One of the two main arguments that I made for the Pittsburgh Steelers drafting North Carolina guard Jonathan Cooper in the first round of the 2013 NFL draft, should have fallen, was the fact that there is no solid depth on the teams offensive line. Cooper of course didn\’t fall, nor did Chance Warmack for that matter, so the same depth issue exists now that the draft is completed.
The Steelers starting five is set, but the players that will make up the bottom end of the offensive line depth chart is anything but that. Currently, the sixth offensive lineman appears to Kelvin Beachum, the Steelers seventh-round draft pick from last year. Outside of some poor play at both left tackle and left guard last preseason, Beachum only managed to see playing time, albeit extended, at right tackle last year in the regular season.
Now, there had been talk last season that Beachum could eventually be groomed to be the backup center, and for that matter, the ultimate swing offensive lineman capable of playing all five positions on the offensive, but as for now, none of that has happened. Will that begin during the OTA sessions? We shall see.
Outside of Beachum, the Steelers also currently have John Malecki on the roster. Malecki can play both guard spots as well as center, but can he play those positions well enough to warrant being the seventh man on the Steelers offensive line? No offense to him, but from what I have seen so far, I have my doubts.
Behind both Beachum and Malecki now currently sits a group of interior linemen that consists of futures players and undrafted free agents. Of that group, only Joe Madsen, Mike Golic Jr. and Ivory Wade, according to my research, have experience at the center position. The chances of one of those three making the 53 man roster right now would appear to be unlikely, but I won\’t rule it out until I get to see each of them play. If one of them were to make the final roster, you would think that he would have to get work at center during the preseason.
So what are the other options that the Steelers have as far as a backup guard/center. Doug Legursky remains a free agent, but this is the same player that forced the Steelers to temporarily move starting center Maurkice Pouncey to left guard last season after Willie Colon went down injured. Legursky is a liability at both guard spots and I am pretty sure that the Steelers coaching staff is well aware of that by now.
Another option could be free agent offensive lineman Antoine Caldwell, who the Steelers had in for a visit earlier in the month. The former third-round draft pick of the Houston Texans can play both guard and center and also has experience playing in a zone blocking scheme that the Steelers figure to use more of in 2013. Perhaps his asking price is too high right now or perhaps he was waiting to see how the draft went for several other teams that might have interest in his services before making a decision to sign somewhere.
As far as the backup tackle spot goes, I have already mentioned that Beachum will more than likely make the roster, but beyond that, you would figure the Steelers would want at least one more tackle capable player on the roster. While general manager Kevin Colbert has recently said that the team hasn\’t closed the door yet on veteran Max Starks possibly returning, he would have to do so knowing that he would have to play for the minimum and that he wouldn\’t be a starter. Starks said late last year that he would be open to returning to Pittsburgh in 2013, but not as a backup. For now, we will just have to wait and see how that situation pans out, but he would be my main target if I were Colbert.
The good news, as far as the tackle position goes, is that we found out last year in both the preseason and the regular season that starting guard Ramon Foster can play right tackle in a pinch. Add that to the fact that both Marcus Gilbert and Mike Adams are considered to be left tackle capable by the coaching staff, and perhaps it means the Steelers think that there is a possibility for them to carry only eight offensive linemen on the 53 man roster this year.
It\’s still early in the offseason, but I have a feeling that at least one experienced interior lineman that can play center will be signed to the roster at some point prior to training camp. Will it be Caldwell or Legursky, or do they have someone else in mind?