With the 2014 NFL Draft coming up in a bit, and having finished taking stock of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster, it’s now time to look back and see how the team assembled the roster they currently have through the draft.
It would be most simple to set a dividing line at 2007, the year Mike Tomlin took over at head coach, so we will revisit the past seven drafts, encompassing 59 selections, to see how the team treated each position, and look into why that is.
The next position we’ll revisit is offensive tackle. This is a position that was certainly ignored early in Tomlin’s tenure, which inherited the last gasps of Marvel Smith and made good on a three-year run for Willie Colon before the injury bug bit. Max Starks also had some success, but as a result, the position was neglected on draft day…or draft weekend.
Of note is that Chris Scott was originally drafted as a tackle, but ultimately played guard, and so will be covered with the interior offensive lineman draft picks.
2008 – Tony Hills – 4th round (130)
Many people saw potential in Tony Hills when he was drafted. The Steelers’ draft class that year looked strong on paper, in fact, but really, the only pick that ever lived up to their potential was Ryan Mundy as a compensatory sixth-round pick.
Hills was inactive for most of his three-year stay with the Steelers. He finally showed a bit of improvement during the 2010 preseason and even saw playing time in two games, but was not overly impressive. He failed to make the roster the next year. He hasn’t done much with anybody else since.
2011 – Marcus Gilbert – 2nd round (63)
After his good friend Maurkice Pouncey made the sales pitch, the Steelers made Marcus Gilbert their second-round pick in 2011, and he was forced to enter the starting lineup in just the second game of his career due to Colon going down for the season with an injury.
Gilbert ended up starting most of that season and showing fairly well for a rookie. In 2012, he missed most of the season, and many began to question his abilities. While he started every game last year, he missed a number of snaps due to injury. The jury is still out on his long-term viability as a starting right tackle. He’s entering the final year of his rookie deal.
2012 – Mike Adams – 2nd round (56)
Mike Adams was a surprise pick for a number of reasons, not the least of which being the fact that the Steelers originally crossed him off their draft board for off-field reasons. Adams assured the team—and only them—of his character, however, and when he was available in the second round, they jumped on him.
Like Gilbert, he was forced to start due to injuries, but he only lasted so long before he too succumbed to injury. While he had some strong moments in run blocking, there were questions about his pass protection.
He was moved to left tackle in 2013, where those questions were answered in the negative. He was benched after four games and spent the majority of his time at tight end. He figures to battle Gilbert for the right tackle job this season. They need to get at least one right tackle out of two second-round picks.
2012 – Kelvin Beachum – 7th round (248)
Kelvin Beachum was nearly Mr. Irrelevant in the 2012 draft as a very late seventh-round compensatory pick, but just 20 games into his career, he became a starting left tackle in the NFL, where he figures to resume this summer.
This was after a dreadful rookie preseason; however, when he was called upon at right tackle late in the year to replace both Gilbert and Adams, he played above expectations, and the team began to groom him as their Swiss army knife, with the ability to play all line positions as well as tight end.
He began the season at tight end, but had to take over at center in the season opener when Pouncey went down. He rotated at tackle for the next few games before the team finally benched Adams and gave Beachum the left tackle job. While he struggled early, he settled down by the end of the year, and now has a chance to stake his claim to that job—or fail.