There are many holes to fill out on the Steelers’ roster before they can be mentioned amongst the league’s elite, and offensive line is arguably the biggest, specifically the center position. Rookie Kendrick Green, a college guard, was trying to make the transition to the pivot spot, and was thrust into the starting lineup. With numerous botched snaps and plays of him getting rag-dolled, he’s often labeled a scapegoat for the line’s struggles overall.
The team isn’t being shy about their interest in fortifying the line, and our very own Jonathan Heitritter caught up with the top-ranked center in this year’s draft, University of Iowa’s Tyler Linderbaum of Iowa, at the NFL Combine. Linderbaum, this past season’s winner of the Rimington Award, annually given to the nation’s top center, had a formal meeting with Mike Tomlin and the Steelers in Indianapolis.
A three-year starter for the Hawkeyes’ offensive linemen factory, Linderbaum is not participating in any drills due to a foot injury he sustained in January’s Citrus Bowl, but did say his health is on an upwards trajectory and plans to showcase his skills at the Iowa Pro Day on March 21. He spoke glowingly about his time as a Hawkeye, noting head coach Kirk Ferentz’s developmental skills of churning out big nasties up front.
“You know, most recently, obviously Tristan Wirfs was just a Super Bowl champ a couple years ago. And I think, look back you know, coach Ferentz, that’s kind of his position. Offensive lineman, going back 20 years ago, he was an O-line coach before he was the head coach at Iowa. So I think that’s kind of his position, that’s what he likes to do.”
Linderbaum measured in at only 6-foot-2, and 296 pounds, with 31 1/8-inch arms, which won’t quell any of the concerns about his size. He doesn’t feel his stature will be a detriment at the next level though. An acclaimed high school wrestler, his background sticks out on film with his core strength and his leverage. When asked if he feels he’s better suited or limited to a certain scheme, Linderbaum left no doubt in his reply.
“Yeah, I think I can be in any system or whatever system I get in, I can help a team out. I don’t think I’m limited to what I can do. You know, I’m confident in my performance and what I can do for teams and whatever team thinks that I can help them out. I’m sure I’m going to give it my all and compete my butt off.”
His arm measurement may scare some teams off, and it’s also noteworthy that the aforementioned Green also possesses short arms, and we all saw how his rookie season played out, albeit playing a relatively new position. Time will tell if Linderbaum will be able to handle some of the monstrous nose tackles scattered across NFL rosters, and the jury is out on whether he’s better equipped to function in a zone scheme versus a more power oriented one. But from a pedigree standpoint he checks off a lot of boxes, with his tenacity and lunch pail attitude. If he indeed ends up the pick at #20, it would no doubt relegate Green back to a guard position.
Let me know your thoughts below on him attempting to live up to the team’s storied history at the center position.