Steelers Draft Needs: Offensive Line

Mike Tomlin ended the 2007 season declaring that the Steelers needed to get younger and stronger on the offensive line. It took two more drafts for him to use a first or a second round pick on an offensive lineman.

During Bill Cowher’s tenure the team seemed to have an unofficial policy of using a top three pick on an offensive lineman every year, or otherwise the team brought in a quality offensive lineman via free agency (think Tom Newberry, Rich Kalis, Will Wolford, Jeff Hartings.)

Cowher ended that tradition in his final draft, and Tomlin declined to renew it.
The Steelers, it seemed, adopted a patch and plug offensive line building philosophy, for a time at least. This sites alter ego La Toalla Terrible even offered a faux warning to Willie Colon that the fact that the team signed him to a new contract doomed his future with the team.

Tongue and cheek though that article was, the team signed Kendall Simmons, Jeff Hartwig, Sean Mahan, and Max Starks to long term deals only to waive them well before their completion.

Team officials argued that giving the quarterback weapons compensates for line deficiencies.
Such logic flies in the face of over 100 years of football wisdom. But for a time, it seemed like the Steelers were beating the system. Yours truly authored an article on Behind the Steel Curtain questioning whether the importance of offensive line had in fact diminished in the modern NFL.

They were even so bold as to think that they could make a run with Jonathan Scott as their regular starter at left tackle.

In 2011, however, the house started winning its money back, and Ben Roethlisberger was ultimately the one forced to pick up the tab. Scott was so clearly outmatched that the team was forced to resign Max Starks just two weeks after declaring that door closed.

To Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin’s credit, their selections of Maurkice Pouncey and Marcus Gilbert did begin to address the Steelers needs at offensive line.

In addition to those two, the Steelers still have Willie Colon, albeit who has an injury history, along with Doug Legrusky and Ramon Foster. While Legursky and Foster are “good enough” neither is going to develop into a dominant, road grading lineman.

And even if they prove me wrong, the Steelers have next to nobody behind them, unless you feel comfortable counting on the Scotts, that is Jonathan Scotts and Chris Scotts.

Winning on offense in the NFL still begins at the line of scrimmage, and the Steelers must better equip themselves to do just that. That means they need to address the offensive line in the draft early and often.

  • Priority of offensive line for the Steelers in the 2012 NFL Draft: High

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