We have tackled the topic of the Steelers using the No. 22 overall pick in the upcoming 2015 NFL Draft on a cornerback, outside linebacker/edge rusher and even a defensive tackle. Today, we continue with the team possibly bolstering their offensive line, especially at offensive guard, with their first overall pick.
Point - Jeff Hartman
The Steelers have slowly been building an offensive juggernaut on offense. Anchored by the likes of Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell, the team is poised for one of the best statistical offenses in team history for a second straight year. However, for that to happen the team needs to realize the importance of their offensive line, especially at the guard position.
David DeCastro is quite possibly the best young guard in the NFL, but his counterpart, Ramon Foster, certainly leaves a lot to be desired in many ways. Foster is the least athletic offensive lineman of the group, and the team struggles to run the ball to his side in crucial situations. In fact, the team struggled to run the ball without Bell in the backfield last year, which is a large reason why spending a first round pick on a guard isn't such a bad thing.
Some might complain about the defensive side of the ball, and rightfully so, but isn't the best defense to have an offense who can sustain drives, eat up clock and pound the ball for useful yardage. The Steelers could build the best line in the NFL with a young, athletic guard who could pull as well as DeCastro does giving the offense more versatility in their power running scheme.
Will most of the valuable guards in this draft be gone before the No. 22 pick? Possibly, but if one falls - and every year a player drops further than anyone thinks - the team should put into consideration how dominant an offense the team could be with another stud guard leading the way for the best overall running back in the game.
Counterpoint - Mike Frazer
In a few short years, the Steelers' offensive line has gone from glaring weakness to strength, thanks to excellent draft picks, a new coach and some really good fortune. There is still room for improvement, too.
Looking at the group right now, it's hard not to think of the Sesame Street song One of These Things (is Not Like the Others). That would be guard Ramon Foster. He has been great for the team, no doubt, especially as an undrafted free agent, but he is more of a mauling, straight-ahead blocker than the athletic type of blocker who excels in zone-blocking schemes, which are favored by offensive line coach Mike Munchak. He is starting partly because he earned it, but also because he's simply the fifth-best option on the team.
But is a first-round replacement really the best way to go?
Sure, there are guys at the top of this year's draft who would be likely to supplant Foster by mid-season: Brandon Scherff, La'el Collins, even Pitt's T.J. Clemmings. They all have the tools to be top-shelf linemen for years to come, and they also have the position flexibility that Foster lacks.
But there are two problems: 1) Scherff and Collins are likely to be gone -- they would be unlikely to get to 15, let alone 22 -- while Clemmings would be a small reach at 22, and 2) picking an offensive lineman in round one is a luxury at this point. The team already has spent two first-round picks (Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro) and a second-round pick (Marcus Gilbert) on the current group of linemen. DeCastro and Kelvin Beachum are both due for contract extensions, and Pouncey just received a new deal last year. There is a lot of money tied up in the line; adding another high pick would not be financially wise.
Besides, there are other positions where the need and the value are more likely to dovetail. This draft is heavy on defensive backs and outside linebackers, the two greatest positions of need. And there are still unknowns on the defensive line.
In the end, the pick is going to be better used on other positions, despite the intriguing possibilities. Only if Scherff or Collins find their way to 22nd should guard even be considered in round one.