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.