If you look back at the Pittsburgh Steelers’ past drafts under head coach Mike Tomlin, then history suggests the team is likely to draft a lineman at some point. The Steelers have done so in seven of the nine draft classes since Tomlin was hired in 2007, with the exceptions being in 2013 and 2015.
In 2013, of course, the Steelers were coming off a period in which they drafted four offensive linemen within the first two rounds during a three-year window, including two second-round tackles and two interior linemen in the first round, so it might not exactly be a shock to see the team take a break.
2015 was a year in which they were very consciously defensive-minded, acknowledging, essentially, that they would only take an offensive player if his value at a given point in the draft was significant. And, of course, they came away with just two offensive players, in the third and fifth rounds, respectively.
While the draft will be heavily influenced by what happens in free agency, given that the team has two starting offensive linemen slated to hit the open market later this month—and this is another draft that is likely to be oriented to the defensive side of the ball—there will be a need along the offensive line as well.
Simply speaking, the Steelers will not retain both tackle Kelvin Beachum and guard Ramon Foster, and the retention of Beachum will likely only come at the condition that he is a tackle, so either way, there will be an opening.
Alejandro Villanueva will take over at left tackle, but there will be a void in the depth chart behind him for the swing tackle. I have previously written about the emerging depth issue at the tackle position, one that Mike Adams may not be able to solve.
If Foster leaves, of course, there are no overly enticing options currently on the roster to succeed him. If he does stay, it will still be true that only one lineman behind him has meaningful experience playing at the nfl level—and he is a better center than guard.
The Steelers liked Wesley Johnson when they drafted him in the fifth round of the 2014 NFL draft as a player who had the ability to be multiple, having started at all five positions along the line during his college career. While he exclusively played center during the preseason, he worked at all five positions at some point during training camp.
I could see the team being interested in another player similar to Johnson who offers the potential to play both inside and outside—somebody who offers more upside than somebody like Chris Hubbard, who was thrust into the role of backup everything last year after Beachum suffered a torn ACL.
Even if it is somebody like 2010 fifth-round draft pick Chris Scott—who continues to play in the league to this day—and even in a draft during which they currently have no picks in the fifth and sixth rounds, history suggests a lineman at some point is likely regardless of whether or not they retain one of their free agent linemen. They have selected 12 linemen in total in nine years, which makes sense for a group that accounts for typically about 17 percent of your roster.