The Pittsburgh Steelers fielded one of the NFL’s best offensive lines in 2015 despite a rash of injuries. Where do they go from here?
All things considered, the Steelers’ front five did a great job this past season. Pro Football Focus ranked them 10th overall – 7th in pass protection and 23rd in run blocking. Football Outsiders was a little more bullish, ranking them 8th in pass blocking and 8th in run blocking as well.
Here’s a look at where things stand at each position and what they might do going forward.
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Left tackle: Losing Kelvin Beachum early in the year hurt plenty, but Alejandro Villanueva did well enough to hold the fort down. However, he’s not a long-term solution at the position. Beachum will become an unrestricted free agent on March 15th and re-signing him should be an important part of Kevin Colbert’s offseason plan.
Left guard: Ramon Foster played extremely well for most of the season. He has a rare combination of pass blocking and run blocking chops for an interior lineman. For the year PFF ranked him 16th among all guards, just behind David DeCastro. Foster is also due to become an unrestricted free agent. He should expect to make at least $5 million annually on his next contract. If the Steelers don’t pay him, somebody else will.
Center: Cody Wallace was easily the weak link of this unit in 2015. Of the 39 centers that saw significant playing time this season, PFF ranked him 35th overall. His run blocking is pathetic and he has a bad habit of comitting bone-headed penalties. Maurkice Pouncey coming back healthy is the best upgrade that the Steelers’ line can get over the summer.
Right guard: Thanks to a number of injuries, David DeCastro was the only player representing Pittsburgh in the Pro Bowl yesterday. He showed his versatility by filling in at left guard too. He’s under contract for another season, but the front office might want to think about extending him now rather than risk losing him in 2017.
Right tackle: Marcus Gilbert isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. He’s locked up until the end of the 2019 season. Gilbert is still a bit raw and his run blocking technique could use some work. Still, he has a lot of upside and his contract will make him quite a bargain over the next few years if he continues to improve.
Addressing Pittsburgh’s shortcomings in the secondary should be the team’s top priority this offseason. After that, shoring up the offensive line should come next.