2012 Steelers Draft Prospects: Lane Johnson could be the best athlete available at No. 17

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Oklahoma offensive tackle Lane Johnson put up one of the most athletic Combine performances among offensive linemen in recent memory. The Steelers have been adding athleticism to its offensive line over the last few years, and the idea of adding Johnson at left tackle is an intriguing possibility, despite other needs.

Our recent series on zone running highlighted some of the potential skill among the Steelers' offensive line in such a scheme (here's Part I and Part II).

The athleticism of the Steelers' offensive line is not just important, it's something on which the team could continue to build, if it had such an inclination to do so.

ESPN Draft Analyst Mel Kiper released his most recent Top 25 board, and Oklahoma offensive tackle Lane Johnson shot all the way up to No. 15 overall. Chances are he'll go before that, considering the outstanding athleticism he displayed at the Combine - 4.72 40-yard dash, 34-inch vertical, 9-foot-11 inch broad jump.

Pretty not bad for a guy who was playing tight end not that long ago.

If the Steelers were to pull off the mini upset and land Johnson, not only would it make it a fourth consecutive year in which they drafted an offensive lineman in the first two rounds, and likely give them the youngest and highest drafted offensive line in the NFL, it would likely mean they could field something of an inter-NFL basketball team consisting of their hogs in the trenches.

While one of the multi-talented pass rushers expected to go in the first half of the draft having all but guaranteed they'll be long off the board at No. 17 (Oregon's Dion Jordan is now No. 4 overall on Kiper's Big Board, Barkevious Mingo is No. 7 and Ezekiel Ansah is No. 12) with stellar Combine showings, the options available could make for some interesting decisions among the Steelers' front office.

Pretty not bad for a guy who was playing tight end not that long ago.

With questions surrounding the future of Willie Colon in Pittsburgh, which in turn lead to questions about second-year vet Kelvin Beachum moving to left guard, adding Johnson at left tackle, Beachum at left guard and Mike Adams at right tackle would give the Steelers a starting offensive line of three collegiate left tackles along with Maurkice Pouncey (arguably one of the most athletic interior linemen in football) and David DeCastro (2012's Best Prospect Since Steve Hutchinson, a title currently held by Alabama's Chance Warmack).

Clearly, there are needs among the Steelers' roster, but there's something to be said about taking the opportunities handed to you, especially when you're drafting in the mid-to-lower-third portions of the draft.

Should Johnson fall to 17, it's very likely he'd be the best athlete per position available.


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