Steelers Early Offseason Positional Draft Needs – Interior OL

By Matthew Marczi

Ask any Pittsburgh Steelers fan now and he’ll tell you that the offseason began way too early for their team, which even according to team president Art Rooney II should have been in the playoffs.

If you asked that same fan at the Bye Week for their mock draft, however, they might have already had written up as the Steelers faced a seemingly unthinkable winless September to start the year.

There’s always somebody ready to start talking about the offseason, no matter how early on it is in the process. And in the middle of January, it’s still quite early to start talking about the draft—not that there’s nothing wrong with that. Here’s a pre-free agency, pre-salary cap purging look at the Steelers’ draft needs, position by position.

The starting interior offensive line might be the greatest strength that the Steelers have on their team right now, projecting a healthy and capable Maurkice Pouncey after tearing his ACL early in the first game of the season. David DeCastro and Ramon Foster are both quality guards, while the former has the potential to become an All-Pro at the position.

Pittsburgh had some quality interior depth last season, which they desperately needed, but they’re all currently free agents. With a couple of simple re-signings, there will be no relevance to this position for the Steelers come draft time.

Maurkice Pouncey: Pouncey is a three-time Pro Bowler and a three-time All-Pro—once first-team—in four seasons, with the fourth season being limited to eight snaps due to the aforementioned injury. Should he come back healthy and ready to play, he would truly solidify perhaps the greatest strength currently on the team.

David DeCastro: DeCastro showed a lot of the potential that made him a first rounder last year, at times dominating opponents in the running game. While he started off slow and later dealt with and played through injury, he finished the year being named a Pro Bowl alternate.

Ramon Foster: Foster quietly had the best year of his career, and was probably the best lineman on the team in 2013. He had a great season in pass protection, and he showed increased mobility in the running game. He is a deserving starter that doesn’t need to be upgraded.

David Snow: A late-season injury replacement signing, David Snow spent a couple of games on the roster at the end of the year, but he’s not likely to make the team, and comes with no dead money.

Chris Hubbard: One of several undrafted free agent linemen the Steelers brought in last year, Chris Hubbard spent pretty much all of the preseason playing guard on the second-team offensive line, and then spent all year on the practice squad. The Steelers have or had plans to have him learn center as well. He’s certainly a practice squad candidate again this year at worst.

Bryant Browning: A former undrafted free agent in 2011, Bryant Browning was active for one game in his rookie season. He’s currently with his fifth different organization and is unlikely to be a factor.

Nik Embernate: Also one of many undrafted free agents the Steelers signed after the draft, the one they call ‘Embernasty’ was reportedly having an impressive training camp, having just been promoted to second-team guard before tearing his ACL during a blocking drill and missing all of the preseason. Nik Embernate is a wildcard, in part due to the fact that he is strictly a guard. If he can show position flexibility this spring and summer, that drastically increases his chances of making the roster in 2014, or at least the practice squad.

Draft Strategy: There’s really no need to address the interior offensive line in this draft. The only slight question is with Pouncey and if he’s healthy, and more long-term, if the Steelers intend to re-sign him (which I strongly imagine they do).

The team learned by necessity that they have available to them a few linemen that are interior-capable in Fernando Velasco, Cody Wallace, and Guy Whimper. Velasco and Wallace combined to make 15 starts at center this season, while Whimper made a start at each guard position. Wallace also played some guard and Whimper played a bit at right tackle.

If these three could be re-signed, and the Steelers have Embernate and Hubbard to provide competition, there really is no reason that I see for the Steelers to feel the need to address either guard or center during this draft. Of course, that changes immediately if re-signing players becomes an issue, but even at that point we’re looking strictly at depth with three entrenched and high-performing starters.

Previous Articles In This Series
Steelers Early Offseason Positional Draft Needs – Quarterback
Steelers Early Offseason Positional Draft Needs – Running Back
Steelers Early Offseason Positional Draft Needs – Wide Receiver
Steelers Early Offseason Positional Draft Needs – Tight End


    I would have my eye open for a C or a C/G type guy after round 4. Pouncey is due to be a fairly healthy cap hit in his final yr under this contract…actually would be over paid based on his results the last couple of years. FA after ’14 season…kind of a crossroads year for him imo.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Hopefully Velasco (if he’s ready after this injury) and Wallace especially get signed for a very reasonable price. This would work 2 fold: First, you have very capable back-ups, then you have a “Plan B” ready just in case they either cannot afford to re-sign Pouncey or choose not to do so.

    Embernate makes the team if he is healthy, otherwise to the practice squad once again. Very solid on the interior!


    Agree on Valesco, but I think the big focus needs to be on Worilds which I think has a good chance of getting done if PIT makes a solid offer…if Valeco gets a clean bill of health by camp…he could be too expensive, but I hope to see him back…but an heir apparent to Pouncey he’s not.

  • Callentown

    I dunno. I guess if you consider the current potential backups, this could be considered a strength.

    But, if the three penciled in starters are the STRENGTH of the team, I’m a little worried. I like Pouncey and think DeCastro and Foster are good, but I also notice that they have a very hard time picking up short yardage that goes thru them.

    Not much push – they need to be stronger to move the mammoths on the defensive inside and that’s just not their game – any of them.

    Maybe I’m just missing the old days where we dominated 3rd or 4th and 1’s.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    I don’t mean heir apparent like they are going to be Pro-Bowlers or something. I am just thinking they should plan for the future otherwise how are they ever going to afford all these contracts when they come up, like Pouncey next year?

    Do you have a better plan? If Pouncey costs a fortune, do you sign him to a huge contracts when you know you will have to probably release 3 or 4 other guys? I don’t know, but I’m just trying to think ahead.

    In my eyes this would be better than always starting the year off way over the cap and having to struggle with that.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Wholeheartedly agree with you there! For the past few years, 3rd and 1 or 2 has been a heart attack waiting to happen. I hate it! In the old days it was near automatic.

    Hopefully next year will be much better.

  • dgh57

    I like the interior OL depth we could have going into next season something we couldn’t say we had going into last season as we had to scramble to find backups after game 1. Problem is between Velasko, Wallace which do you resign with Ebernasty nipping at their heels and room for only 2 of them since we only carry 8 offensive linemen and 1 of the backups has to be a OT of which Adams is probably the guy? Mike Munchak knows Velasko from his days with the Titans and Embernasty is signed for next year so Wallace may end up being the odd man out. Not that I agree with that but that’s the one way it may play out.

  • dgh57

    To me our OL isn’t suited best to run the Power scheme so hopefully the addition of Munchak and a solid RB coach yet to be named can instill the outside zone blocking scheme as that’s something I feel confident that Pouncey and DeCastro are better suited for. To me things are looking up in that area.

  • patrick Mayfield

    I wouldn’t mind a late round pick on another guard. I think you’ll see Cody Wallace or Velasco back as a C/G gameday guy but that guy is not someone you want to be backing up G for longer term or looking to slide into starting G in years down the road. I think you need someone to compete with Embernate to be that guy.


    We could only be so lucky…I wish the heir apparent @ C would be a PB player…nah, just thinking heir apparent as in the long term starter.

    I’m with you…I’d love to have Valesco back, but I have to think his cap figure will dbl to at least $2 mil in ’14 if we can sign him…if we draft a C or C/G, the pick will be less costly for certain, but probably not as good as Valesco next year if pressed into action.

    Pouncey…imo if he has a great season, the price will be too much…if he completes the yr w/o injury and looks okay…if the #s work I’m ok keeping him, but that’s also reason to draft a C/G type player this offseason, just in case Pouncey is not back in ’15.

  • Dan

    I’m not saying this to bash Foster, nor do I think it’s worth spending a high draft pick on a Guard; however, I’m don’t think he performed all that great. Certainly decent, but if we stumbled upon somebody better…wouldn’t be such a bad thing. If he’s going to play so heavy and lack speed, then he should at least be able to get a better push in the running game. Will be interesting to see how he and the whole line perform with Munchak as coach.

  • LayDownTheHammer

    I agree no need for interior OL. Now if we can just shore up the two numnuts at OT. We have one who is not known for being the hardest worker on the team and often shows up overweight. And we have another whose technique is so piss-poor despite all that coaching. Dumb and Dumber. And Beachum simply does not have the physical tools to deal with NFL pass rushers on a weekly basis – let’s be real. Great glue guy and overall backup in a Trai Essex mold though.