Steelers Draft Needs – Interior OL

Earlier in the offseason, we took a position-by-position look at where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand with their roster before the free agency process both ravaged and replenished the talent pool.

The Steelers entered the process with 22 free agents. They re-signed six of them, while losing eight more to other teams, with eight remaining unsigned. They also added seven free agents from other teams.

With the roster picture now much clearer and draft needs much easier to determine, it’s time to revisit those positional draft charts to see which positions are areas of need come draft time.

The next position we’ll revisit will be the interior offensive line position. This may in fact be the most secure position on the entire roster, from the starting lineup to the projected depth behind them.

Maurkice Pouncey: Though he is coming off an ACL injury that will be about a year removed when the season begins, Maurkice Pouncey is a three-time Pro Bowler in three complete NFL seasons. He is a rock along the offensive line, and the Steelers will be looking to retain him long-term—they just hope they won’t have to make him the highest-paid center in the league.

His athleticism is rare for the position and is not easily replicated by journeyman replacements. Along with the rest of the unit, new position coach Mike Munchak could help take him to the next level of his game.

David DeCastro: David DeCastro came awful close to turning in a Pro Bowl performance in his first full season after a rocky start that included taking Pouncey out for the season. He was named a Pro Bowl alternate, and I see no reason to believe he won’t be able to earn a trip outright in 2014. He still has some room to grow in pass protection in particular, but has already shown on a number of occasions that he can be very effective pulling in the running game.

Ramon Foster: Often the forgotten man, the 28-year-old Ramon Foster turned in arguably the best—certainly the most consistent—offensive line performance for the Steelers last year, where he particularly excelled in pass protection. He also made modest strides in playing on the move while pulling.

Though some still seem determined to replace him, I believe he’s earned the right to have a secure spot in the starting lineup. This trio above has the capability of making up one of the best interior offensive lines in the league.

Cody Wallace: Forced into his first stretch of real NFL activity in his career, Cody Wallace started the last four games of the season for the Steelers at center, and he played well enough to be rewarded with a three-year contract. He plays with a mean streak. I think those two things say just about enough of what needs to be said. As it currently stands, he figures to be the top offensive interior reserve.

Nik Embernate: A highly-touted UDFA last year, Nik Embernate’s rookie season was cut short before reaching the preseason when he tore his ACL during drills. Just before that, he was moving his way up the depth chart. He will look to resume his ascendance up the depth chart this year, and perhaps earn a spot on the 53-man roster.

Chris Hubbard: A surprise success, Chris Hubbard spent the entire year on the practice squad, beating out several other interior OL candidates for the privilege. The Steelers have expressed interest in making him center-capable, which would obviously play in his favor for making the roster this season.

Draft Prognosis: I’ve purposely left off Guy Whimper from this list because I believe the Steelers intend to keep him at tackle this season. There are reports that the team still intends to re-sign Fernando Velasco, which would give them a superior depth pairing with Wallace, both of whom can start at center and guard at replacement level.

With that in mind, I have a hard time imagining the Steelers actually drafting an interior offensive lineman in this draft. There is simply no need for it, and unless a player with such disparate value presents himself, I can’t imagine they would favor an interior offensive lineman over a position of greater need.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Great point. Thank goodness some agree with me. Foster has been the steadiest player on the O line for 4 bloody years now, and he still gets no respect from many people. You can’t afford All-Pros all over the roster and guys like Foster are absolutely required.

    Foster is so steady, yet he is inexpensive and somehow always healthy. The Steelers need a lot more of these steady players, players that will play a role. Yes, the interior looks good, and Munchack will help everyone improve, maybe even the TE’s.

  • RW

    Foster actually reminds me of kiesel as far as his value to the team (a younger kiesel, not last year’s version). I think interior OL, RB and DE are all able to be had in the middle rounds with starter quality.

  • dgh57

    Yes I agree we’re solid on the interior OL something that couldn’t be said entering last season. When Pouncey went down we had to go off roster to find a adequate replacement for him. They’ll be no need of that this season especially if we resign Velasko.

  • bonairsfavoriteson

    No need for better offensive linemen. ??? Every time the steelers get stuffed in short yardage running attempts or in the red zone, pull out this column and read it again, and keep trying to convince yourself we don’t need better blockers at a few of these positions.

  • 20Stoney

    Who do you want to replace on the interior offensive line?

  • shawn

    thanks for the realistic POV … too many people here are day dreaming … all that needs to be said is the beginning of last season to remind us all how bad the OL can be … I think Foster is better suited to be a back up or swing OG … i think we need to upgrade there and a LT, but probably better to do it next year after the new OL coach has had time to work with them and get a better idea of what is needed !

  • Dewayne Braxton

    Thank you. Finally have some else who understands that ranking 28th in rushing means your line sucks! And don’t give excuses. They suck! How many 100 yard rushing games have we had over the past five years? The truth is that the 08 Superbowl team was won with average to below average line talent. Thank God for Willie Parker’s speed and Ben’s scambling ability. Last year’s line was so bad that they HAD to PUT ADAMS at tightend! Get it! They suck!

  • Dewayne Braxton

    Fat out of shape overpaid Foster.

  • Dewayne Braxton

    Foster is just like Keameato and Willie Colon..over paid backups. People raved about those bumbs too. Foster is no different.