When it comes to the draft, you can’t escape opinions, but you can at least attempt some filtering in the hopes of exposing yourself to a higher quality of opinion. Matt Williamson tends to be a well-regarded draft analyst, and he has even contributed at times to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ website, as he’s done this offseason in previewing the draft.
He recently told Tim Benz of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that he does not see the Steelers going tackle early in the draft, as in the first couple of rounds, and targeting an immediate, day one starter, which may come to some as a surprise.
“I just think the Steelers in terms of their tackles have set themselves up to be more of the developmental third or fourth-round guys as opposed to being all in” for a first round pick, Benz quotes Williamson as saying during their recent discussion.
Even with six-year veteran left tackle Alejandro Villanueva still sitting out there (at least as of the time of this writing), the Steelers retain Chukwuma Okorafor, who started 16 games last season, and Zach Banner, who was supposed to, before tearing his ACL in the opener.
Given their other needs, and the depth of position this year, I think it can be reasonably argued that the Steelers will move away from tackle in the first round, perhaps even the second. Though, as always, it also hinges on who is available, and when.
“This is a remarkably deep offensive tackle draft,” Williamson noted, echoing Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert’s own sentiments. “Turning your nose up at a tackle prospect is risky business because you don’t have that opportunity very often. Rarely are classes this good at that position. But where they stand and their other needs, I’d take the center over the tackle all things being equal.”
There is that hole in the middle of the offensive line, after all, in the wake of Maurkice Pouncey’s retirement. While they have brought back B.J. Finney and retain J.C. Hassenauer, they have seven combined starts at center in their careers, and 16 altogether, over six seasons.
The problem is that the center position isn’t nearly as deep as tackle — another Colbert sentiment — and it’s also heavier on the top. You may be far better-served getting your center by the end of round two and saving the tackle for later, in Rounds 3 and 4.
There is certainly change coming to what was once the Steelers’ most stable position. David DeCastro is the only constant remaining. They are counting on Kevin Dotson stepping up at left guard, while sorting out the left tackle and guard positions. Center remains a toss-up that might require a rookie starter.