Devil’s Advocate: O-Line Depth In Draft

You may recall for the past several offseasons that I ran an article series called The Optimist’s/Pessimist’s Take. I used it to explore different issues and topics the Pittsburgh Steelers were facing and took a positive or negative approach, examining each side in a separate article. This is essentially the same idea behind that, only condensed into one article for every topic.

In this version of the idea, I’ll be playing the Devil’s Advocate for both sides of the issue, looking at the best-case and worst-case scenarios in trying to find the range of likely outcomes of what is likely to happen for the Steelers relating to whatever topic the article is covering.

When it comes to the process of trying to construct a championship roster, the reality is that there are a ton of moving parts, and several ways to acquire said parts. There are a lot of things that can go right or wrong in not always predictable ways, so I think it’s helpful to try to look at issues by seeking out the boundaries of the likely positive or negative results.

Topic: Should offensive line depth be on the Steelers’ draft board?

As it currently stands, the Steelers are returning all but one player from their offensive line room during the regular season last year, and they are also getting back a rookie fourth-round draft pick. At least on paper, they should be solidly eight-men deep at worst.

But the world doesn’t play out on paper, and most teams typically carry nine offensive linemen. So should the Steelers consider looking for another offensive lineman, either on the edge or along the interior, in the draft later this week?

I think that a case could at least be made for it. For starters, Jerald Hawkins hasn’t had the opportunity to show anything yet outside of one preseason game, so he can largely be regarded as an unknown commodity. And even if the Steelers view him as ‘an extra draft pick’, as they have said about injured rookies in the past, he is the only natural tackle that is seemingly sure to make the roster.

The other most likely ‘tackle’ is Chris Hubbard, who despite playing tackle in college has spent more time on the interior in the NFL. He started three games at right tackle last year due to injury and held his own, but you can’t ignore all of his other tape throughout his career. There were years where it looked like he would be rightfully cut. And aside from that, he is also their second interior reserve.

The first is, of course, B.J. Finney, but between Hawkins, Finney, and Hubbard, that is three reserves, and there is still room for another. Even if you like Brian Mihalik, it doesn’t hurt to add to the competition. And do you really want to trust Hubbard as your third center on the depth chart? He’s hiked a couple of balls right into his posterior and put his quarterbacks in vulnerable positions, even getting Bruce Gradkowski injured.

On the other hand, it hasn’t been out of the ordinary for the Steelers to carry only eight linemen, even if that has come as a product of injuries occurring in some instances. And at least based on last season, the trio of reserves that they have right now has the potential to be a good group.

Finney is a player who can play all three interior spots. Hawkins, at least in theory, could play both tackle spots, and perhaps could even contribute at guard. Hubbard is at least capable of lining up at all five spots, but he is probably best suited to guard or right tackle. They have definitely gone into seasons with worse.

Then again, Ramon Foster isn’t getting any younger…even plugging in Finney leaves a hole in the depth chart.

Which side do you lean closer toward?

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

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

  • RickM

    No.

  • Darth Blount 47

    In a word? Lol.

  • Darth Blount 47

    I don’t really see the point. An UDFA should suffice. However, if you told me we used our 7th on an O-Lineman, I wouldn’t fuss. But in a draft where we already don’t have enough picks, it would be superfluous.

  • Biggie

    We’ve done well bringing in UDFAs for competition and see no reason to do otherwise this draft with needs on defense and depth at skill positions (WR, RB, TE?)

  • John Bennett

    Look for a prospect in the in the UDFA pool and we are good.

  • stan

    We don’t have enough picks? 8 is more than our normal, and for the first time in pretty much forever we don’t have any pressing needs. We’re really only picking up depth and youth at every position, with the need for depth a little higher at a couple of positions.
    I tend to like adding depth at OL in every draft because there are 5 positions to fill and injuries there are inevitable. Drafting an OL late is historically a good bet versus other positions as well. You can get some great value with those 6th/ 7th round OL.

  • TroymanianDevil

    7th Round pick is fine — should be able to make the 53, taking the spot occupied by Ryan Harris.

  • stan

    Really, Hawkins fills Harris’ slot. Adding another player is for the inevitable injuries that always take a toll.

  • TroymanianDevil

    Well then Cody Wallace’s role. My point was that 2 guys are gone from last year’s OL depth. Hawkins is 1 replacement and 1 more guy should be had somewhere. The question, imo, is whether to use a late round pick or UDFA. And I’m ok with 7th rd pick b/c it’s unlikely to get production anyways so if you’re taking a shot, make it OL, at least he’s likely to make the 53 looking at the current roster

  • Burgh Ball

    7th round or udfa – like what I saw from the IUP kid – Ethan cooper – not sure what his draft grade is….

  • dany

    Hubbard injured Gradkowski? I never heard that

  • AndyR34

    Yes…Colbert typically takes an OL in every draft…since 2000, he has missed in 2003 (only 5 picks), 2007 (took 2 in 2005 & 2006), 2013 (took 3 in 2012), and 2015.