Steelers could repeat their draft strategy from 2012 this April

Offensive lineman David DeCastro of Stanford. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Offensive lineman David DeCastro of Stanford. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

The Steelers doubled up on offensive line help early in the 2012 NFL Draft. Here’s why we could see them do the same in 2021. 

For as much as analysts are mocking an offensive lineman to the Steelers in the first round, you would think that they would invest more at the position. Since taking Jarvis Jones in 2013, every single first-round pick by Pittsburgh has been used to draft a defensive player (including the pick that was traded for Minkah Fitzpatrick in 2019). However, there’s more reason than ever to not only believe that the Steelers will target the offensive line this year, but that this could be a repeat of their 2012 draft strategy.

Back in 2012, Pittsburgh was really hurting for offensive line help. They had taken a young, up-and-coming center who was just coming off an All-Pro season in Maurkice Pouncey, and they had just spent a pick on an offensive tackle in Marcus Gilbert. However, there were still some improvements to be made as the Steelers were coming off a season in which their offense finished 22nd in the league in total yards.

At the time, Max Starks was on his last legs while Doug Legursky wasn’t getting the job done as a full-time starter. In addition, a young Ramon Foster wasn’t anything close to the player he was in the second half of his career.

Steelers could repeat the 2012 draft

Despite the urge to go defense early in the draft for nearly the past decade, there is arguably even a bigger need to fix the offensive line now than there was back in 2012. The last time the Steelers took an offensive lineman in the first round (David DeCastro), they followed this up by selecting another with their very next pick in round two (Mike Adams). Though Adams ultimately ended up being a bust, Pittsburgh knew how important it was to fix their offensive line.

They could do something similar this year – especially considering that this is an extraordinarily deep group of offensive tackles. Right now, both Alejandro Villanueva and Matt Feiler are free agents, and we don’t know if either will be returning to the team in 2021. In addition, Maurkice Pouncey recently announced his retirement from the NFL, and the center position quickly becomes a top priority for the Steelers this offseason.

Unfortunately, the Steelers aren’t without several other glaring needs. James Conner will likely be leaving this offseason, and the running back position is certainly in need of an upgrade. In addition, prominent players like JuJu Smith-Schuster and Bud Dupree are likely to sign elsewhere – causing some serious depth issues at both wide receiver and edge defender. Tight end is something else that Pittsburgh will no doubt want to fix after Vance McDonald retired and Eric Ebron is the only viable option left on the team.

Back in 2012, the Steelers were able to address almost all of these positions on days two and three of the draft, but fixing the offensive line still remained a top priority. In fact, not only did Pittsburgh spend their top two picks on David DeCastro and Mike Adams, but they also spent a seventh-round selection on OT Kelvin Beachum (and it’s a good thing they did).

Related Story. Running backs Steelers must consider taking in the 2021 NFL Draft. light

We don’t know what the Steelers will be able to do in free agency this year, but something tells me that it won’t be much. They will likely be limited to bringing in cheap, veteran depth options. Though history clearly shows a love for addressing defense early, don’t be surprised if Pittsburgh repeats their 2012 draft strategy this April.