The Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense used to be a mover of men. Their identity was that of a road-grading unit that would churn out the hard-fought yards, and would get the yards that they needed when everybody knew that they were going to run the football.
It seems like awhile ago since that has been the case. You can trace a ‘softer’ approach to the line back to Mike Munchak, who focused more on technique and results than strength and physicality, allowing his linemen to run block from two-point stances. We see the ripple effects today when you don’t have the talent and coaching to work through that, something NFL Network analyst Bucky Brooks recently talked about.
“They have to reclaim their identity. They’re the rough-and-tumble Pittsburgh Steelers that we’ve known for the past 30 years,” Brooks said during a recent segment on the Steelers’ draft needs. “They’ve got to be better up front at the line of scrimmage. They couldn’t run the football when they needed to, and to me, that’s a lack of physicality and toughness. To have to address it with the offensive line. You have to be able to move people in that division. They can’t move people, and that’s why they’ve fallen behind Baltimore and Cleveland.”
Of course, things haven’t gotten better since the end of the season. Longtime All-Pro center Maurkice Pouncey announced his retirement after 11 seasons. Matt Feiler, a quality starter for the past three years who could play tackle or guard, left in free agency. Pro Bowl left tackle Alejandro Villanueva remains unsigned, and they really don’t have the cap space to afford him.
They did re-sign Zach Banner to a two-year contract worth over $9 million, with the presumption that he wins back a starting job in 2021. He won the right tackle starting job in training camp last year, but suffered a torn ACL in the opener.
That makes him a presumptive starter, with the other current on-roster option being Chukwuma Okorafor. While he lost the training camp battle to Banner, he did start 16 games last season as a result of the latter’s injury.
David DeCastro is the only source of stability remaining, entering his 10th season and having been a starter since coming back from a torn MCL in his rookie year. Kevin Dotson looks to be a new starter at left guard, while they no doubt continue to explore options beyond B.J. Finney and J.C. Hassenauer at center.
It is basically a given that the Steelers will invest in the offensive line in the upcoming draft, and possibly heavily. I don’t think anybody would be surprised if they exit Day 2 with two more players to add to that meeting room. But it all depends on how the board breaks.