Consider Merril Hoge a big fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ big first-round pick. Hoge, now an assistant scout for the Steelers, joined Cam Heyward on a special live episode of Heyward’s Not Just Football podcast to discuss the Steelers’ top two draft picks, starting with Georgia OT Broderick Jones. Hoge spoke highly of the pick and the potential Jones brings to the Steelers.
“From a perspective of how the Steelers were looking at things, that was the best tackle,” Hoge said. “That was the best tackle…fundamentally, he’s good from feet hips to hands. You know how important that is. I don’t care what your position is. Anybody that I look at, feet hips to hands, I start there…and [Jones] is really good.”
Jones was considered one of the top tackles in the draft and arguably the most athletic. His basketball background helps his feet and he’s the most athletic tackle the team has had in ages, probably since Marvel Smith. After Jones, there was a real fall-off at the position. Though the team showed interest in Oklahoma’s Anton Harrison, who went 26th overall, he probably wouldn’t have been the team’s choice at #17. Beyond Harrison, the tackle class was weak, especially after it seemed like the Steelers – along with the rest of the league – soured on Ohio State’s Dawand Jones, who tumbled to the Cleveland Browns in the fourth round.
“This guy has the skill set right now that transitions to our league and has the chance to evolve to be a dominant left tackle,” Hoge said of Jones. “And that is a gamechanger.”
Pittsburgh jumped up three spots, leapfrogging the New York Jets at #15, after making a deal with the New England Patriots at #14. Jones is the first tackle the Steelers have selected since Jamain Stephens in 1996 and another name added to Pittsburgh’s evolving offensive line, one that looks far different from just a couple years ago.
While Jones is just 21 and has only one full year of starting experience, the upside and the tools are immense. He also started 15 games last year for the national title-winning Bulldogs, which will help him prepare for a long 18-week season should he be named the team’s starter.
Hoge was officially hired as an assistant scout in the last several months. A former NFL running back for the Steelers, we spotted him at the Senior Bowl, Combine, and Texas’ Pro Day. While he appeared to focus on the running backs, he previously said he will have looked at nearly 250 prospects before the draft. Of course, Hoge is biased, now being fully part of the Steelers’ front office, so he wouldn’t bash the pick. But his insight is interesting perspective we normally don’t get from the otherwise tight-lipped Steelers.
You can catch the entire interview below.