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Latest ESPN Mock Draft Has Steelers Adding Building Block To Offensive Line

In the last eight weeks or so, the offensive line for the Pittsburgh Steelers has gone from one of the weakest positions for the franchise into a potential strength overall, at least in the running game as Pittsburgh has climbed out of 2-6 and 3-7 holes to get to 8-8 on the year with a playoff berth in front of them entering Week 18.

After spending some money in free agency on center Mason Cole and right guard James Daniels, while also re-signing right tackle Chukwuma Okorafor, the offensive line remained a major question mark entering the 2022 season. Throughout much of training camp and the preseason, the offensive line really struggled in an alarming fashion.

Those struggles carried over into the regular season as the Steelers couldn’t consistently run the football and struggled to protect the likes of Mitch Trubisky and rookie Kenny Pickett at quarterback.

Something changed dramatically during the Week 9 bye week though because once the Steelers hit the field in Week 10 against the New Orleans Saints, the offensive line really got into gear and started taking over games down the stretch in the run game.

That continued in Week 17 against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday Night Football as Dan Moore Jr., Kevin Dotson, Cole, Daniels and Okorafor helped pave the way for 198 rushing yards on the night, the most yards Baltimore has allowed on the ground in a game since 1997.

Quietly, the offensive line moving forward for the Steelers has gone from a significant need in the offseason via the 2023 NFL Draft and free agency into what feels like a bit of a lesser need overall, at least when it comes to adding an impact starter. Depth still needs to be addressed, but with great continuity across the board so far this season in the starting lineup, the group is really starting to gel and find its game.

For ESPN’s Jordan Reid, a draft analyst and former college quarterback, there’s still a significant need along the offensive line, and that involves protecting the asset that is Pickett under center. In his latest mock draft for ESPN.com that dropped Wednesday morning, Reid had the Steelers adding a physical specimen in the trenches offensively, landing Florida iOL O’Cyrus Torrence at No. 17 overall.

That’s a new name that really hasn’t been linked to the Steelers in the first round nationally, outside of Steelers Depot’s own Jonathan Heitritter. 

“Pittsburgh just invested a first-round pick in quarterback Kenny Pickett, so improving the protection around him is important. The Steelers have historically gravitated toward wide-bodied interior blockers, and Torrence fits the mold at 6-foot-5, 347 pounds,” Reid writes regarding the Steelers’ selection of Torrence in the mock draft. “And he uses that frame extraordinarily well in multiple areas, displaying a skill set that translates well to the Steelers’ power-running scheme. And he has enough short-area quickness to be dependable in pass protection, evidenced by just two sacks allowed over nearly 3,000 career snaps.”

Torrence is the exact type of player the Steelers certainly gravitate toward in the trenches. He can play left and right guard and is an absolute mauler in the run game, providing serious physicality at the point of attack throughout his career in college with the Gators for one season, as well as three seasons at Louisiana with the Ragin’ Cajuns.

Heitritter previously tabbed Torrence as the first-round pick in his mock draft in Week 15 on Dec. 20. Here’s what he had to say about Torrence:

“O’Cyrus Torrence is the definition of a road grader, having the size and power to displace almost any man off his spot in the running game. Torrence also has impressive athleticism for his 6’5″, 347lb frame, being able to mirror in pass protection and find work while on the move.”

Torrence truly is a road grader in the run game, but he’s rather impressive in pass protection as well with his size. He moves extremely well and is a great athlete overall along the interior.

According to Pro Football Focus, Torrence graded out at an 88.0 overall in his one season with the Gators, achieving games of 90.0+ twice in 2022. His pass-blocking grade was a very respectable 76.1, while his run-blocking grade was an elite 89.9 on the season.

For his career in 3,065 snaps over four seasons, Torrence graded out at an 80.8 overall from PFF, including an 82.4 in pass protection and an 81.4 as a run blocker. In four seasons in college, Torrence was called for just 12 penalties, including two over the last two seasons.

Prior to transferring to Florida to follow head coach Billy Napier, Torrence was a First and Second Team All-Sun Belt lineman in 2020 and 2021. At Florida, he was named a Consensus All-American from the AFCA, Sporting News, AP, FWAA, and Walter Camp, and was named a First Team All-SEC lineman.

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