Steelers Early Offseason Positional Draft Needs – Offensive Tackle

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.

It’s kind of hard to say just where the Steelers stand in terms of their depth at the offensive tackle position, both in terms of their starting players and their reserves. They already lost prospect Joe Long from the practice squad, while Guy Whimper is a free agent and Levi Brown is an obvious cut. While I don’t suspect that Pittsburgh will be looking to upgrade the starting line through the draft, it’s not an impossibility.

Marcus Gilbert: After missing the majority of the 2012 season, Marcus Gilbert didn’t miss a game in 2013, but he still played through several injuries, and he missed the vast majority of one contest after being forced to leave early. It’s likely that the injuries exacerbated the already present inconsistency issue. While Gilbert is capable of being a starting tackle, he’s a nothing special type of player to this point in his career.

Kelvin Beachum: Just 21 games into his professional career, former seventh-round draft pick Kelvin Beachum can call himself a starting left tackle, as he started 11 games in the hot corner in 2013, and will begin the offseason there as well. It took some getting used to, but by the end of the season he seemed to hit his pass protection stride, and that’s what you want out of your left tackle. Can he keep progressing? That is the question.

Mike Adams: There’s really no other way to describe Mike Adams’ 2013 season than disappointing. The Steelers went in with high hopes that the former second-round pick would seize the left tackle position and hold on to it for the next decade, but he struggled terribly in pass protection through the first quarter of the season. This necessitated a demotion and eventual move to tight end.

Adams did start one game at left tackle late in the season while Beachum dealt with a knee injury, but many of the same technical flaws continued to show up in his pass protection. Mike Munchak will have his hands full with this one. His job performance with the Steelers may be largely tied to what he is able to do with Adams.

Levi Brown: After being forced to bench Adams, the Steelers traded for Arizona Cardinals left tackle Levi Brown, taking on his contract sans a large chunk of his 2013 salary and offering up a conditional draft pick. Because Brown tore his triceps before even taking a snap, the draft pick will not come into play, and with a $6.25 million cap hit for 2014 with no dead money charge, you can take it to the bank that he will be cut, at least initially.

Draft Strategy: The Steelers currently have only four tackles on the roster, with one surely to be cut. Offseason rosters dictate having at least six, with three strings of tackles, so obviously tackle is a position they will be addressing hard—but likely in the undrafted free agent market, as they did last year.

After Beachum, Gilbert, and Adams, the Steelers can choose to re-sign Whimper, who had a nice showing at right tackle against the Baltimore Ravens. That’s already a solid in-season depth chart—in fact it’s the depth chart from last season—but it’s not inconceivable that they target a mid-round prospect. It’s highly unlikely that an elite tackle prospect falls to them in the first round, and beyond that, I don’t see much of a point, especially not before seeing what Munchak can do.

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
Steelers Early Offseason Positional Draft Needs – Interior OL

About the Author

Matthew Marczi
Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • Michael Milliron

    I think tackle is a big need. Gilbert, even if he plays well, is a FA after 2014. Adams is either a RT or bust. Beachum, despite a relatively good showing, just doesn’t have the pedigree you would prefer your left tackle to have in protecting Roethlisberger for the rest of his career.

    Picking as high as the Steelers are this year, it possibly gives them the ability to select a very highly rated left tackle for Munchak to groom. You cannot really get good left tackles in free agency, so I think the Steelers need to land one in the draft given this (hopefully rare) opportunity.

    Beachum could supply a safety net until the new left tackle is ready and provide excellent depth on game day afterward.

  • grw1960

    While anything is possible if an OT they covet falls to them.
    I seriously doubt, with all the question marks and needs on defense, That they will pick an OT in round 1 or 2.
    I do not expect them to draft an OT before day 3 of the draft.
    On Day 3 rounds 4 – 7 ( hopefully 4 picks with a comp) and not in any order.
    I expect them to take a 2nd DB and a RB. The other 2 picks I think will depend on what positions they address in rounds 1 – 3.

  • Brian Tollini

    My thoughts exactly.

  • Michael Milliron

    There’s nothing more important than protecting your franchise QB IMO. While I certainly agree that the defense needs an infusion of youth with more speed and athleticism, it’s possible, if improbable that the Steelers only lose Clark at FS as a starter. Clark was an unheralded FA signing when the Steelers nabbed him to take over the FS position. They need to find another good under the radar type of FA to take his place.

  • steeltown

    Agreed. I’ve mentioned its not unlikely they target a mid-Rd OT prospect with the hiring of Munchak I can really see them grabbing one that he and the other coaches and scouts are high on.. and then of course we’ll see a UDFA or two signed as well to compete in camp

  • Douglas Andrews

    Could see them drafting another late round OT for depth and possibly signing one in FA (maybe a june 1st cap casualty).

  • blackandgoldBullion

    I think the last line could prove prescient. “especially not before seeing what Munchack can do.”

    If he can somehow turn these guys into a group that becomes above average going forward, then good. He would have done a decent job considering where most were drafted. Anything better than that would be a bonus.

    For now, just a late round guy, and perhaps another UDFA, that Munch would pick, having seen raw but great potential.

    Nothing in the early rounds.

  • Chad H

    We have two guys playing good not great but good. Beachum will develop more this off season and Gilbert will get healthy and hopefully step up. Adams not sure about I think he will be a bust but for now he will be serviceable depth at RT. I don’t see going tackle until rd 4. We need DBs, WRs and LBs so believe that is where they will draft first. As always guys fall and who knows what their pick in the first will be.

  • grw1960

    While it is true they may only lose Clark this year ( 2014). There are more Questions than just FS……… . In 2015 they may need to replace Ike and Troy. ………So they will need a CB and or a Safety to train and learn the defense for 2015. ……..Also the question marks at inside and out side line backer will probably keep us all guessing till after the draft………. The OLB questions mite be answered during Free agency. When we find out if they can resign Worlids, ……But then maybe not till June 1st. The earliest time they might or might not part with Woodley.

  • Steeler Fanatic

    I think the Steelers are going to draft a tackle who is raw/project in the middle rounds. It will give them some leverage if Adams doesn’t pan out knowing that Beachum and Gilbert are the tackles. I am in extreme minority, but I’m not opposed to restructuring Levi Brown (via pay cut) to a $1.5M-$2M/yr incentive-laced contract. In fairness, he gave up four sacks in four games recovering from the injured biceps, but three of those sacks were in his first game back from injury against a guy named Robert Quinn- the most dominant pass rusher in the league. If you can get him on the cheap, it’s low risk, high reward… and there won’t be much competition on the market. He is not Walter Jones, but could be a surprise if healthy. I mean, where else can you get a veteran left tackle who was a top ten pick for really cheap. He could even serve as a swing tackle behind the starters. Thoughts?

  • Ike Evans

    yes…draft a tackle as much as these guys get hurt…i dont understand why ppl keep saying we shouldnt draft an o linemen in this draft are you kidding me? someone gets hurt almost every game for the past 3 years it seems like…draft 2 lol even if they’re late round…idc its not like any of these guys outside of decastro and ramon are playing at a high level consistently…beach has been solid…gilbert has been fine…but i dont think solid and fine are reasons not to bring in competition.

  • Jonathon Bert Schade

    I agree with you Michael. One of the top OTs could fall to #15 and it would be wise to pick one. One injury and they are in trouble, two injuries = disaster. Sure they need defense, but is there a top choice ready to step in and start? I don’t think so. J.Jones was #1 last year….will he start in ’14?

  • PA2AK

    I agree to the extent of bringing in competition, but I think the overall team needs take precedent. You can’t count on the following happening every year…or hopefully not two in a row…Projected starter gets stabbed in the abdomen, Pro-bowl/captain C out for year in game 1, find an excellent backup C (considering) and he goes out. Lots of the guys available are OK for depth and the OL got much better as the year went on even with the injuries. Biggest improvement is playing time. At the beginning of the year we had the youngest starting OL with the fewest snaps/starts…THAT is significant. Now you have an actual RB to carry the ball as well. Also can’t forget the impact of having Paulson as your week 1 starting TE due to the injuries of Spaeth and Miller. I’d be surprised if they looked at any OL position prior to rd 5. I like the adversity the OL overcame this year. I’m sure I’m in the minority, but OL looks to be the most promising unit going forward.

  • bonairsfavoriteson

    There are probably 3-4 ot in this draft, better than any one tackle we now have, Unfortunately, we won’t get a crack at them.

  • LayDownTheHammer

    I would be happy with Lewan at 15. Not sure why he’s falling over the course of a few months but he has the 2nd best fundamentals & technique of any OT (Matthews). He doesn’t rely on his size/athleticism as much as others (Cyrus) so he’ll be an impact starter though not necessarily from Day 1 (that will depend on his learning ability, hard work, and scheme).
    Why do we need to draft an OT early? The other OTs we have: One is a lazy oaf who doesn’t have the motivation to keep his weight down and has barely progressed in the last few seasons; he is known for not being one of the hardest workers on the team. The other has the worst piss-poor technique in the book; he has obviously been taught to change it but has refused to register it in his brain because he still uses the same awful technique. And the third is a smart guy who, because of his physical dimensions, will never be a starting caliber OT because he does not have the athleticism/proportions to match up against premier NFL pass rushers; he is cerebral and uses the best technique of all 3 and is the most coachable as well as versatile (think Trai Essex again) so he obviously needs to stay.

    Y’all can deduce which OT fits these three descriptions.

  • Dewayne Braxton

    Steeler Nation listen up. By now everyone should know that a high quality left tackle is must. Stop falling in love with below average players such as kelvin Beachum and Marcus Gilbert. Beachum cannot consistently move any interior lineman. He is small and weak. Munchak will not work miracles with suspect talent. If been and Bell do not get a good line, the Steelers are done. Left tackle is the premier line position. Leaving Kelvin Beachum there is a joke. They already tried to get by with Starks, Beachum, Gilbert, and Jonathan Scott. Do you recall them sticking with Keamotu, Hold’ em Colon, and bumbs like Darnell Stapleton and Tre Essex? This line has been a disater for years. If it is not addressed, nothing else will matter.