No matter how good your team may be doing, there will always be a vocal cross-section of the fan base that, at any given point during the season, is already looking at who their favorite team should be drafting the following spring.
The Pittsburgh Steelers fan base is certainly no exception, and, though they finally went 11-5 and won their division, even the most diehard fan could not deny that the organization has some holes to fill.
While the offense improved, and is on an upward trajectory, there are still tweaks to be made, and successors to be found. The defense has struggled, and is switching coordinators, which may call for a slightly different type of player.
So we’ll take a look at the Steelers roster position by position in the early offseason to determine how each group stacks up in terms of draft need. The next position to go under the microscope will be the offensive tackles.
Kelvin Beachum: A long-term answer? With 38 career starts at left tackle now under his belt, including the postseason, it’s starting to look that way. While he tends to give up a representative number of sacks, his overall performance in pass protection is above average, allowing little total pressure overall. He compensates for some physical limitations by extensive tape study, excellent footwork and handwork, and lateral agility.
Some have argued that his best long-term position would be to slide inside to guard. I remain unconvinced of this. Playing in a confined space would largely neutralize one of his best assets, which is his feet, while accentuating one of his weaknesses, which is his physical strength, by constantly pitting him against defensive tackles and nose guards.
Marcus Gilbert: Four years into his career, Marcus Gilbert has yet to complete a season healthy. Due to the nature of the injuries he’s suffered, it’s difficult to say how prone to injury he is based on his play on the field or his body composition.
After struggling in pass protection in the early portions of the season, Gilbert settled down quite a bit, and played well for a prolonged period of time before suffering in-season injuries. He may always struggle with speed off the edge, but that’s why teams pay speed rushers a lot of money. He has also made strides as a run blocker.
Mike Adams: His last season in Pittsburgh? It’s a virtual certainty that Mike Adams will not win a starting job with the Steelers over Beachum or Gilbert. He filled in at right tackle for several games last season and showed little improvement, which is not a good sign considering the coaching upgrade the Steelers made this offseason.
Draft Strategy: I’ve included only three tackles on this list due to the fact that Maurkice Pouncey nearly had to take reps in-game at tackle at one point this past season. the Steelers have two tackles signed to futures contracts, including Alejandro Villanueva, who spent the year on the practice squad.
While the Steelers are not immediately in the market for a starting tackle, they could certainly use some depth at the position at the moment, considering Adams is in the final year of his contract (as is Beachum) and there are no obvious prospects in the farm system. Of course, if a sure-fire blue chip left tackle falls to them in the first round of the draft, that could change things.