The calendar is quickly flipping through the month of April, and each day brings us closer and closer to the 2015 NFL Draft. By now, teams should have by and large accomplished everything that they have set out to do in terms of free agent roster building, which means that their sole focus is now preparing for the draft.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have finally been able to clear the Troy Polamalu hurdle and settle into their pre-draft roster. We have broken down the Steelers’ moves at each position in free agency in terms of re-signings, free agent additions and subtractions, cuts, and retirements, so now we begin the final process: determining draft needs.
The last area of the offensive side of the ball left to take a closer look at is the interior offensive line positions, where the Steelers have spent two of their previous five first-round draft picks on pieces that figure to be the nuclear of the line for the next several years.
At the heart of the line is center Maurkice Pouncey, who has been an All-Pro player throughout his five-year career, barring the 2013 season, during which he of course missed all but eight snaps in the season opener.
Pouncey came back strong after tearing his ACL that year, and had arguably his best season yet in 2014, which certainly bodes well for the future. It’s always nice, of course, when one of your best players shows no signs of a serious knee injury after the fact.
The Steelers are holding out hope that someday in the very near future, they will be sending David DeCastro out to the Pro Bowl circuit as well, who was selected in the first round of the 2012 draft as a right guard.
Like Pouncey, DeCastro was to be an opening day rookie starter if not for a knee injury of his own that wiped out most of his rookie season. But he came back in 2013 looking much better as the season progressed, even as he struggled with consistency issues, particularly after injuring his ankle. DeCastro’s play in 2014 continued to be marred by inconsistency, but when he is playing at a high level, he performs as would an All-Pro.
Left guard Ramon Foster had similar issues of consistency last year, but that was his strong suit. He is the oldest and most replaceable part of the starting offensive line right now.
Behind the starters are veteran Cody Wallace and the younger Chris Hubbard, who is entering his third season, including a year on the practice squad. Wallace has some starting experience with the Steelers, performing better at center than at guard, while Hubbard has played about seven snaps in garbage time.
Wallace has two years left on his contract, but he is also the oldest of the linemen, as he will turn 31 during the season. In other words, the Steelers could seriously use an injection of depth now, with the possibility of that player taking over for Foster in the starting lineup in the near future.
Of course, with presumably two long-term starters already in place and under contract for at least the next two seasons, the Steelers could be a lot worse off than they are now. And there’s certainly no saying that Foster can’t continue to be a starter-capable player, but getting a more agile player into the lineup could expand what Pittsburgh is able to do in terms of blocking schemes.