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 offensive tackle position.
Though they’ve invested a pair of second-round picks at the position over the past few drafts, and have gotten about a seasons’ worth of playing time out of a seventh-round compensatory pick, the feeling is that tackle could still be an area of concern—at best one with lingering questions.
Kelvin Beachum: Once seemed destined to be cut before his first season, Kelvin Beachum has come a long way in two short years, entering his third season as the incumbent left tackle after starting 11 games there in 2013, missing one start due to injury.
Though he played left tackle throughout college, he was originally thought of as a guard when drafted, but the first area of need arose at right tackle, where he finished his rookie season starting due to injury. He took over at left tackle due to poor performance last year, and while he struggled early, he began to settle down, aided by a more deliberate passing attack that got the ball out faster. He’s far from perfect, but he is the best option at left tackle right now.
Marcus Gilbert: Though he was the only offensive lineman to start every game, that doesn’t mean he stayed healthy throughout the year. There are reports that he played injured for much of last season, which could have affected his performance. He missed time, some significant time, in several games last season due to injury, even if he managed to start each game, perhaps trying to play through injuries he shouldn’t have.
Regardless, he is entering the final year of his contract, and he has rarely approached anything above average in his performance. What he does this season—assuming he can retain his starting job—will determine his future with the team.
Mike Adams: Mike Adams started out at right tackle before ‘winning’ the left tackle position from Gilbert before the preseason even began. He had such a hard time in pass protection during the first month of the season, however, that he had to be benched, to the point where he was inactive. When he returned to play, it was at tight end.
When he made one late-season start at left tackle in place of Beachum, he performed somewhat better, but he showed some notable deficiencies in pass protection despite not giving up a sack. New offensive line coach Mike Munchak will have his hands full in trying to turn Adams’ career around.
Guy Whimper: Though his two starts last season came at guard, Guy Whimper is a tackle, and it would be best if the Steelers can keep him there. His best performance last year came in a long stretch against the Ravens replacing Gilbert, who left the came early with an injury.
Draft Prognosis: 2014 is an important year, during which the Steelers must find out what they have along the offensive line at the tackle positions. They have three players there that they’ve taken over the last three drafts, and now it’s time to get some definitive answers from them.
That’s not to say that Munchak definitely won’t have a hand in supplying some of his own answers. The Steelers are not hesitant in allowing their coaches some input during the draft selection. Carnell Lake had some input in his first year as a coach and the Steelers ended up taking cornerbacks in the third and fourth rounds. After all, if you’re asking a chef to cook for you, it’s only fair to let him select some of the ingredients. If the right candidate falls to them, they shouldn’t be hesitant.