Devil’s Advocate: O-Line Depth In Draft

You may recall for the past several offseasons that I ran an article series called The Optimist’s/Pessimist’s Take. I used it to explore different issues and topics the Pittsburgh Steelers were facing and took a positive or negative approach, examining each side in a separate article. This is essentially the same idea behind that, only condensed into one article for every topic.

In this version of the idea, I’ll be playing the Devil’s Advocate for both sides of the issue, looking at the best-case and worst-case scenarios in trying to find the range of likely outcomes of what is likely to happen for the Steelers relating to whatever topic the article is covering.

When it comes to the process of trying to construct a championship roster, the reality is that there are a ton of moving parts, and several ways to acquire said parts. There are a lot of things that can go right or wrong in not always predictable ways, so I think it’s helpful to try to look at issues by seeking out the boundaries of the likely positive or negative results.

Topic: Should offensive line depth be on the Steelers’ draft board?

As it currently stands, the Steelers are returning all but one player from their offensive line room during the regular season last year, and they are also getting back a rookie fourth-round draft pick. At least on paper, they should be solidly eight-men deep at worst.

But the world doesn’t play out on paper, and most teams typically carry nine offensive linemen. So should the Steelers consider looking for another offensive lineman, either on the edge or along the interior, in the draft later this week?

I think that a case could at least be made for it. For starters, Jerald Hawkins hasn’t had the opportunity to show anything yet outside of one preseason game, so he can largely be regarded as an unknown commodity. And even if the Steelers view him as ‘an extra draft pick’, as they have said about injured rookies in the past, he is the only natural tackle that is seemingly sure to make the roster.

The other most likely ‘tackle’ is Chris Hubbard, who despite playing tackle in college has spent more time on the interior in the NFL. He started three games at right tackle last year due to injury and held his own, but you can’t ignore all of his other tape throughout his career. There were years where it looked like he would be rightfully cut. And aside from that, he is also their second interior reserve.

The first is, of course, B.J. Finney, but between Hawkins, Finney, and Hubbard, that is three reserves, and there is still room for another. Even if you like Brian Mihalik, it doesn’t hurt to add to the competition. And do you really want to trust Hubbard as your third center on the depth chart? He’s hiked a couple of balls right into his posterior and put his quarterbacks in vulnerable positions, even getting Bruce Gradkowski injured.

On the other hand, it hasn’t been out of the ordinary for the Steelers to carry only eight linemen, even if that has come as a product of injuries occurring in some instances. And at least based on last season, the trio of reserves that they have right now has the potential to be a good group.

Finney is a player who can play all three interior spots. Hawkins, at least in theory, could play both tackle spots, and perhaps could even contribute at guard. Hubbard is at least capable of lining up at all five spots, but he is probably best suited to guard or right tackle. They have definitely gone into seasons with worse.

Then again, Ramon Foster isn’t getting any younger…even plugging in Finney leaves a hole in the depth chart.

Which side do you lean closer toward?

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