I need a bib and a bucket of habanero jalapeno wings. Bleu cheese, please. It’s officially NFL Draft Week, getting my salivary glands fired up in full on pant to rant. I can’t wait; this is easily one of my favorite times of the year, anticipating our Front Office and Coaching Staff will strike Steeler Gold with their upcoming 8 selections in 7 Rounds on NFL Draft Day, 2013.
An 8-8 story off a 6-2 start to finish a majorly disappointing season last year, coupled with getting “tebow’d” to close 2011 and Pittsburgh needs to improve dramatically, effective immediately. I need it, my Family needs it, Steeler Nation needs it, the Rooney’s need it. The Pittsburgh Steelers have to get back to our winning ways. Awash in all the free agency losses (good, bad and indifferent) and some potential for gains let’s pick a position, by position, on what the Steelers may well look like buckled up in Latrobe this coming June working hard to turn it around in the AFC North.
PICK A POSITION: THE OFFENSIVE LINE
We’ve invested heavily in our upfront where we are young and talented, but the time is now for the Steelers Offensive Line. I stake the team’s ultimate success in 2013 to be in near parallel with the overall success of this group. At all cost, they have to forcibly protect our Hall of Fame Quarterback and totally dominate in their run blocking. This simply has to happen, and it has to happen this year. With our new O-line Coach in Jack Bicknell, Jr. and what should certainly bring us more zone-blocking common to the majority of the league, I expect this group to really perform this year. Firstly, we have to stay healthy; there is simply no way the football gods cast down another plague upon our offensive line. The odds finally have to be in our favor that this group starts and finishes the season fully to near-fully intact. We have gotten very young and rather athletic with this group, and have now seen enough of them collectively to put them in the right positions, playing their natural best and “tee-ing off”.
LOOKING DOWN THE LINE
Left to Right (or, as Big Ben Roethlisberger might take in a pre-snap scan): Adams, Foster, Pouncey, DeCastro, Gilbert. This is the best group placed at their most advantageous spots that we have for success. I’m excited about this group’s potential, and want to reiterate (and repeat) use of the term “potential“. While we still have a lot of practice development and in-game emerging to do the potential is there; these guys will have to quickly meld and mold to an impenetrable unit. Pittsburgh is counting heavily on the investments made in our last three drafts to finally fortify these positions, and finally I think they deliver. If we get a full season out of this group, they stand to play well and pay dividends on that Front Office investment.
- (C) Maurkice Pouncey: this guy deserves more publicity and acclaim. He gets plenty already, but whatever amount and level that is? It isn’t enough. A Sherman tank at Center in a tradition-rich position in Steeler history, Pouncey looks every bit as qualified to play out a career talked about alongside Webster and Dawson. An 18th Pick in 1st Round of 2010 from the University of Florida, his leadership on the Offensive unit is second only to our Future Hall of Famer in Ben Roethlisberger. At the Center position, Pittsburgh easily has one of the games best.
- (RG) David DeCastro: if David lives up to his potential, this could easily end up being one of the best Draft picks for Pittsburgh in decades, a miracle falling down for the Steelers to pick up as the 24th Pick in the 1st Round in 2012. Trouble is, we will only be getting to see our first real look at DeCastro. I don’t know which I can’t get over more: our luck in DeCastro ever falling to us in the Draft, or the sickening disappointment of seeing him go down injured before even getting out of pre-season. Let’s take the likelihood of DeCastro being as good as advertised as being high and likely, and we will see a major improvement developing towards dominance on the right hand side of our line by a Faneca-esque perennial Pro Bowler. This, folks, should be a helluva good thing to watch on Sundays for a long time.
- (LG/T) Ramon Foster: Ramon and Pittsburgh came to a new 3 year deal during the free agency season. If one thing is for certain about Ramon, he’s at least durable which has certainly been an unknown commodity collectively for the o-line in Pittsburgh for many seasons. Foster does fit the mold of what we seem to like in offensive linemen: guys who can be versatile across multiple positions. Able to perform at both Guard and Tackle, he has been the team’s most consistent lineman out taking snaps, starting all 16 games last year. An undrafted Rookie free agent in 2009 out of rocky top, Tennessee, Foster only allowed two sacks last season, according to Pro Football Focus.
- (LT) Mike Adams: with Coach Bicknell’s philosophy towards the more athletic, mobile lineman, Mike Adams should benefit and develop into a really good RT in Pittsburgh. He has some work to do yet for sure but let’s face it – offensive line is an incredibly difficult adjustment to make to compete in the NFL. Adams has the goods to be the projected 1st Round talent he initially was coming of Ohio State as a 2nd Rounder in 2012. Healthy, Mike Adams has a great year in Pittsburgh playing his better position, Left Tackle.
- (RT) Marcus Gilbert: i know some have their doubts about Marcus, but I think that will change this year if we can get him permanently affixed at Right Tackle. While not as athletic as I thought he’d be as a 2011 2nd Rounder from the University of Florida, Gilbert should come back this year a little leaner and resultantly more mobile, but he needs to produce like a 2nd Rounder. I think Marcus comes to camp this year to play for a Starting position on the line. Motivated, he plays himself into 1st String, Right Tackle and performs very well, progressing week to week into a great, consistent lineman.
- (G/C) Doug Legursky: I love this guy. Even though he’s currently unsigned, I’m including him here because I expect us to smartly bring him back. ‘Gursk’s versatility is to valuable to this line to not be on the roster, and sans Pouncey has the best understanding and experience along our O-line. He’s played valuable minutes for this team (even Starting at Center in our last Super Bowl appearance in place of injured rookie-sensation Pouncey) and plays quality minutes at three different positions: Right Tackle, Left Tackle and Center. Undrafted out of Marshall in 2008, Legursky is tough as nails and provides immediate depth and experience at several positions.
- (G/T) Kelvin Beachum: the Coaching Staff seems to be really high on Beachum’s potential. From our win over Baltimore last year with Kevin taking the game’s full 67 snaps, he more than held his own versus the likes of Terrel Suggs and Paul Kruger. Beach is a diamond in the rough, and can play at Guard or Tackle. For a 7th Rounder our of SMU, Pittsburgh has gotten a glimpse of a great return potential for the selection here.
- (G) John Malecki: local boy (born and raised in the ‘Burgh and Pittsburgh alum) is also under contract, and Justin Cheadle out of California round out the current cast of offensive linemen.