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.
We now move on past the skill position players as we get to the meat of the offense with the men in the trenches. First we’ll take a look at the tackle position, where it’s been a while since the Steelers have had the same set of opening day starters from one year to the next.
But that figures to change in 2015, as both Kelvin Beachum at left tackle and Marcus Gilbert on the right side seem fairly comfortable in their places, for now, with Gilbert already under a long-term contract and Beachum expected to receiver one prior to the start of the regular season this year.
Gilbert signed a new deal last offseason as he was in the final year of his rookie contract, and he showed improvement in both the running game and the passing game, albeit bookmarked by some disappointing performances against the Ravens.
He may never be a Pro Bowler, but he has been able to get the job done better than his detractors give him credit for. My main concern has been his ability to stay healthy, as he missed yet another four games last year after playing much of the previous year through injury.
Beachum, unlike Gilbert, was not a high draft pick. In fact, he was one of the last players selected in the 2012 draft, and yet he has become a starting-caliber left tackle, making 37 regular season starts there over the span of the past two years, including 16 last year.
What he lacks in size and strength, he makes up for in footwork, technique, and determination. He also has the hidden value of being able to play all five positions.
Behind the starters is Mike Adams, who was drafted in the second round in Beachum’s class, but he has been disappointing in his first three seasons. He showed little improvement in his four starts in place of Gilbert last season, and it’s widely believed that the Steelers will let him play out his contract and sign elsewhere next year.
Aside from Adams, there is only really Alejandro Villanueva, who is quite the mystery. He was only signed to the practice squad prior to the regular season, so this is his first offseason with the Steelers. He has been training and putting on weight to play tackle, so we’ll see if he has anything to offer at the position this year.
As far as need goes, there is a clear one here in terms of depth, even if they believe that they have their two starting tackles. Even that could change, however, if they are able to land one in the first round, even if that scenario is becoming seemingly increasingly unlikely.
Rather than draft for a specific position, however, it seems that the Steelers may be more interested in a more versatile type that can line up both inside and outside, which will give them options going forward. But that, of course, has to do largely with the way the draft breaks.