With the 2015 NFL Draft and rookie minicamp now in the rearview mirror, the Pittsburgh Steelers 90-man offseason roster is getting pretty close to set, although there are always some late movements to balance out positional numbers or replace injured or underperforming players.
Now that the rookie class in in-house and the tryout players have either come and gone or stuck around, it’s time to take one last look at the Steelers’ roster as we head into the meat of the offseason. Next up will be the offensive tackle position.
Kelvin Beachum: Nobody has improved as much from year to year as has Beachum, who has defied the odds and has shown himself to be a quality starting left tackle in pass protection, for a competitive team with a franchise quarterback. Despite his short stature for the position, his intelligence, footwork, and tenacity have bridged the gap that genetics had provided. If he continues to improve his functional strength, he stands to become a strong all-around tackle, as he lacks the finishing power often necessary in the run game.
Marcus Gilbert: In his fourth season, Gilbert showed noticeable technical improvement, and proved to many that he can be a quality starting tackle when healthy. But staying healthy has continued to be an issue. And he can always work on his technique against the speed rushers.
Mike Adams: Entering the final year of his rookie contract, Adams has started a handful of games in each of his first three seasons, most as an injury replacement, and having done so at both tackle positions. He has the physical tools to be a good tackle, but has yet to show the necessary technical development to earn a second contract or to compete for a starting job again.
Alejandro Villanueva: Villanueva is a fan favorite already despite the fact that nobody has seen him play tackle. His most intriguing feature outside of his military background is his size. At 6’9”, and reportedly having bulked up to 320 to 330 pounds, the former tight end certainly has the look of an offensive tackle now, and his skill position background suggests he might have the feet. But he’s so raw and completely unknown that any excitement is based purely on speculation.
Mitchell Van Dkye: A first-year player after being drafted by the Rams in the seventh round in 2014, Van Dyke is tall at 6’7” and has decent strength, as well as a proper offensive lineman demeanor. He is much better in the run game, however, than in pass protection, where his footwork limits him.
Kevin Whimpey: Despite the last name, Whimpey has the requisite strength, both on and off the field, to play in the NFL, and shows it in the running game. He lacks the finesse to handle pressure around the edge, however, in pass protection.
Micah Hatchie: Signed just prior to the team’s rookie minicamp, Hatchie does not have an NFL-ready frame and lacks both strength and lateral movement. He is listed as a tackle, and is regarded as an intelligent football player, but he could be moved around.
Notes: Both Beachum and Adams are playing on expiring contracts, although Beachum is expected to get an extension before the season starts. But long-term depth is clearly an issue with Adams’ future uncertain and Gilbert’s ability to stay healthy providing the need for a quality reserve who can spot start.