Steelers Draft Needs – Offensive Tackle

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.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

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

  • Bill Sechrengost

    The scary part of this position is that Gilbert and Adams may never be good. I’m willing to give Munchak a chance to see what he can do with them. I’d like to think that one of these guys will come through. I’m glad that Beachum was able to come in last year at left tackle, but I’m not sure yet if he is the answer there. it’s hard to believe that Gilbert will be a free agent after this year. We will need to find out this year if he is the answer. I certainly wouldn’t try to sign him to a long-term contract. I’m wondering which of their guys that have one year left they consider a priority, Gilbert, Worilds, Cortez Allen, Pouncey, Heyward? We’ll see.

  • Paddy

    Steelers still very weak at tackle I don’t see how they could pass on Lewan @ #15. I know nobody wants another tackle in the first but that guy could start right away.

  • Kenneth Wilt

    I don’t think we have a “need” at OT, but I could see us taking one of the right guy is there. To me Lewan’s issues make him not an option, but if Matthews or Robinson falls to us….they will be taken.

  • srdan

    I have a slightly more optimistc view of our oline. Gilbert will never be mistaken for Ogden, but if he is your weak link on a Oline, you have a pretty good unit.

    Adams I am very bullish on. He has not had an offseason as a pro. I think technique is learned in the offseason when you have time to work on your craft. Not during the season when gameplans are being installed.

    I fully agree with the author that this is a pivotal year. I will not be singing the same tune again next year.

    I think all the players you listed are priorities. I think some of them will get done after june 1st. I expect Hayward and Allen this year. Unleass they have earmarked that money for 93.

  • Milliken Steeler

    I dont think we need an OT in this draft.We should put Mike Adams back at R/T where he belongs and I think that situation will work itself out.

    If we are gonna draft one this year, draft the low risk high reward kid out of Miami in the 7th and see if Munchak can get him back on track.

  • Bill Sechrengost

    I hope that Gilbert’s problems were due to injury. Like I said, we’ll see. If Gilbert has a good year, obviously that will be a priority to re-sign him, but if not, I don’t think he’ll be back. I also don’t think we should count out Kelvin Beachum at either tackle position. He certainly has the work ethic to be good.

  • srdan

    Lewan may have been the No. 1 pick last year if he came out. It’s hard to say that a player iwth that much talent is not worth a high pick due to off the field issues.

  • Callentown

    This is a tough one.

    First, there have been – and not sure if this is about coaching at the OLine level, or even higher OR something else altogether – a slew of injuries in each of the past few years. So much so, that it’s a problem. This HAS to get figured out.

    We have two number 2 picks at RT and neither have shown they can play the position at an acceptable level to this point.

    We have a LT that was not supposed to be a LT and may be too small and lack the strength to play the position.

    AND, we now have a top notch OLine coach to help us figure it all out.

    I guess I do not see this particular group being ‘set’ as the people who can win games for this squad. If the team doesn’t draft a Tackle in the first 4 rounds, I assume that means Munch thinks he can make something out of these guys, or they can’t afford to add with the other needs.

    Tough one..

  • Callentown

    You hope that a 2nd round player has much of his technique coming in. Adams appears to be a project with potential in the running game but significant weakness in pass protection.

    Gilbert seems to be wearing skates (my nickname for him) when he pass protects, getting shoved back into the pocket a lot.

    If Munchak can get either of these guys to play at an ‘average’ overall level, it will be remarkable IMO.

    Personally, I see them both as busts.

  • Big White

    The million dollar question is Kelvin Beachum a tackle now?? Played pretty darn well in spot duty late last year and is definitely mentally tough enough. If so, then who becomes the next Kelvin Beachum?? By that, I mean would the Steelers perhaps take an interior lineman before a tackle to provide depth??

  • Big White

    Don’t know if I the Steelers would bite on Lewan, but no doubt he is NFL ready on day 1. Problem is so is Dennard, Adams, Ebron, Gilbert, Mosely, etc…..

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    It is a tough one. Not often do I find myself at a complete loss of opinion, but I’m utterly baffled at our current tackle situation.

    Can Munch “coach” Adams or Gilbert into a dominate right tackle? Can he improve Beachum into a long term starting left tackle? I honestly don’t know. And I don’t think the Steelers coaches know either.

    I think probably the best answer is to take a mid round value pick that has quick feet and hope Munch can coach him up over the course of the year while we’re deciding on Gilbert/Adams/Beachum.

    Billy Turner, Michael Schofield, Wesley Johnson, James Hurst, Brandon Thomas. One of those guys should be there in the 4th-5th round. We can totally afford that type of pick and it’s a good safe gamble IMO.

    If I was GM I would let Munch choose his weapon between that bunch. And let all four of the tackles sort it out during camp.

  • James Kling

    Beachum played surprisingly well at LT, but that’s not the same as saying we could not improve the position.
    Oh, and if Beachum gets hurt we’re screwed. I would not trust Adams, Gilbert, or the Butcher to protect Ben’s blind side.

  • Kenneth Wilt

    No. It really isn’t. What he does off the field is important….It is not a pattern yet, but if you blow a #1 pick on a guy who ends up in jail, you set your team back years.

  • Milliken Steeler

    Agreed on Adams:) We took the poor kid coming off an injury and missing time training and put him at L/T?

    No wonder he was a turn style and we beleted his confidence right in the gut after he was becoming quite the blocker at R/T

  • srdan

    How many NFL players are in jail? Who are you kidding?

    Lewan’s issues are not a pattern, and don’t scare me off one bit. What 21 year old doesn’t get in a bar fight?

  • srdan

    I think ben has given up on having his blind side protected. lol If you think about it, Max had one good season, other than that, it has been atrocious at LT in our lockeroom.

  • Callentown

    I agree it’s probably unlikely that Munchak can view tape and decide they need another OT. Guess we’ll find out soon enough!

  • Dewayne Braxton

    Your optomism concerning the line is not supported by rushing TD’s, nor 100 yard games. Remember, ADAMS HAD TO PLAY TIGHTEND to help them out!!! And before moving Adams to tightend they couldn’t run at all! Moreover, before the hurry up offense pass protection was horrible! Guess they decided Ben was to young to die. Don’t the facts say all we need to know about these sorry tackles? They stink! Come on people! How soon we forget!

  • Biophys

    Could Adams be kicked in to the guard position?

  • Dewayne Braxton

    He lacks size, strength, and he is not a great athlete. Up grade and move on. What other AFC North team would start him? Enough said about the sorry tackles.

  • Kenneth Wilt

    I never said it was a pattern, in fact I said it wasn’t a pattern yet, but you MUST be cautious. You do your due diligence with players like him that is all I am saying. Character is important. Knowing when to walk away. These things matter.