The Pittsburgh Steelers have had the good fortune for the better part of the past half-decade to have a lot of talent along their offensive line, typically at least functioning as a top-five unit relative to the rest of the league. A couple of faces may have come and gone during that time, but the interior has been a mainstay, when healthy.
The core of Ramon Foster, Maurkice Pouncey, and David DeCastro has been together since 2012, when DeCastro was made a first-round pick. Pouncey came in the first round two years prior, while Foster was an undrafted free agent back in 2009.
That is a long time, of course, and the inevitable can’t be far away. Foster, for one, is 34 years old now, and he realistically could be released, whether as a salary cap casualty or otherwise. They could decide to re-sign B.J. Finney and plug him in at left guard.
Both Pouncey and DeCastro are getting older as well. Pro Football Focus believes that getting some new faces along the offensive interior is the Steelers’ biggest need this offseason. I don’t agree, but part of their argument is based largely on their evaluation of Pouncey, which has consistently skewed more negative than the prevailing opinion. This year, they cite a rash of bad snaps for their case. Ben Linsey writes:
The Steelers have had one of the most stable and consistent offensive lines in the NFL over the last several seasons, but it could be time to inject some new life into the group, particularly on the interior. Ramon Foster is 34 years old and coming off the worst overall PFF grade of his career in 2019. Maurkice Pouncey is also coming off the lowest PFF grade of his career and carries a cap hit of $11 million in both 2020 and 2021. It would behoove the Steelers to start looking toward the future at those positions, especially with backup interior offensive lineman B.J. Finney entering free agency.
Now, it goes without saying that if they release Foster and lose Finney, it suddenly becomes a pretty big deal. Even if they decide to move Matt Feiler to left guard and opt for a competition between Zach Banner and Chukwuma Okorafor to start a right tackle, you still create a depth issue at two positions, with no backup center. Even Patrick Morris is gone. You do have J.C. Hassenauer.
Without a first-round pick nor a natural third-round pick, however, I would be hesitant to dedicate the big draft resources to the offensive line this year, with other perhaps more pressing issues like tight end, and possibly outside linebacker—and inside as well. One can hope that they will keep at least one of Foster or Finney for the time being.