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Ranking The Rooms: AFC North OL

It’s shocking that July is nearly here, but here at Steelers Depot we’re chugging right along, heading towards the start of training camp…at Heinz Field.

That’s weird to say.

Anyway, as we move closer to the start of camp, we also move further along in my Ranking the Rooms: AFC North series here at Steelers Depot. Last edition, I ranked the tight ends room. Today, I’m picking up with the hog mollies in the trenches, the offensive line.

1. Baltimore Ravens

While All-Pro Marshal Yanda stunningly retired, this group dominated even the best defensive lines in football last year.

Tackle bookends Ronnie Stanley and Orlando Brown Jr. might be the best left and right tackle combination in the NFL. Stanley is a great run blocker and an even better pass protector, while Brown Jr. is a real dancing bear. Nobody can convince me otherwise.

The interior isn’t filled with big names, but there are some solid players there. Center Matt Skura really impressed me last year, so he should return as the starting center in front of Lamar Jackson. At guard, the Ravens added a personal favorite in Michigan’s Ben Bredeson in the draft, and signed run-blocking mauler DJ Fluker in free agency. Those two additions pair nicely with Bradley Bozeman, Ben Powers and rookie Tyre Phillips.

Veteran tackle Andre Smith gives the Ravens a ton of depth at left and right tackle.

It’s clear what the Ravens want to do offensively, so they’ve built their OL correctly to fit that style.

2. Pittsburgh Steelers

While this group struggled overall last season, it’s still a solid unit.

Ramon Foster retired, opening a gaping hole at left guard, but it looks like standout right tackle Matt Feiler will slide back inside to fill the hole. Feiler was really good at right tackle the last two years, but he might be at his best at guard, where he started against the Los Angeles Rams last season.

Center Maurkice Pouncey returns, and while his play may have dropped off slightly, he’s still a very good center in this league.

David DeCastro remains one of the best guards in football, so there’s no worries there, but Alejandro Villanueva had a slight drop off in play last season and is entering the final year of his contract.

If Feiler can’t stick at left guard and slides back outside, look for Chuks Okorafor or Stefen Wisniewski to fill the starting role. If Feiler sticks inside, Okorafor and Zach Banner will battle it out for the starting right tackle job.

The one to watch though is rookie Kevin Dotson, who I think could start right away and hold down the left guard role for 10+ years. Here’s hoping that happens.

There’s some good depth here for Pittsburgh, but the overall talent of the starting five as a whole has fallen off slightly.

3. Cleveland Browns

Drafting Jedrick Wills and signing Jack Conklin in free agency has helped this offensive line out immensely, filling two glaring holes.

Wills was arguably the best tackle in the class in 2020, while Conklin has grown into a strong starting right tackle in the league. Inside, the Browns are mostly set with center JC Tretter leading the way. Tretter has elevated his game since coming over from Green Bay in free agency and has provided stability at center once again.

Joel Bitonio remains one of the most underrated guards in all of football. He’s just so dang solid and is a great team leader in Cleveland. Wyatt Teller looks to be the starting guard opposite Bitonio, but I do wonder if the Browns might consider kicking Tretter to guard and starting rookie Nick Harris, considered the best zone blocking center in the draft class.

Depth isn’t good in Cleveland, but they can get by. If Harris doesn’t start, he’s a great depth option, same for Teller. Drew Forbes is an absolute mauler at guard and can perform adequately for stretches. Alex Taylor and Chris Hubbard should be a really solid tackle depth if Wills or Conklin goes down with an injury.

4. Cincinnati Bengals

Last year this was arguably the worst offensive line in the NFL last season, but slowly and surely they’re getting better.

The return of Jonah Williams should certainly help. He was lost in OTAs last year with a torn ACL after being a top 10 pick. He should be a stalwart left tackle for Joe Burrow for at least a decade.

It still pains me to this day that the Bengals stole Fred Johnson away from Pittsburgh. Johnson should earn a starting guard job this year for the Bengals, which should provide some stability next to Trey Hopkins and Michael Jordan inside.

Bobby Hart likely remains the starting right tackle, which is good news for AFC North pass rushers.

I still want to believe in Billy Price, but he’s just simply not good, which is confusing. He was so dominant in college and now looks like he doesn’t know how to block at all.

Depth is a major issue for Cincinnati. Price will back up both guard jobs and center, while Isaiah Prince will back up both tackle jobs. After that, you’re looking at guys like rookie Josh Knipfel at right tackle and O’Shea Dugas.

Once he gets signed though, look out for rookie Hakeem Adeniji out of Kansas. I think in a year he has the ability to take over for Hart and give the Bengals a really solid bookend with Williams.

Last year’s OL rankings:

  • Pittsburgh Steelers
  • Baltimore Ravens
  • Cincinnati Bengals
  • Cleveland Browns

 

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