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Steelers draft profile: Taliese Fuaga (Offensive tackle, Oregon State)

Fuaga is a popular name among Steeler fans in this year’s draft. Does he live up to the first round hype?

Taliese Fuaga #75 of the Oregon State Beavers blocks during a game against the Oregon Ducks at Autzen Stadium on November 24, 2023 in Eugene, Oregon. Photo by Brandon Sloter/Image Of Sport/Getty Images

Approaching the 2024 NFL Draft, we’ll be scouting as many of the top prospects that the Pittsburgh Steelers could have their eye on anywhere from Rounds 1 through 7. We’ll breakdown the prospects themselves, strengths and weaknesses, projected draft capital and their fit with the Steelers.

I’ll be covering Oregon State offensive lineman Taliese Fuaga in my second draft profile of the year. The big tackle has become a popular name in Steelers mock drafts, and for good reason. He’s a very good tackle and that’s exactly what the Steelers need this offseason. What’s not to like?

The basics on Taliese Fuaga

  • Position: Right tackle
  • Class: Redshirt Junior, Oregon State
  • Size: 6’6, 334 pounds
  • Projected draft round: 1

Taliese Fuaga scouting report

The first thing that stands out about Fuaga is his size. The tackle stands at 6’6 and over 330 pounds — excellent for an NFL lineman, and that type of size advantage is easy to see when watching Fuaga play. He’s one of the most, if not the most dominant run-blocker in this year’s class.

But Fuaga differs from the “mauler” stereotype in a few ways, which is the reason why he’s a first-round prospect. Despite his size and strength, Fuaga is a surprisingly fluid athlete who can actually make plays in space.

That’s the type of athleticism you don’t normally see from guys Fuaga’s size. He can be an effective blocker at the second level. Still, Fuaga isn’t the perfect prospect. He can be a tad slow off the snap and can sometimes struggle with quicker rushers when in pass protection.

But once Fuaga gets going, there are not many matchups he will lose. He has an extremely strong upper half with a powerful initial punch that can knock unprepared defenders out of a play. Once he locks onto a block, he has excellent leg drive and plays through the whistle, with a nasty demeanor that leads to plenty of highlights.

Just about every Fuaga rep I watched in run blocking was teach tape — just an overall great showing of leverage, strength, athleticism, and effort.

As mentioned earlier, in pass protection Fuaga still has some improvement to go. I think he’s definitely athletic enough to have a great NFL career at tackle (I’ve seen reports that see him as a guard at the next level), but he doesn’t have the elite upside in pass blocking of a franchise left tackle. Fuaga played on the right side at Oregon State and that’s where he best fits at the NFL level.

Don’t get me wrong, though. Fuaga is very good at protecting his quarterback. He generally handles stunts well, has aggressive hands, and is athletic enough to take on most edge defenders. Still, quick and crafty rushers can expose some holes in Fuaga’s footwork and positioning. However, the same strengths that applied for run-blocking apply here. Once Fuaga locks onto the defender, he usually wins the rep.

A former three-star recruit who developed into one of the nation’s top offensive lineman, Fuaga brings experience as a two-year starter who was also a team captain at Oregon State. He was one of the foundational players in the Beavers’ rise from the basement of the Pac-12 to a top-25 team with a powerful run-first offense. At the Senior Bowl, Fuaga was voted as the National team’s top offensive lineman by his defensive teammates. Besides being a great fit for a number of NFL teams due to his talent, Fuaga’s character will likely also stand out in the draft process.

Strengths

  • Surprisingly great athlete for size
  • Great effort, tenacity
  • Powerful hands and upper body
  • Elite run blocker

Weaknesses

  • Can struggle with quicker edge rushers
  • Occasionally sloppy footwork and positioning
  • Can be a bit slow off the snap in pass protection

What others are saying about Taliese Fuaga

Ian Cummings of Pro Football Network

Mountainous tackle with high-end mass, density, and length who carries that mass well... Isn’t always fast enough on vertical hip transitions to fully seal out edge rushers... Fuaga grades out as a blue-chip and top-10 prospect on my 2024 NFL Draft board.

Damian Parson of The Draft Network

Run game dominance... Drifting, oversetting in pass pro... Projects as a starter at both OG and RT. He is an ideal fit for a run-first offense with a play-action passing game... Prospect Projection: Day 1 — Pro Bowl Caliber.

Brandon Thorn of Bleacher Report

Overall, Fuaga has the size, power and run-blocking skills to earn a starting role in his first training camp at guard inside a run-first, play-action-based system. He also has enough quickness to play tackle in a pinch... GRADE: 7.6 (Potential Impact Player — Late 1st Round/Early 2nd Round.

Taliese Fuaga’s fit with the Steelers

If you glance at the blurbs from other draft profiles listed above, you’ll see a common theme that I also agree with: Fuaga would be a perfect fit in a run and play-action-heavy offense.

Sounds a lot like the preferred scheme of new Steelers offensive coordinator Arthur Smith, no?

To the surprise of absolutely no one, Fuaga is an ideal fit for the Steelers offense. If Pittsburgh drafted him, it would allow 2022 first-rounder Broderick Jones to move back to left tackle, his natural side, giving the Steelers a bulldozer at each tackle spot. With Fuaga in the lineup and a presumed upgrade at center, Pittsburgh would suddenly have one of the better run-blocking offensive lines in the league — a promising sign for any team’s offense, especially one with uncertainty at quarterback.

Fuaga’s imperfections as a pass protector are a tad concerning, but he’s still well on par if not slightly better than most linemen in this year’s draft. He has more than enough upside to be a great all-around tackle during his NFL career, with legitimate All-Pro potential on the right side. Still, there might be some rough patches if the Steelers start two inexperienced tackles in 2024, but the risk would be well worth the reward.

TL;DR — Taliese Fuaga is a road-grading right tackle prospect who projects as an elite run blocker at the NFL level. With enough athleticism to develop into an excellent pass protector, Fuaga is well-deserving of his first round hype and should be among the Steelers’ top draft prospects in 2024.

What are your thoughts on Taliese Fuaga? And which draft prospects would you like to see profiled next? Let us know in the comments below!