clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Assessing any first round options for the Steelers at offensive tackle

Pittsburgh may have no “needs” on the offensive line, but the draft offers a rich crop of options. Consider some candidates who might offer value to the Steelers if they should somehow fall on draft day.

RVR Photos-USA TODAY Sports

Argue all you want, but I believe the Steelers have no "needs" on the offensive line this offseason. There's room for improvement, sure, but that's not at all the same thing. Consider:

On the outside Kelvin Beachum has defied all predictions by developing into a solid left tackle who draws constant comparisons to the well-loved Tunch Ilkin. Even the worst of the Colbert-haters can do no more with Beachum than to grumble, "everyone gets lucky sometimes." Riiiight. Marcus Gilbert has been a bit fragile, but he was solid enough at right tackle to earn a long-term extension and he's still improving. I caught a radio show the other night hosted by the aforementioned Mr. Ilkin, and he emphasized how Gilbert kept improving over the course of 2014 by getting better at the little things such as tightening his stance by a hair, and how further improvement is available through continued work on details such as hand placement. Finally, for all his troubles in years past Mike Adams improved during 2014 to the point that Steeler Nation accepts him as a serviceable backup who might still be able to make ‘the leap’ if he can somehow find a quiet offseason to work on his craft. Asked about Adams, Tunch said that "he might surprise some people [in 2015]" and suggested that something as simple as endless squats might allow the young man to play lower and fiercer.

On the inside, Maurkice Pouncey somehow manages to annoy a persistent fraction of the fan base, but every public expert out there, his peers, and most importantly his employer regard him as a potential Hall of Famer. See the big contract extension last summer. David Decastro was robbed – robbed! – by missing out on the Pro Bowl but none of us doubt that many such honors await him in the future. And all Ramon Foster has done is to face every high-rated challenger that's come his way and send them fleeing with their collective tails between their legs.

That’s six solid linemen Steeler Fans. A couple of stars, no serious holes, an extra to spare on the edge, and further improvements to be expected as the line grows and matures together. When was the last time we could make that claim? So yes, I stand by my claim that Pittsburgh has no actual "needs." But that doesn't mean I deny the existence of "wants."

How good could this unit be if a truly elite Tackle somehow fell into Colbert's hands? Would Beachum be a better Guard than Foster, or a better Right Tackle than Gilbert? Could he learn to play Center after all and finally cement the line by offering that elusive, every-position, turnkey backup? Or would the addition of even an elite lineman provide only a marginal improvement compared to a "merely solid" pass rusher, corner, or tight end?

The Steelers pick at #22 overall*. There are several very highly rated Tackles with a chance to go in the top 15 picks, including Stanford's Andrus Peat, Brandon Scherff out of Iowa, Cedric Ogbuehi from Texas A&M, and Ereck Flowers from Miami. Would any of these prospects offer as much bang for the buck as Assume that all the OLB and CB prospects we've rated HV 1:20 or better are gone. Would the team get more value out of a potentially elite upgrade to the offensive line, or from a more useful piece with a lower ceiling such as a 2nd-tier position-of-need candidate like OLB's Lorenzo Mauldin Markus Golden (HV 1:25) or Eli Harold (HV 2:01)? Or CB prospects like Alex Carter and D'Joun Smith (HV 2:01) or Ronald Darby, Quinten Rollins, and Charles Gains (all HV 2:12 at this time)?

Yes, this is a debate that more properly belongs at the Big Board. But the underlying question is this: how much better would the Steelers offensive line be with the addition of a potentially elite Left Tackle instead of a "merely good" one? Enter your votes below, and your arguments in the Comments.

A parallel article will follow with players who might be available in the 2nd round.

* I understand that the Steelers have the highest pick of the three teams that finished 11-5. Thus Pittsburgh gets the 22nd pick of the 1st round, the 24th pick of the second round, the 23rd pick of the third round, etc.