There seems to be a common theme among many mock drafts that have already come out so far through the first month and a half of the year as it pertains to patterns emerging surrounding the targets for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first round.
While there has been a relatively healthy assortment of names connected to them, a large number of them have come on the offensive line. As the weeks wear on, we are starting to get more and more offensive tackles being added to the list. NFL analyst Daniel Jeremiah added another one for us in his latest mock draft posted earlier this week.
Jeremiah projects redshirt sophomore Michigan product Jalen Mayfield to find himself in Pittsburgh in a few months’ time. He writes, “the Steelers will be restructuring the offensive line this offseason with center Maurkice Pouncey retiring and left tackle Alejandro Villanueva potentially departing in free agency”.
At this point, it feels a little more than potential that the Steelers will not—and will not be able to—re-sign Villanueva, who has been their starting left tackle for the bulk of the past six seasons, and has made the Pro Bowl twice during that run.
Villanueva was determined to lock himself into a long-term contract early on after just two years on the 53-man roster, agreeing to a four-year, $24 million contract as an exclusive rights free agent in 2017. While he never held out, he did skip some voluntary workouts that offseason knowing that a deal needed to be discussed.
The Steelers currently only have Chukwuma Okorafor as a notable name under contract at the tackle position for 2021. The 2018 third-round draft pick will be entering the final year of his rookie contract this season after starting the final 16 games of the 2020 season.
Okorafor competed with Zach Banner for the right to start at right tackle during training camp. He lost, but Banner suffered a torn ACL in the opener, leaving Okorafor to start for the rest of the year. While Banner is recovering well from his injury, he would still need to be re-signed, as he is also a pending unrestricted free agent.
Another option the Steelers could explore is re-signing Matt Feiler, who played at left guard last season, and moving him back to tackle, where he was the primary starter the previous two years, making 25 starts there during that span.
But the front office certainly seems to understand that it’s time for an injection of pedigree into the offensive line room. They have only used one draft pick in the first three rounds on the line since 2012, and that was the selection of Okorafor in round three in 2018.