It wouldn’t be the prime spot of the dead period without another update from Pro Football Focus on offensive line rankings. Of course…pretty much this entire offseason has been a dead period, so perhaps that distinction has lost all meaningful, but under normal circumstances we would be around the middle period between the end of minicamp and the start of training camp, when everybody is looking for material to write about.
Anyway, for the most part, since 2014, the Pittsburgh Steelers have had among the best offensive lines in football. Many see that line now in the erosion stage as their core players get older, even begin retiring, and some moving parts get replaced.
Since the end of the 2018 season, the Steelers traded their long-time starting right tackle, Marcus Gilbert, saw their long-time starting left tackle, Ramon Foster retire, and they also lost their top interior reserve, B.J. Finney, in free agency. Not to mention, their offensive line coach, Mike Munchak, left to take another job that is closer to his granddaughter in Denver.
Despite Maurkice Pouncey coming off a shaky year, though, the Steelers still cracked the top 10 in Pro Football Focus’ rankings, coming in at nine. Matt Feiler has settled down at right tackle, though he may start at left guard this year. David DeCastro remains a standout.
“Left tackle Alejandro Villanueva has developed into one of the league’s most dependable starters”, Steve Palazzolo writes, though he notes that he is coming off one of his worst seasons in terms of run blocking, even if his pass protection remains a strength.
He also calls Feiler “another unexpected success story”, which is fitting. Not many players become starters after spending three years on practice squads. “His 75.9 overall grade last year ranked 17th among tackles, including an 80.7 pass-blocking grade that ranked 14th”, he notes.
Of DeCastro, the argument is that his run-blocking performance has dipped over the past two seasons, but he is still regarded as one of the top pass-protecting guards in the NFL. The article notes of Pouncey that he had the eighth-highest pressure rate in pass protection last season, and among the highest percentage of run-blocking plays that they negatively graded, yet he was still described as “usually solid in the middle”. And on top of that, he is given credit as being asked to do more than most centers, with “the most one-on-one matchups in the league for the third time in five years”.
Left guard is the remaining position, but the site is and has been comfortable in Stefen Wisniewski as a potential replacement, and they also are fans of Feiler, though they have advocated for this starting five with the latter remaining at right tackle.
In fact, while noting Kevin Dotson as a name to keep an eye on at left guard, the article doesn’t even mention the possibility of either Zach Banner or Chukwuma Okorafor starting at right tackle. It is my opinion that it’s more likely one of them are starting at right tackle than Wisniewski at guard.