him.

  • Ahmad

    It would be nice if we could sneak Embernate on the PS but I think he will slightly exceed expectations, forcing the Steelers to put him on the roster. In the end, I think the Steelers will be carrying 9 OL.

  • Christopher Wilkes

    There’s not going to be a huge drop-off between the 8th and 9th guy, so there very well could be only 8 guys to make the 53. I don’t see it happening though. We take 9, Whimper gets the boot, and Golic gets sent to the practice squad.

  • Anthony G

    Beachum filled in quite a bit at various spots last year and was more than solid in doing so. He’s the one backup that I’m no the least bit concerned about.

  • Rob

    Wexell, unless Whimper improves dramatically from his past record which ranked him as the 74th best tackle in the league I don’t think he has anything locked up. I hope one of the younger guys on the team is able to perform at a higher level than him. This guy seems like he will do as well as Mahem or what ever his name was from the recent past.

  • Fu-Schnickens

    Yeah but Fu didn’t need much blocking…dude was massive

  • Fu-Schnickens

    Hey cencal, where you hail from? SLO? SB? or inland?