Even if the Guy Whimper signing ultimately ends up as just a placeholder, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ decision to bring back ‘Abdullah the Butcher’ is a shrewd one that insulates them from need along the offensive line.
He was greatly maligned when he was first brought here last offseason, but he proved that he was worth his salary, playing 270 snaps in total and at least a handful of snaps at four different positions along the offensive line.
Bringing him back now gives the Steelers an excellent foundation for an offensive line that is both versatile and proven.
Being both interior- and exterior-capable, Whimper provides significant value as a utilitarian roster spot or game day active. While it’s true that his best position by some degree is right tackle, he has the opportunity to improve elsewhere.
It’s worth keeping in mind that Whimper was completely new to the guard position last year, which is where he made his two starts. Before his first start, he had to seek Ramon Foster for advice about how to play the position.
It should go without saying that the more acclimated he becomes to playing in the booth at guard, the more efficiently he should be able to play there. I believe there is true room for growth in terms of his performance along the interior of the offensive line.
The Steelers are balanced in having each of their other two reserve linemen specialized as either an inside or outside player.
Having re-signed Cody Wallace to a three-year contract, they now have a player that they can trust to play center, and he can also play guard, which is where his playing time came before Fernando Velasco’s injury.
Mike Adams, of course, began the 2013 season as the starting left tackle, but showed that he wasn’t ready for that stage. He made one start at left tackle late in the season for an injured Kelvin Beachum, during which he fared slightly better, but it should be noted that he was also playing injured.
Adams started his career on the right side, where he showed some impressive displays in the run game. The hope is that new offensive line coach Mike Munchak can work on his pass protection, but either way, he doesn’t figure to be going anywhere in 2014.
There are two primary candidates for the ninth offensive lineman position already on the roster: guards Chris Hubbard and Nik Embernate.
Both came in last season as undrafted rookie free agents. The former spent the entire year on the practice squad, while the latter seemed on an upward trajectory before tearing his ACL during training camp.
The progress of the former has been positive, according to Jim Wexell, and the team was working on getting him some snaps at center last offseason, so perhaps his versatility could make him the current favorite to make the roster as a third option at center. The last thing the Steelers would want to do would be to move Beachum from left tackle again. Wexell also reports that the team remains interested in retaining Velasco once healthy from his torn Achilles.
This all assumes, naturally, that Whimper makes the roster, which is not guarantee. The Steelers could easily use a mid-round pick to provide competition for that roster spot. But with him on board, it prevents the team from being forced to address the offensive line unless it proves truly advantageous.