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