It’s that time of year again. Free agency is creeping up in just a couple of weeks, so before we get there, we’ll get going over the Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster, position by position, making an assessment of what kind of shape they’re in, trying to figure out how they might, or should, attack the roster on that basis.
The Steelers are likely to be subject to more change than they are used to this year, with 19 players scheduled to be unrestricted free agents, including numerous starters. Two other important players have retired, so there is more shuffling of the deck than normal in Pittsburgh.
Position: Interior Offensive Line
Total Positional Figure: 5
David DeCastro: The last remaining stalwart of the interior offensive line, and of the line as a whole after Alejandro Villanueva leaves in free agency, from the group’s heyday. DeCastro missed time due to injury last year and didn’t have his best season, but should still be capable of playing at a higher level.
Matt Feiler: A four-year veteran, Feiler moved from right tackle to left guard last year, though his play was more mixed along the interior. He is a pending unrestricted free agent, and his price tag will determine if he can be brought back. Even if he is, it may be to play tackle.
Kevin Dotson: A fourth-round draft pick last year, Dotson ended up starting four games last season at both left and right guard and showed himself to be a natural in pass protection. Even though it was his strength in college, he has room to grow in run blocking. It seems likely he is in line to enter the starting lineup at left guard in 2021.
J.C. Hassenauer: A journeyman interior offensive lineman, Hassenauer made the 53-man roster for the first time last year (other than a brief emergency one-game stint in 2019) and started four games, mostly at center, but is not an ideal backup. He is currently the only center under contract.
Danny Isidora: A veteran with a handful of starts under his belt, Isidora was signed late last season to provide depth due to injuries. He is slated to be an unrestricted free agent. If he is cheap, he may be a target to be re-signed to compete for a roster spot.
Maurkice Pouncey: After 11 years with the team and nine Pro Bowls, Pouncey announced earlier this offseason that he would be retiring. While many argue that his play had been on the decline, and even that he had become a liability, the reality is that the team now has a gaping hole in the middle of their offensive line that needs to be addressed.
There is at least one hole in the starting lineup at center. Certainly nobody on the current roster, even among pending free agents, will be starting there. The likely strategy will be to sign a cheap veteran stopgap and then hope to draft a center with starter potential some time after the first round.