Steelers should be embarrassed by the lack of draft capital invested in OL

Kendrick Green #53 of the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)
Kendrick Green #53 of the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images) /

The Pittsburgh Steelers have neglected their offensive line over the years. Here’s why the front office is to blame for the lackluster results. 

I was a big fan of Pittsburgh’s decision to sign free-agent offensive guard James Daniels this offseason. Daniels has been one of the more underrated interior offensive linemen over the past few years, and at just 24 years old following his rookie contract, he’s a player who could stick around as a centerpiece on this offensive line.

Sadly, one strong free-agent signing doesn’t make up for the neglect the Steelers have had for the position over the past decade. For some reason or another, Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert seem to have it in their head that they can get away with spending almost no meaningful draft capital on the offensive line. This is a strategy that has clearly been failing.

In 2021, Pittsburgh lost four starters along their offensive line — including two former All-Pro players in David DeCastro and Maurkice Pouncey. Despite the massive holes they left, the Steelers front office naively believed they could get by without spending elite draft capital on the OL.

In a 2021 NFL Draft crowded with offensive line talent in the first few rounds, Pittsburgh ignored the trenches in order to draft a running back. While Najee Harris was productive as a rookie, he wasn’t efficient — thus further proving that OL play and RB efficiency go hand-in-hand.

We are now 10 years removed from the Steelers spending as much as a second-round pick on their offensive line. This is the longest streak in the NFL (and certainly not one that Pittsburgh should be proud of).

While elite offenses around the league value the offensive line, the Steelers settle for a patchwork job. That needs to change. Sadly, it probably won’t in the 2022 NFL Draft.

Steelers need to invest in the OL in the draft

Spending decent money on a mid-level free agent will only get you so far, and free agency should be looked at as a means of filling holes — not finding cornerstone talent. While I really like James Daniels, there’s a chance he proves to be the only good piece of the five starters on the OL this year.

Finding quality offensive lineman in the NFL Draft is a must, but it’s not something the Steelers have prioritized. This year, there are some very strong prospects who could be available when Pittsburgh is on the clock. Kenyon Green and Zion Johnson are versatile interior offensive linemen with great college tape who could step in and improve the trenches from day one. It’s also possible that an uber-talented offensive tackle prospect like Trevor Penning falls to pick 20.

Unfortunately, this is not an area that the Steelers have expressed interest in this offseason. During Tomlin and Colbert’s Pro Day road trip, they went from place to place visiting the top quarterback prospects.

As a result of their visits and what we know based on historical trends, there isn’t a single OL prospect on the radar for Pittsburgh in the first round of the NFL Draft this year (and there may not even be an offensive lineman they would consider in round two).

The Steelers haven’t drafted an offensive tackle in the first round since 1996 or an offensive lineman of any kind in the first or second round since 2012. At some point, this questionable philosophy needs to change.

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Mike Tomlin needs to start putting the focus back on the trenches after Kevin Colbert is gone. The Steelers can no longer get by with patching the offensive line together and hoping for good results.