The offensive line for the Pittsburgh Steelers thus far in training camp and half of the preseason schedule has had high and low points. Names like Dan Moore Jr. and Trai Turner have stepped in to give the position a pair of success stories through a few weeks of camp. Others like Kevin Dotson and Kendrick Green have had mixed results, Dotson doing well on the field but missing time and reps, and Green going through his growing pains but retaining the starting center spot the entirety of camp.
And beyond the players has been a string of injuries that has limited the number of reps the projected first team line has had together. Needs along the line won’t go away leading to the 2022 NFL Draft, which is why a pair of big mock drafts from this past week have the Steelers bringing in big men in the first round.
The first comes from The Draft Network’s Kyle Crabbs, who with the 13th pick awarded the Steelers with his top-rated lineman in the class in Texas A&M’s Kenyon Green. Crabbs writes:
“The Steelers would have you believe that they’ve got everything they need for an improved offensive attack up front. The team drafted a running back and a tight end with their first two picks before nailing down a few rookie linemen in the middle rounds in 2021.
I’d bet the conversation about the Steelers’ offensive line continues in 2022. Kenyon Green can help to alleviate the concerns and provide stability for the unit. He’s a solid prospect who does almost everything at an above-average level. He’s physically ready to go, too, which is an important note for an offense that is trying to extend their winning window while simultaneously watching the arm of their long-time franchise quarterback whittle away to dust.
You want to draft a first-round running back? You damn well better be ready to use him. Green can help unlock the best version of Harris as a ball carrier.”
Green or any first-round lineman (TDN’s Joe Marino sent a tackle to Pittsburgh in last week’s roundup) would be an immediate and long-term boon to the offense. In the immediate, another dependable body would pave bigger lanes for 2021 first-round back Najee Harris, as well as buy more time for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger should he defy retirement one more year and come back for 2022.
Longer-term, a franchise tackle would give Roethlisberger’s successor much-needed protection as he adjusts to being an NFL starter, whether that be next season or a subsequent year.
That is a similar reasoning for the selection of Ryan Roberts to the Steelers, in his first mock of the season posted on RiseNDraft. Roberts has the Steelers drafting at 18th overall, but that doesn’t stop the team from winning the lottery and selecting Alabama behemoth Evan Neal. Roberts writes:
“The Steelers are set to start five new starters on the offensive line from where they ended the year in 2020. That type of turnover is unsettling for a team with usually excellent offensive line play.
Upgrades could be possible everywhere. Luckily Evan Neal has experience at offensive guard and left and right tackle during his Alabama career, giving the team a ton of position flexibility for the 6’7” 360 pounder.”
Neal is regarded as the top lineman in the class by many analysts, and as a potential top five pick and future franchise tackle in the NFL. A cornerstone of the Alabama offense this season, Neal is considered one of the biggest freaks in college football in an annual list made by Bruce Feldman based on his incredible strength. His selection or Green’s would mark a significant investment on the line for the Steelers or any team in the NFL.