One week from today the Pittsburgh Steelers will report to Latrobe for training camp, so today we continue on with our look at the training camp roster battles with our look at the offensive line and the battles for roster spots within.
The Steelers have been dedicated to fixing the offensive in the last three drafts with the early round selections of Maurkice Pouncey, Marcus Gilbert, David DeCastro and Mike Adams. Willie Colon, who has missed all but one game the last two seasons due to injuries, is now back healthy and has been moved from right tackle to left guard. Trai Essex was resigned while both Doug Legursky and Ramon Foster were retained as restricted free agents. The Steelers put an exclamation point on the offseason by bringing back rehabbed tackle Max Starks on Tuesday.
Colon, Pouncey, Gilbert, DeCastro, Adams and Legursky are all locks to make the 53 man roster so that leaves Starks, Foster, Essex, Jonathan Scott, Chris Scott, Kelvin Beachum, Kyle Jolly, Ryan Lee and John Malecki as the group of offensive linemen that will battle for what will likely be three more roster spots.
Let\’s now take a closer look at those players below.
T Max Starks – I held off doing my offensive line portion of this series just to see if Starks would make it back by the time training camp started. He did, and will now start training camp on the Active PUP list in order to ramp up his conditioning and complete his rehab. The only reason I have Starks as battling for a roster spot is because he is battling his own body. His return is insurance in case Adams fails to win the starting left tackle spot in training camp, which right now I would call a 50/50 chance of happening. Starks can play both tackle spots and would likely be the Steelers swing tacklle if he is not the starter at left tackle when the season starts in Denver. I would look for him to get his first preseason action around the third game or so and my gut tells me that he will indeed be a starter week 1 in Denver as Adams is allowed to be brought along slowly. Regardless, it is great to have Starks back on the roster.
G Ramon Foster – I debated putting Foster on this list, but I know many would argue that he is not a roster lock if I didn\’t. He is as close to a roster lock as you can get, if he his not already, as he can play both guard positions as well as right tackle in case of an emergency. He was very consistent last year after taking over at right guard and could even wind up being the week 1 starter in Denver should DeCastro get off to a slow start in training camp. At the time of writing this, DeCastro remains unsigned, but that figures to change pretty soon. The only way that Foster fails to make the 53 man roster, in my opinion, would be because of an injury that would shelve him for the season.
G/T Trai Essex – Essex is the ultimate swing man that can play all five positions on the offensive line as well as a blocking tight end if needed. His play at center last year against the St. Louis Rams increased his value. Essex really dedicated himself to conditioning this offseason and it shows. He looks as trim and fit as ever. With just three roster spots likely up for grabs on the offensive line, he will need to be beat out most likely by the rookie Beachum to not make the 53 man roster.
T Jonathan Scott – Dead man walking. The return of Starks puts Scott and his $2.7 million cap hit outside of the bubble and looking in. The only reason he is likely to be held on to for a little while longer would be as insurance to Starks. Should the Steelers reach an agreement with Mike Wallace on a long-term deal during training camp, they will need the $2.2 million cap space that a release of Scott would provide to get the deal done. This is a no-brainer if there ever was one and the only way he makes the 53 man roster would be because several injuries have occurred ahead of him.
T/G Chris Scott – Scott went from looking like he would be the starting right guard last year at the beginning of training camp to ending the season on the Steelers practice squad. The Steelers not only gave him a shot at right guard during the preseason, but also a chance to win the backup right tackle spot as well. The former 2010 5th round draft pick, who missed his rookie season due to a foot injury, is likely only fighting for a spot on the practice squad at best this preseason, and most likely as a right side guy.
G Kelvin Beachum – Beachum was drafted in the seventh round back in April out of SMU, where he played left tackle. His size dictated a move inside and that move has already taken place. Beachum will spend training camp most likely at the left guard spot, where he will battle for a spot on the practice squad. His outside shot at making the 53 man would come at the expense of Essex, but it is hard to see that happening right now. Beachum could also get a rep every now and again at center and he very well could become the future Legursky or Essex.
T Kyle Jolly – Jolly was brought back late this offseason when Trevis Turner was released. He was with the Steelers in training camp last year and spent the entire 2010 season on the Steelers practice squad. Right now he is only considered a camp body and a long-shot to even make the practice squad.
G Ryan Lee – Lee is a guard out of Furman that the Steelers signed as an undrafted free agent. With the log jam currently ahead of him on the roster, he will battling to stay in camp throughout the preseason in hopes of making the practice squad. Although he comes from a small school, he did show flashes at times, most notably in his game against Florida. He figures to only get playing time late in preseason games and needs to show he has enough upside to warrant keeping on the practice squad.
G/C John Malecki – The former Pitt product is a guard/center type that spent some time on the Steelers practice squad last season. It will be interesting to see if he gets reps as the third string center during the preseason, or if the Steelers think only of him as a guard. He has a huge uphill battle ahead of him just to make practice squad. In short, he is camp body just like Jolly.
Summation – The addition of Starks makes the Steelers pretty solid on paper from a depth perspective. Starks, Legursky, Foster and Essex all have plenty of experience as starters. Should Adams not adapt quickly to the next level, Starks should be ready to start week 1 in Denver. Beachum looks like an obvious practice squad candidate that will likely be joined there by either C. Scott or Lee. Overall you have to be happy the way this position group looks heading into training camp.
Previous Training Camp Roster Battle Post
2012 Pittsburgh Steelers Training Camp Roster Battles: Defensive Ends
2012 Pittsburgh Steelers Training Camp Roster Battles: Wide Receivers
2012 Pittsburgh Steelers Training Camp Roster Battles: Tight Ends
2012 Pittsburgh Steelers Training Camp Roster Battles: Kickers
2012 Pittsburgh Steelers Training Camp Roster Battles: Cornerbacks
2012 Pittsburgh Steelers Training Camp Roster Battles: Safeties
2012 Pittsburgh Steelers Training Camp Roster Battles: Running Backs
2012 Pittsburgh Steelers Training Camp Roster Battles: Nose Tackles