The Pittsburgh Steelers are out of Latrobe and back at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, also referred to as the South Side Facility. We are already into the regular season, where everything is magnified and, you know, actually counts. The team is working through the highs and lows and dramas that go through a typical Steelers season.
How are the rookies performing? What about the players that the team signed in free agency? Who is missing time with injuries, and when are they going to be back? What are the coaches saying about what they are going to do this season that might be different from how it was a year ago?
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.
Question: Will the Steelers’ entire starting offensive line return in 2019?
When it comes to stability and performance along the offensive line, the Steelers have been the envy of the NFL for the past four or five years. They have had the same starting five linemen in each of the past four years, and even their injury replacements have provided above the line play.
But their core group has been together for quite a while now, and that is a rarity in the NFL. Of their five starters, three are either going to be free agents in March or have one year left on their contracts. The one with the expiring contract, Ramon Foster, just turned 33.
While Foster, who has spent a decade in Pittsburgh, certainly seems to love playing here, he also understands that he has one final opportunity to cash in, something that he didn’t really do for his first two contracts. He also knows that the team has some younger talent along the interior in B.J. Finney and Matt Feiler.
Marcus Gilbert is another question mark. While he still has a year left on his contract, he has missed the majority of each of the past two seasons now and injuries have been a frequent concern. Now on the wrong side of 30 and entering his ninth year, the team could save several million by letting him go.
Feiler started for most of the year at right tackle and filled in with above the line play. The team drafted Chukwuma Okorafor in the third round last spring knowing that he would be needed sooner or later.
Of course, change could be coming beyond the personnel. Mike Munchak, the offensive line coach, is contemplating the opportunity to land another head coaching job, with his eye toward Denver, where his daughter lives. The Steelers have had a great run along the line, but how much will that change if they lose two starters—and their primary position coach?