Monday, April 19, 2010

Steelers Draft Preview: Offensive Line

We wrap up our look at the Steelers offense in our draft preview series today with a look at the O-line. During the 15 years of the Bill Cowher era, the Steelers spent 4 1st round picks, 1 2nd round pick, and 6 3rd round picks on offensive linemen. Under Mike Tomlin, the Steelers have only drafted one lineman in the first 3 rounds, and that was last year in Round 3. We'll be hosting a Cover It Live Blog with some other bloggers and fans on Thursday and Friday for the first three rounds of the draft. Feel free to stop by and share your thoughts with us! The great thing about CoverItLive Blogs is that you don't need an account to participate, you can make posts as a guest. We're looking forward to the draft and hope that you'll drop by and chat with us!

Current Players:
Max Starks
Willie Colon
Ramon Foster
Jonathan Scott
Tony Hills

The Steelers promoted Max Starks to starting LT last year, and for the first part of the year it looked like the move was paying off. Starks shut down Elvis Dumervil and Jared Allen when the Steelers hit their peak in the middle of the year last year. But then the wheels began to fall off on the O-line. Part of the problem was the scheme: it's hard to block 6 blitzers with only 5 guys. Ever since Willie Colon was given the RT job, analysts from outside the city have been saying he should be moved in to guard. Colon projects to be the RT once again this season, and he has shown improvement over his time as a starter. Colon is one of the better run-blockers we have on the team, but he has struggled in pass protection, particularly against speed rushers from the outside. Ramon Foster was able to step in at both guard and tackle last year when players were injured, and he looks much better than Tony Hills. The Steelers brought in Jonathan Scott from Buffalo in free agency to serve as a back-up, but he probably won't be more than that. The Steelers could use some more depth at tackle, and very well could address it in the first round.

Potential Draft Picks:
Brian Bulaga (Iowa) - 1st Round (trade up)
Charles Brown (USC) - 1st Round
Rodger Saffold (Indiana) - 2nd Round
Sam Young (Notre Dame) - 3rd Round

Current Players:
Chris Kemoeatu
Trai Essex
Kraig Urbik

The Steelers need a guard badly. We've been very vocal about loving Mike Iupati from Idaho. The Steelers are in perfect position to draft him at #18 in the draft, and he could start right away at RG. Trai Essex did an okay job last year, but guard is definitely a spot that could use an upgrade. Chris Kemoeatu is stepping into the role of a pulling guard well, but he was injured for much of last year, and Ramon Foster just didn't have the foot quickness that Kemoeatu did. The Steelers invested a 3rd round pick in Urbik last year, but he never saw playing time. Iupati is an absolute mauler in the run game. His pass blocking still needs some work, but he would be a huge improvement to the offensive line.

Potential Draft Picks:
Mike Iupati (Idaho) - 1st Round
Mike Johnson (Alabama) - 3rd - 4th Round

Current Players:
Justin Hartwig
Doug Legursky

Justin Hartwig is, without a doubt, an upgrade over the disaster that was Sean Mahan. That being said, Hartwig is getting up there in years and it might be time for the Steelers to start looking for a long-term replacement. The team is high on Doug Legursky, who saw some time in the starting lineup last year at center and guard due to injuries. We really liked the pick of AQ Shipley last year, but he was signed by Philly this offseason, and is no longer an option. If the Steelers can't land Mike Iupati, we hope they take a long, hard look at Maurkice Pouncey (Florida). Pouncey would be able to step in if needed at center or guard on the line, and would give us a long-term solution in the middle of the line. He has the size to handle the big NT's of the AFC North and be a force in the run game.

Potential Draft Picks:
Maurkice Pouncey (Florida) - 1st Round
JD Walton (Baylor) - 3rd Round


Anonymous said...

I would like to see the Steelers use at least 3 if not 4 of their 11 picks on line man.

However, I don't think they necessarily need to take a lineman in the first two rounds.

Though I would be happy with Iupati or Pouncey in round 1, I would be happy with Kyle Wilson or taken a surprise fall of a consensus top 12 choice at inside linebacker or defensive line.

I've read that Anthony Davis has questionable heart and work ethic. To me, that's a total non-fit for the Steelers.

If they don't take a lineman first, I would be happy with Charles Brown [though probably wouldn't be there] or Rodger Safford in the 2nd [I'd prefer 3rd but that might not happen]. However, I think this draft is pretty deep in line prospects, so I would not panic if they did not take a lineman in the first two rounds, but then, I would like to see a run at them between the third and fourth rounds.

Ones I like include in the 3rd rounds and beyond are:

> Jared Veldheer [I love this pick, sounds like a steeler type of guy, great character]

> Casey Knipps

> Ciron Black

> Ed Wang,

> Sam Young

> Kyle Calloway

Guards and Centers
> Mike Johnson

> JD Walton

> Matt Tenant

> Mitch Petrus

> Brandon Carter

Okay, I don't think everyone will fit Steelers, but point is there is a lot of depth at there for the later rounds. Steelers should particularly look at the guys that have great work ethic and motor and/or play with a nasty streak.

The Steelers n'at Staff said...

Thanks for your comment! Honestly, we're never going to complain about the Steelers taking O-linemen. We firmly believe that the game is won in the trenches and you need a strong team at the point of attack. We're old-school like that.

Go Steelers!