Steelers have ignored the offensive line in the NFL Draft for far too long
By Tommy Jaggi
The Steelers have ignored addressing draft capital into their offensive line for years. Here’s why this must change in the 2021 NFL Draft.
There was plenty of blame to pass around after the implosion of the Steelers 2020 season. After an 11-0 start (the best in the history of the franchise), Pittsburgh’s offense seemed to hit a brick wall as they went just 1-5 over their final 6 games (including the playoffs) and managed just 19.6 points per game over their last 6 regular-season games.
Many fans and analysts pointed to the lack of a rushing attack as the reason for the decline. The Steelers finished dead last in the league in both rushing yards and yards per attempt, and this clearly played a factor. However, instead of putting the weight of the blame on the offensive line, many want to blame the running backs. In fact, a large majority of fans seem to think that taking Najee Harris or Travis Etienne in the first round is magically going to solve all of their problems running the football.
While I’ll be the first to admit that the Steelers could use a big upgrade in the backfield, this is far from their biggest issue. Pittsburgh needs to get to the root of the problem, and that is their disgraceful neglect of investing in the offensive line. Over the past 8 years, the team has spent just 5 total picks on the offensive line, according to Pro Football Reference, and not 5 of the best either:
Neglecting the offensive line is catching up to Steelers
The Steelers haven’t spent more than a 3rd round pick on an offensive lineman since doubling up on David DeCastro and Mike Adams with their first two picks in the 2012 draft. Unfortunately, this strategy is clearly starting to catch up with them.
With established players like Alejandro Villanueva, Maurkice Pouncey, Ramon Foster, and DeCastro, it was reasonable to see why they chose to ignore the offensive line for a time being. However, this unit has been in steady decline for going on four seasons now, and Pittsburgh’s brass hasn’t done a thing about it.
Now the Steelers have arguably the least talented offensive line in the NFL and it’s not easy to even take a stab at who their starters will be this year. Without Mike Munchak – one of the greatest offensive line coaches in the league – they can no longer count on picking up guys with tools and developing them into Pro Bowl-level offensive lineman.
The Steelers want to give Ben Roethlisberger every opportunity to succeed in 2021, and perhaps they believe that drafting a running back early could help them. However, doing so would be like trying to fix a sinking boat with duct tape. Sooner or later, Pittsburgh is going to have to start investing in their offensive line again, or things aren’t going to get any better.