The Steelers have several depth needs that need to be sorted out this week in the draft. Here’s why Pro Football Focus claims offensive line depth is the most pressing.
For the first time in a number of years, it’s hard to narrow down which position the Steelers will look to draft with the 49th overall pick. In previous years, we at least had a good idea of two or three positions they would target, but I’m not entirely sure if we can even do that in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Pittsburgh could do many things with the 49th pick. They could look for Javon Hargrave’s replacement, find an eventual replacement for James Conner at running back, Add depth at linebacker, or even grab wide receiver depth in a loaded draft class. Also among these choices is beefing up the offensive line.
Pro Football Focus recently wrote an article on all 32 teams’ ‘best-case scenarios’ in the 2020 NFL Draft. For the Steelers, it was Adding depth on the offensive line. Here’s what Anthony Treash of PFF had to say:
"Pittsburgh doesn’t have many holes to plug on their roster, nor do they have much draft capital in 2019 — they don’t pick until 49th overall, then they don’t pick again until 102. What they should do, though, is add some depth along the interior of their offensive line. With B.J. Finney leaving for Seattle, they are left without a reliable backup option in the event of an injury, assuming Stefen Wisniewski starts at left guard and Matt Feiler stays at right tackle. Not to mention, Maurkice Pouncey is coming off the lowest-graded season of his career and isn’t getting any younger."
It’s not hard to see why the Steelers could use quality depth on their offensive line. In addition to what was mentioned, Pittsburgh lost long-time starting left guard, Ramon Foster, to retirement this offseason.
For the first time in years, this starting unit is going to look different. I believe it’s possible that the Steelers like their depth on the outside better. Because of this, Matt Feiler may kick inside to guard while Chukwuma Okorafor and Zach Banner battle it out at right tackle.
Even if this lineup proves successful, Alejandro Villanueva is entering the final year of his contract and turns 32 years old at the start of the season. Meanwhile, as Treash already mentioned, Maurkice Pouncey is coming off the worst-graded season of his NFL career. He turns 31 this offseason, and though he has two years left on his deal, we have to assume the Steelers are going to start thinking about his replacement.
Because of all of these factors, Pittsburgh could look for help at offensive tackle or the interior offensive line as early as the 49th pick in the draft. Though it’s an incredible tackle class, players like Jedrick Wills, Trisitan Wirfs, Andrew Thomas, and Meckhi Becton will all be off the board. It’s also likely that second-tier players like Josh Jones, Ezra Cleveland, and Isaiah Wilson are gone as well. This leaves the Steelers the decision to reach for a position of need and take the 8th or 9th best tackle in the draft with their first selection.
The interior offensive line is very thin, and there are probably only two players who warrant a selection with the 49th pick: Michigan’s Cezar Ruiz and LSU’s Llyod Cushenberry. Because of the lack of depth, these players are likely to get pushed up the draft board.
There’s no guarantee that the Steelers address the offensive line at pick 49, and there’s a chance they may not do so until day three of the draft. Even so, it’s worth mentioning that Kevin Colbert has talked about the strength of the tackle position this year. At the very least, the offensive line will be on their radar early.