Despite Temptation, Steelers Figure To Stay Put At Tackle During Draft
Though the Pittsburgh Steelers have used two first-round draft selections, with an additional two in the second round, over the past four drafts on the offensive line, they have yet to be able to cobble together the five-man offensive line that they’ve envisioned.
Due to a combination of injury and underperformance, the most optimistic future of the line has yet to culminate. As a rookie, David DeCastro missed nearly all of 2012 with a knee injury. Maurkice Pouncey played only eight snaps last season after suffering a torn ACL. Mike Adams was benched after four games.
But Kelvin Beachum emerged at left tackle, Pouncey is expected back, Ramon Foster is solid as ever, and most significantly, the Steelers were able to acquire the services of a former Hall of Fame offensive lineman, and a highly respected offensive line coach in his own right, Mike Munchak, to replace Jack Bicknell Jr.
Given that they’ve also already re-signed Cody Wallace and Guy Whimper and are still expected to attempt to re-sign Fernando Velasco, the Steelers wouldn’t figure to have much room to draft another offensive lineman. They didn’t draft one last year either.
That’s the view that Dale Lolley also takes, believing that the team will go into the season with the pieces that they have in the hopes of finally cobbling together—and keeping together—the line that will help take the offense to the next level.
Lolley cites the fact that Ben Roethlisberger was only sacked seven times in the last seven games, and that Le’Veon Bell gained 578 of his 860 rushing yards during the course of the second half of the season, as solid evidence that the line can be expected to improve from within with the pieces in place.
Lolley also writes, however, that the draft pundits view the top tackles of this draft even more highly than those of last year’s class, of which three of the top four draft picks were offensive tackles.
Due to the depth across almost all positions in this upcoming class, the top offensive tackles are not expected to repeat as a triple threat in the top five picks of this draft class.
One of the top few tackles, perhaps, could even fall all the way to the Steelers at the 15th overall spot.
Should that happen, it could be difficult for the Steelers to not be tempted about the prospect of taking one of them. With the interior of the offensive line seemingly in place, there are still lingering questions on the outside, and adding a first-round talent could be big.
But that might not be a luxury they could afford, given the critical needs at cornerback and defensive end, not to mention the temptations of a top wide receiver. A linebacker could also be very tempting at 15th overall.
The fact that Marcus Gilbert is in the final year of his contract could complicate matters. And recent history shows that the Steelers are willing to allow their players to sign elsewhere after they hit unrestricted free agency, including Ziggy Hood, Rashard Mendenhall, Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders, and Keenan Lewis.
In the end, however, I would have to concur that the Steelers are not likely to address the offensive line in this draft. Munchak himself is equivalent to a draft pick, such is the upgrade from Bicknell to himself. And while it may not appear so now, by draft day, it tends to be the offensive tackles that rise to the top of the draft anyway, so I don’t expect the Steelers to even have the opportunity to get one of the top prospects at the position.