The Pittsburgh Steelers had one of the best offensive lines in all of football through much of the 2000s, with some great talent from Alan Faneca and Marvel Smith to Kendall Simmons and Jeff Hartings. Then they all left or got injured and retired, and the Steelers were caught with their pants down, because they hadn’t sufficiently addressed the depth in the interim.
The current iteration of the team isn’t quite at that point yet, but how far off are they? Most of their starters are on the wrong side of 30 and not quite the same as they once were. Arguably their best and most consistent lineman this year has been Alejandro Villanueva, and he will be an unrestricted free agent.
So will left guard Matt Feiler, and Zach Banner, who started the season as the starting right tackle, but was injured in the opener. His substitute, Chukwuma Okorafor, has started the past 12 games, and is under contract for 2021, but is he a long-term answer?
And how much longer do Maurkice Pouncey and David DeCastro have in the middle? Are they even playing at a Pro Bowl level anymore? Is it possibly time to consider a cost/benefit analysis over whether or not they are worth their contracts?
No matter what the answers are to these questions, the bottom line is that the Steelers need to invest more in the offensive line, very soon. They may have found one piece for the future in the 2020 NFL Draft in Kevin Dotson, who is in line to take over at left guard if Feiler walks, but the book is very much out on him.
For Pro Football Focus, the biggest offseason priority for the Steelers as a whole is the left tackle position, and that shouldn’t be a surprise when you consider that two of their top three at the position—albeit one on the Reserve/Injured List—are scheduled to be free agents. Michael Renner writes:
You could throw quarterback on here too, but offensive line is where they could have actual holes. Left tackle Alejandro Villanueva and left guard Matt Feiler are both set to hit free agency. While rookie Kevin Dotson can fill in Feiler’s shoes, it just will not be as easy to replace Villanueva. It’s even more of a need because Chukwuma Okorafor, and his 57.7 overall grade, hasn’t exactly impressed at right tackle.
Truth be told, they can’t go wrong with choosing any offensive line position to address, because turnover at most positions appears to be just around the corner at this point. Of course, if Villanueva really leaves in free agency, that is instantly the biggest hole, and a major problem as well.