The Steelers offensive line building strategy has seen a sea change during the Mike Tomlin era, perhaps like no other spot on the depth chart.
- During the first part of the Tomlin era, the Steelers used a “Plug and Patch” approach to building their offensive line.
Whether it was because the Steelers drank their own “Weapons vs. Protection” Koolaid for real or because they won Super Bowl XLIII and went to another with a makeshift offensive line, or because Bruce Arians wasn’t interested in line building as Steel City Insider’s Jim Wexell reported in 2013, the Steelers ignored the offensive line in Mike Tomlin’s first several drafts.
That changed as Ben Roethlisberger started taking more hits, and the question we look at here today is whether the Steelers should continue to focus on the offensive line in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Steelers Depth Chart @ Offensive Line Entering the 2017 NFL Draft – the Starters
The Maurkice Pouncey anchors the Steelers offensive line having been voted to the Pro Bowl by his peers in each of his non-injury seasons. Marcus Gilbert holds down the right end of the Steelers offensive line, followed by David DeCastro, with Ramon Foster and Alejandro Villanueva playing to Pouency’s left.
While it is fair to say that the Steelers offensive line got off to a slow start in early 2016, the unit gelled as the season progressed. Ben Roethlisberger took fewer sacks than he has in any season and Le’Veon Bell tured out single game performances in both the regular season and playoffs that neither Willie Parker, nor Franco Harris, nor Jerome Bettis could accomplish.
That only happens of the Steelers offensive line is playing well.
Steelers Depth Cart @ Offensive Line Entering the 2017 NFL Draft – Backups
Behind their starting front five the Steelers have and B.J. Finney who can back up at guard and center. Next they have Chris Hubbard who can play both guard and offensive tackle. Ryan Harris retired, leaving 2016’s 4th round draft pick Jerald Hawkins and Brain Mihalik as the primary backups at offensive tackle.
Both Chris Hubbard and BJ Finney saw action in during 2016, and both men played well, although Finney is stronger at guard than he is at center.
Steelers 2017 Draft Need at Offensive Line
The Steelers offensive line is as talented and as deep as it has been at any time in during the Mike Tomlin era. The Steelers starters and depth at guard are both strong. Depth at center isn’t quite as strong, but BJ Finney has shown he’s at least serviceable there, and he also possesses the proverbial “Upside.”
- Depth remains more of a concern at offensive tackle.
Chris Hubbard started four games at tackle and also served as a third tight end as part of the Steelers “Big Boy Package.” In a perfect world Jerald Hawkins would give the Steelers 2 viable backups at offensive tackle, but Hawkins is an untested commodity.
Fate has had a nasty way of reminding Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert that the old saying “You can never have too many good offensive lineman” during more than one season in recent memory. And that leads one to the temptation to rate offensive line a higher priority, but the Steelers essential need at offensive line is to build depth, and therefore Steelers 2017 draft need at must be considered Moderate/Low.