The Pittsburgh Steelers will have a major presence in Canton this year, with five members being enshrined over the course of the 2020 and 2021 classes of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The latest modern-day addition is guard Alan Faneca, who waited years to finally get the votes before having his moment this year.
One of the dominant players at his position of his era (he was one of the guards on the 2000s All-Decade Team along with fellow Hall of Famer Steve Hutchinson, Faneca would have a dominant 10-year-long career in Pittsburgh before playing three more accomplished seasons in New York and Arizona.
His tenure in Pittsburgh was synonymous with hard-nosed football and trench warfare, his being responsible for so much of the legacy of Jerome Bettis, and Willie Parker after him. He has even contemplated getting into coaching in the past, and continues to follow the Steelers in his post-retirement life. Yesterday, he shared some thoughts on their current situation, saying that he believes their first-round pick should go to addressing the offensive line.
“In my opinion the offensive line is where everything starts for the whole team. It’s just how it is,” he told his host on The Cook and Joe Show on 93.7 The Fan yesterday. “Whether it’s throwing the ball, running the ball or catching the ball. If we don’t do [our job], no one else has a chance to shine. If we don’t do it the defense is left on the field a lot longer.”
One way or another, the Steelers are poised for substantial change up front. At least two starters from last season are gone with 11-year veteran center Maurkice Pouncey retiring, and three-year starter Matt Feiler departing in free agency. Alejandro Villanueva, their left tackle for the past six years, is still floating out there in free agency, with possibly a bite with the Baltimore Ravens after the draft.
There is a fair chance that Faneca will get his wish. Outside perhaps Alabama running back Najee Harris, offensive linemen have been the most common theme in mock drafts relating to the Steelers in the first round.
Most recently, there has been some consolidation in the groupthink that the pick may well be one of Harris’ teammates, center Landon Dickerson, whos only real knock is his extensive injury history. Otherwise, he has all the makings of a decade-long starting center the way Pouncey was before him.
Failing that, there should be at least two or three tackles available at 24 that they could consider. Teven Jenkins has been frequently mentioned, though their evident lack of presence at his Pro Day might say something about their thoughts on him.
Whether it comes in the first round or otherwise, it would be nothing short of a stunner if the Steelers don’t come out of this draft with at least one high draft pick along the offensive line, if not two. It is arguably the single-most significant thing that they can do right now, both for their present and their future.