I continue my analysis of the depth on the Pittsburgh Steelers roster, and after focusing on the offensive skill positions in the first part of this series, today I focus on the offensive line. The once sad and depressing unit has been lifted up by high draft picks and the tutelage of Mike Munchak. When everyone is healthy this unit is tremendous, but what if the injury bug bites them again?
Time to analyze the depth...
There is no question that the Steelers' backup Center, Cody Wallace is a terrific asset. He could probably start on several other NFL teams. He has filled in admirably when Maurkice Pouncey has been injured and the offense doesn't need a lot of tweaking to stay consistent with him in the lineup. Wallace also appears quite durable. Chris Hubbard is the next in line and, like Wallace, can play both the Guard and Center Positions. I believe he could start a game or two and hold his own, if both Pouncey and Wallace were unavailable. While you can't fully replace everything Pouncey brings to the table, I have faith that the Center position is in good hands.
The depth behind David DeCastro and Ramon Foster plays out very similarly to the depth at Center. The top backups are Cody Wallace and Chris Hubbard, whom I mentioned above. Steelers coaches like versatility, and these guys fill the role of backup pretty well. I can't say I know enough about the next two guys to believe in their abilities if their numbers get called. B.J. Finney and Cole Manhart are not exactly household names. How they would fare as starters is unknown. Hopefully they don't get thrust into those roles any time soon, but if they do I believe Coach Munchak will have them ready.
This position interests me a great deal. Marcus Gilbert has become a force and has the right side locked down. With the departure of Kelvin Beachum, the door is wide open for competition between Ryan Harris and Alejandro Villanueva for the starting spot. I like the depth there immediately, because regardless who wins the starting job, his backup has solid NFL starting experience. I look for Villanueva to get the nod, and for Harris to be the first backup while rookie Jerald Hawkins learns the ropes and ultimately fills the swing tackle role once kept by the recently released Mike Adams.
Overall, I like the depth the Steelers have on the offensive line. A few roles are yet to be determined and there could be another training camp darling in the wings waiting to make a name for himself. The best thing this line and all the role players have is Coach Mike Munchak. The hall of famer has brought out the best in the guys he has and will continue to make this the best offensive line in the NFL. Injuries happen and the next man up needs to be ready to fill the shoes of the man he may replace. Mike Munchak gives these men the ability and the confidence to step and step up. Is the situation ideal? No, but this is the one area where the versatility of the backups and the leadership and coaching by both starters and coaches gives me some degree of comfort.