Whether or not you’re a diehard Steelers fan or an average one, there’s one thing that should stick out like a sore thumb about last year’s team and that’s the offensive line’s performance. Breakdowns in pass protection were often masked by Ben Roethlisberger’s quick-release passes, and there’s a reason rookie runner Najee Harris was near tops in the league in yards after contact. Most of his rushes were met by defenders either behind or at the line of scrimmage, and the fact he ran for 1,200 yards behind such an abysmal line makes one wonder what he could do running behind an upgraded one.
The team wasn’t shy about showing their hand this past weekend at the NFL Combine when it came to interviews, and our own Alex Kozora has provided an updated interview list. To no surprise, interviews with offensive linemen topped the list, and one name in particular is one to keep an eye on. The Georgia Bulldogs dominated this past season’s college football season, taking home the national championship behind a staunch defense and a power running game. One of their big nasties up front, Jamaree Salyer, was a major reason why, showing off his versatility by playing all five positions throughout the season.
“It’s just one of those things for me that I make sure I know in my mind that, it’s a good thing in my tool bag. So, just being a well-rounded player in that regard, showing my true versatility, and being a smarter football player, that’s going to be something that’s required at the next level, especially as a center if that opportunity presents itself.”
That last part about capably being able to play center may not come to fruition, especially if the team signs one in free agency, or hopes that Kendrick Green makes a significant jump in year two. However, his versatility to wear multiple hats should make him attractive to the team.
A Senior Bowl invitee, Salyer met with the Steelers there as well. At 6’3″ and 321 pounds, his likely destination at the NFL level is at guard, where he can put his wide, squatty frame and long limbs to good use. It’s worth noting his strength is off the charts, as evidenced in Indianapolis this weekend, where his 31 bench press reps at 225 pounds ranked second among all positions. He’s saving everything else for the Bulldogs’ March 16 Pro Day, but Salyer noted how excited he was to show off his strength, and also met a personal goal.
“A lot of what I’ve been working on is definitely the bench, and definitely wanting to hit above 30 on bench. I’m excited about that a lot, I like bench press and I like working out in general.”
A weight room junkie with SEC big-game experience, he certainly brings a lot to the table and should have offensive line coaches around the league enamored with his flexibility. His NFL.com draft profile player comparison is former Tennessee Titan and current Cincinnati Bengals guard Quinton Spain, a player whose physicality has long been a staple of his game. When pressed about his game and what Salyer wants teams to know about him, that’s the one word he brought up first-physicality, and it’s one that the Steelers could use heavy doses of along their offensive line.
“I’m a physical football player, I’m a UGA Georgia Dog, and we were physical every single day in practice. If you’ve seen us practice, we get physical, we get to it, we enjoy the grind and the work. I take pride in being a high character guy, not having to put my family in position to have to answer for me for anything that I’ve done, or anything like that.”