The Steelers have made the offensive line one of their top priorities during free-agency this year.
First, until last season, I never really cared about the offensive line position. They’re never really “sexy” signings in free-agency, nor picks in the draft. But this year, I’m focusing on it more and more. I mean, come on, it’s the guys that protect the QB, block for the RB, and anyone else who has the ball. They’re the guys that get hit, smashed, pushed around, and bullied on every play. Offensive linemen deal with contact on the field all the time. Anyways, here’s how the Steelers offensive line will look in 2016.
Before he was injured, starting LT Kelvin Beachum left via free-agency and signed a 1-year deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars. To add some depth to a thin left-tackle spot, the Steelers added free-agent OT Ryan Harris. Harris, was the starting left-tackle for the Denver Broncos championship run last season. Ryan Harris is a versatile offensive lineman, he can play at multiple spots along the line. But his greatest strength is at left-tackle. It was reported that veteran tackle/guard Geoff Schwartz was going to visit with the Steelers. But a deal did not get done and Schwartz later signed with the Detroit Lions.
The Steelers seem to be stressing more importance on the offensive line. Re-signing Ramon Foster, which needed to happen. They also seem content with Alejandro Villanueva entering next season as the team’s starting left-tackle. Many will, and have debated that Villanueva is not the long-term answer at left-tackle. I beg to differ, the left-tackle position is Villanueva’s to lose. Unless, he totally craps the bed in training camp & pre-season, the left-tackle spot is rightfully his.
We’ll also be seeing the return of Maurkice Pouncey, hopefully. Pouncey hasn’t seen the field since a home pre-season game against the Green Bay Packers. He suffered a severe ankle that ended his season. Besides a few dumb penalties, backup center Cody Wallace played pretty well in Pouncey’s absence.
I’m not convinced that the Steelers are done adding depth at offensive line. The free-agent pool is pretty dry in that area, and there are quite a few guys the Steelers could get in the 2016 draft. Obviously, especially the tackle positions, are extremely important. Especially when your quarterback is Ben Roethlisberger. Ben’s front-five have to constantly play with their head on a swivel, particularly when Ben tries to extend a play.
Now, I understand that some players could get injured no matter what, but I’m hoping, with this added depth, that Ben can stay healthy for an entire season. I believe that is a glaring difference between a first-round bye or a wild card spot.