The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: The Steelers must find at least one starting offensive lineman in the draft today.
Explanation: After losing one starter to retirement, another to free agency, and possibly another still who remains unsigned, the Steelers are in the midst of a major overhaul of an offensive line that has already been on a steady decline for at least the past two seasons, without much in the way of substantial reinforcements.
Do you really think the Steelers have three offensive linemen from last year’s roster or added any since who can improve upon what they put out a year ago? Of course they don’t. And while it’s obviously not impossible to find starters after Round 3, it’s far easier, and more likely, to get them within the first 100 picks or so.
Maurkice Pouncey is gone. There is no starter on the roster at center right now. While we are trusting that Kevin Dotson can be a full-time starter at guard, we are also projecting that Chukwuma Okorafor, at best an average right tackle, can come in and fill the void at left tackle without having ever played a meaningful snap there.
There is still a rich strain of offensive line depth remaining in the draft after just five were selected in the first round, but the cream of the crop is going to dry up shortly. Expect a run on the trenches today, which will leave only ‘diamond in the rough’ types for tomorrow.
Obviously, you’re not going to go into the third day of the draft expecting to find rookies who will be plug-and-play starters on the offensive line, so if you genuinely need a day one starter, it’s best not to wait that long. But the Steelers have a passable group of starting linemen right now, as well as the means to improve it.
If they fail to draft a starter-quality tackle, expect them to re-sign Alejandro Villanueva for likely a one-year deal with void years. That’s a band-aid, but it buys them another year. As far as center goes, they don’t have an ideal answer on the current roster, but the team has more respect for B.J. Finney and J.C. Hassenauer than most fans realize. Stick them between David DeCastro and Dotson and they’ll be fine for one year. Remember when people wanted to cut Pouncey in favor of Fernando Velasco — and then again in favor of Cody Wallace?