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A View from the SteelCage Returns: Do the Steelers have issues identifying OL talent?


Since Cowher, Grimm, and Whiz departed, the Steelers coaching staff have struggled identifying and developing quality offensive linemen.  The question is should we be concerned?  I think the answer must be yes.  Here is the first of many reasons I believe this, these two are reasons just from this season:

According to many sources, the Max Starks resigning was pushed by the front office and Starks was not a coaching favorite.  However, since his return, the line has played much better.  Starks is not my idea of a LT, but is a far cry better than Jonathan Scott.

 

Kraig Urbik, former 3rd rounder of the Steelers, was lambasted by the Steelers and never really got going in the Steelers Office, being cast off last season as a bust.  Signed by Buffalo, he started some games at center for them last season before going on the IR.  This year he is at RG next to Eric Wood and Andy Levitre (all the same draft class and considered by the Bills the number 1, 2, and 3 interior linemen that year).  The Buffalo Bills Offensive line that was supposed to be horrible has allowed the fewest sacks in the league this year with only 4.

 

Now lets analyze the OL draft picks since 2007 (Tomlin's 1st year) and current OL roster.

 

2011

Rnd        Name                                College                

2              Marcus Gilbert                 Florida

Marcus Gilbert is currently starting at RT due to injuries.  He is a good looking prospect but only time will tell.

2010

Rnd        Name                                College

1              Maurkice Pouncey          Florida

The lynch pin of our OL, All Pro Center who will be a mainstay for the next 10 years, barring injury.  However, not a hard pick, he was the consensus top Interior Lineman in the draft.  However, after a great 2010 season, has not performed as well this season, although I attribute it more to injuries than regression.

5              Chris Scott                       Tennessee         

Currently on the Practice Squad.  May still develop into a strong RT or RG.

2009

Rnd        Name                                College

3              Kraig Urbik                      Wisconsin          

See above, a starter having a strong season with the Bills.

7              A.Q. Shipley                     Penn State         

Cut by Steelers, Bengals, and Eagles.  Currently out of league, but was a long shot as a short armed center.  A hometown favorite, but a 7th rounder none the less.

2008

Rnd        Name                                College

4              Tony Hills                         Texas   

I pushed him as a future LT for us, but again, he never developed.  Played up and down when given opportunities in past couple of years but ultimately cut this season.  Currently backing up rookie Orlando Franklin in Denver.

2007

Rnd        Name                                College

5              Cameron Stephenson  Rutgers          

Couldn't even beat out former college teammate and UDFA Darnell Stapelton.  Stephenson has also been a member of the Green Bay Packers, Philadelphia Eagles, New Orleans Saints, Jacksonville Jaguars, and San Diego Chargers.

 

Current Roster (by position they are listed on Steelers.com roster page):

C - Pouncey and Doug Legursky

See Pouncey above.  Legs has been a reliable backup since being signed as an UDFA following Tomlin's first draft in 2007.

G - Chris Kemoeatu and Trai Essex

Both are drafted by the former regime.  Kemo is up and down and has regressed by many accounts in the last 2 years.  Trai Essex was resigned due to injuries and serves as one of the Steelers most versatile back ups.

T - Ramon Foster, Marcus Gilbert, Jonathan Scott, Willie Colon, Max Starks, Jamon Meredith

Foster was an UDFA.  Jonathan Scott was brought from the Bills when Sean Kugler signed on as the OL Coach last season.  Gilbert see above, rookie starting at RT due to injuries.  Colon and Starks are again from the previous regime, but as two of the linemen we have that Steelers fans worry least about.  Colon is on the IR for the second season in a row, this time for a torn bicep muscle.  Meredith was drafted by the Bills (Kugler anyone) and spent time also with the Giants and the Lions.  A journeyman backup.

So our Starters right now are with all the injuries are:

Starks (Cowher), Kemo (Cowher), Pouncey (Tomlin), Essex (Cowher), and Gilbert (Tomlin).  3/5 of the starting 5 are Cowher picks, two of which had to be resigned due to injuries and to shore up a very tumultuous line.

 

What does this mean for the future of our line, who knows, but I thought it was worth mentioning.  Additionally, I will be starting up my post A View from the SteelCage again, any topic ideas are welcome.

 

SteelCage is a longtime Steeler fan, former player and current coach.  For previous Blog spots, see http://www.sbnation.com/users/SteelCage/blog

 

 

 

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