Steelers O-Line Reserves Could Be In For A Shuffle

With the exception of the starting center position due to obvious reasons, for the bulk of the past two seasons, the Pittsburgh Steelers have seemingly had a stable game day active seven offensive linemen, including their two reserves, which have been Cody Wallace for the three interior spots and Mike Adams for the two tackle positions.

Indeed, both reserves have logged significant snaps over the past two seasons, although Adams’ figure is skewed heavily by the fact that he was the starter at left tackle for the first four games of the 2013 season.

Still, though, he logged significant time after that as well, though much of that came as a tackle eligible lined up from the tight end position. But he has made five starts since his demotion, and has had to fill in due to injury at other times.

Wallace, meanwhile, has started five games over the past two seasons due to injury. In spite of being a veteran player before joining the Steelers, he had only played 18 snaps on offense prior to that.

Adams and Wallace have been stable in their positions as the game day active reserves since then, but I can’t help but wonder if that might be challenged this year. I suspect that Wallace’s spot may be the more vulnerable of the two, in part because there is more viable competition, and in part because the coaching staff seem to be bigger supporters of his performance on the field than the majority of outside observers. The fact that Wallace’s performance starting at guard last season was spotty is also relevant.

For Adams, there seems to be only one viable contender, which would be Alejandro Villanueva, a former Army ranger who will be turning 27 and has never played in the NFL before despite trying out for teams multiple times.

But he has been working at tackle for the past 10 months, and has received praise from his teammates and others on the outside. The true test of his progress, and whether or not he can be a viable candidate to claim a roster spot, let alone get a helmet on game day, will come shortly, beginning with the opening of training camp, and when the shoulder pads come on.

The Steelers are not as committed to Wallace, even though he has two years left on a three-year contract. He was not drafted by them—in fact, he was claimed off waivers after the final roster cuts just prior to the start of the 2013 regular season. And when they needed somebody to play center—his natural position—they went out to sign a free agent. He only started when that replacement was also injured.

His most obvious competition this time around would be Chris Hubbard, who was on the 53-man roster last season and did see a handful of snaps. But should Hubbard lose his own roster spot to one of several in an interesting crop of undrafted free agent rookies, all of whom have extensive starting experience in college, then they could conceivably pose a threat to his status as a game day active.

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