New Year’s Resolution: Steelers Should Draft Multiple Offensive Linemen in 2011

Jim Wexell of SteelCityInsider.net provides a must-read, detailed breakdown of all the key prospects for the upcoming NFL draft to watch in the nine bowl games held today and Saturday.

But my primary concern has long been and remains the Steelers’ offensive line, which is a poor unit right now with a dismal-looking future unless Pittsburgh can add a couple of potential long-term starters in this draft to last year’s super first-round pick, center Maurkice Pouncey. However, many of the top offensive line prospects in the 2011 NFL Draft will be in action over the next 48 hours including:

CAR CARE BOWL
Chris Hariston, Clemson, OT, 6-6, 320: Probably a 2nd-3rd-round pick who reminds me a lot of Max Starks coming out of college. He is a bit stiff and has suffered through multiple injuries but does have starting potential at both tackle spots. Rated as the No. 80 overall prospect for the 2011 NFL Draft by ESPN.

SUN BOWL
Orlando Franklin, Miami, OG, 6-6, 320
: Plays tackle for the U but projects as a guard at the next level. The Steelers, however, do not need another fat, slow, lazy and powerful offensive lineman, which describes Franklin. He does have great quickness, though, and is rated as the No. 49 overall prospect for the 2011 NFL Draft by ESPN.

LIBERTY BOWL
Clint Boling, Georgia, OG, 6-4, 305
: Boling plays RT for the Bulldogs, but has actually started at four positions as a collegian and offers Justin Strzelczyk-type versatility. But is he good enough to start anywhere on the Steelers’ line in 2011? Probably not and the Steelers already have enough swing, versatile reserves. Rated as the No. 69 overall prospect for the 2011 NFL Draft by ESPN.

Cordy Glenn, Georgia, OG, 6-6, 320: Glenn is considering entering the NFL after starting all three of his seasons at Georgia. However, he had mono early in the 2010 season and did not play well until later in the year. Rated as the top junior OG prospect by Mel Kiper but not listed under the ESPN prospects rankings despite rumblings out of Athens that Glenn is leaning toward turning pro.

PEACH BOWL
Rodney Hudson, Florida State, OG/C, 6-2, 280
: Due to his lack of bulk, some teams project the quick and experienced Hudson at center. He is probably the best offensive lineman in college football and would be an ideal, old-school, Steeler-style, pulling left guard, although he is too small to play right guard. However, if Chris Kemoeatu was smart enough to learn how to play the other guard spot, he would have already moved over to right guard, which is by far a more natural position for him. Rated as the No. 44 overall prospect for the 2011 NFL Draft by ESPN.

OUTBACK BOWL
Mike Pouncey, Florida, OG/C, 6-5, 310
: The Steelers struck gold with one Pouncey twin in the 2010 NFL Draft and could well double-down with the same philosophy in 2011. Mike Pouncey moved to center this fall, but would likely be the starting RG from day one for the Steelers. Rated as the No. 19 overall prospect for the 2011 NFL Draft by ESPN.

Stefan Wisniewski, Penn State, C/OG, 6-2, 290: Starts at RG for Joe Paterno’s squad, but like his uncle, Steve, Stefan will likely end up a center in the NFL. Probably not on the Steelers’ radar. Rated as the No. 103 overall prospect for the 2011 NFL Draft by ESPN.

CAPITAL ONE BOWL
James Carpenter, Alabama, OG/OT, 6-5, 290
: Carpenter plays LT for the Crimson Tide, but the question is if he is quick enough to play RT in the NFL or will he have to play guard. If the answer is yes to the former, he goes back to being a 2nd-3rd-round prospect. Otherwise, he falls to the mid rounds. Rated as the No. 131 overall prospect for the 2011 NFL Draft by ESPN.

GATOR BOWL
Derrek Sherrod, Miss. State, OT, 6-5, 300
: The Steelers would have a hard time passing up this athletic and versatile tackle if he was still on the board at the end of the first round. Yeah, he’s a risk but Pittsburgh is desperate for an OT and will not get a good one late. Rated as the No. 34 overall prospect for the 2011 NFL Draft by ESPN.

Stephen Schilling, Michigan, OG, 6-4, 300: Began his career at tackle but started at guard over the last two years. Climbing up draft boards after doing a great job run-blocking this year for a one-dimensional offense. Rated as the No. 83 overall prospect for the 2011 NFL Draft by ESPN.

ROSE BOWL
Marcus Cannon, TCU, OG, 6-5, 360
: A mountain of a man who plays LT for TCU but projects as a guard in the NFL. I am not as high on Cannon as others, but he can sway me by faring well against the Big Ten champions from Wisconsin. Rated as the No. 77 overall prospect for the 2011 NFL Draft by ESPN.

Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin, OT, 6-7, 320: Previously viewed exclusively as a RT prospect who might struggle against fast rushers, Carimi has elevated his stock greatly with a strong 2010 campaign. Let’s see how he does against TCU’s top-ranked defense. Rated as the No. 16 overall prospect for the 2011 NFL Draft by ESPN.

John Moffitt, Wisconsin, OG, 6-4, 320
: Moffit combined with Carimi to former the best leftside in college football this year, but the Steelers may be hesitant to take another slow Wisconsin offensive guard after cutting 2009 3rd-round pick Kraig Urbik after just one season. Moffitt is rated as the No. 10 OG prospect in the 2011 NFL Draft but not among its top 150 prospects overall.

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  • EasyLikeSundayMorning

    Good stuff, Ted. I agree that we should draft multiple OL, but I’m probably more optimistic than you about the long term.

    Let’s assume that Starks can play like he did before and Colon is resigned and is roughly what he was before, then our OTs and C should be pretty good and reasonably young. If we can get a good RG, then we should be able to play to Kemo’s strengths (and mask most of his liabilities). Plus, we’ll probably have decent depth with experience and flexibility with Flozell and Foster. If J Scott, Essex and Ligursky are the 8th, 9th and 10th OLs, that’s ok (unlike having them at 5-8th right now).

    If there’s a much better NT or DE (or even CB) in r1, I’m ok with waiting until r2 to address OG or OT.

    • Ted

      ELSM, if we can resign Colon (which is a big if) and he comes back healthy at the same level (another big if), yes, I too would feel much better. We’d have 3 starting tackles under contract for 2011 and two for 2012. Then, we would just need to add a RG for the short-term and an upgrade and more athletic other guard for down the road (although that could come in the 2012 draft). Losing Colon, though, throws the whole thing in turmoil.

      Problem is, however, Pouncey is our only lineman under contract for 2011 who is above-average for his position, and we are already paying lots of money to Kemo and Starks. This offense has a great RB, a top-5 QB, a solid TE, and will have a nice WR corps next year with major improvement from Sanders. However, it will never go to the next level until the line improves. Yes, we won a Super Bowl with mostly this line, but I counter that we won a Super Bowl despite this line in a year when Tom Brady was injured, with a younger and better defense, and when current N.Y. Jet Santonio Holmes made all the key plays for us in key games.

      • Anonymous

        Pouncey is our only lineman who is above-average for his position full stop. Colon looks like a stalwart on our O-line because he is average. Starks is somewhat worse. Kemoeatu and Essex (and the rest of the revolving door at RG) are very bad.

  • Anonymous

    Outside of offensive lineman, any other players to watch tomorrow who could be on the Steelers’ radar? I guess that requires some discussion of what else they need to draft. Always fun.

    They need a corner right away, possibly two depending on what happens with Taylor. Hampton is still great, and Hoke a great backup, but both are old. A young nose tackle to watch and learn for a season or two would be nice. A real, honest-to-god fullback would be nice as well, but perhaps a bit of a luxury considering the offense they run. They could stand to upgrade at free safety; I really like Ryan Clark off the field so I would be a bit bummed to replace him, but them’s the breaks. Nothing else really comes to mind. Maybe a QB destined for backup duty when Leftwich is done or maybe to replace Leftwich (assuming of course that Dixon is out of here this offseason)? A kickoff specialist – but you probably don’t have to use the draft for that.

    Really impressive depth, come to think of it. They could tkae offensive linemen in the first four rounds and I wouldn’t complain. This really could be a draft full of taking the best player on the board every time with a bit of bias to linemen.

    • Ted

      Intropy, read Wex’s linked column because it goes in-depth on all the prospects playing today and tomorrow. But two more potential first-round picks to watch will be the dropping Allen Bailey, a 3-4 DE prospect from Miami, and the rising J.J. Watt from Wisconsin, a DE who could play in the 3-4 or 4-3 and will be facing Cannon often in a must-see matchup. I expect both Watt and Wisconsin to get the better of Cannon and TCU.

  • Anonymous

    Oh, and since there’s no daily thread up, I may as well put this here.

    Harrison had his fine for the Massaquoi hit reduced: http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/steelers/s_715972.html.

    Ben Roethlisberger has the second lowest interception rate if you adjust for dropped interceptions and discount hail Marys and catchable balls tipped by the receiver: http://www.footballoutsiders.com/extra-points/2010/fo-mailbag-dropped-interceptions.

    • Ted

      It still baffles the mind that the Steelers explored trading Roethlisberger when his trade-value market was at an all-time low due to some ridiculous and contrived allegations that resulted in no arrests and charges. We waited 20+ years for another franchise QB (winning no Super Bowls in that period) and then were close to throwing away all of our current success for PR image; and we probably pissed away our SB chances by giving away Holmes for the same absurd reason.

  • steelerjunky

    It is a conundrom; Drafting too low in the 1st round to get an OT or CB worth a first round pick. OL value that late in the 1st round will be at the OG position.
    Which I don’t see the Steelers really needing with Foster improving and Chris Scott waiting in the wings. Question is do they seee Chris Scott as a guard or tackle in the future.If they see him as a possible back up for both. Then they could take an OG in the 1st if they really want another Pouncey. Is Mike Pouncey good enough to play tackle in the NFL.I have not read anything on him position flexibility wise.
    Other wise there will be several to choose from in the 2nd round like Benjamn Ijalana who might also be able to play LT after a couple years.
    But they need to look for an OT for the future.But they probably won’t gamble on one in the 1st round unless they get lucky enough for one they have confidence in to fall within their reach.
    But we can always hope the unlikely happens. Or they will be looking for another mid rounder to coach up.
    I like Hairston, he is smart like Essex, but is he any better.

    • Ted

      The problem, Steelerjunky, as you noted, is that everybody now reaches for OTs, meaning there is never good value on the board at that spot after the middle of the first round. Fortunately, we rarely pick that early. Unfortunately, we will have to reach for a tackle at some point.

      Now, there are some decent RT prospects who may be available in the second round (Pinkston from Pitt and Ziemba from Auburn are two), but we need a swing tackle out of this draft. You are correct, though, in that more surefire, can’t-miss picks are at guard this late and we rarely draft risks in the first round, which is a wise philosophy.

      • Randy Steele

        We all agree that it’s almost always a big mistake to reach for a player who fills a position of need in the draft. But not all these guys are a reach.

        For example, last year Rodger Saffold wasn’t considered a first round grade. The Rams grabbed him at the top of the second round and made him their starting LT, paired with their sparkly new first round pick, Sam Bradford. By all reports, Saffold is playing great. Nice draft, St. Louis.

        It wouldn’t have been a stretch for the Steelers to have chosen Saffold a few pick earlier and the choice, although it probably would have been criticized at the time as a reach, would most likely have paid off well here. Of course, we got Pouncey instead, so nobody is complaining.

        My point is that sometimes someone who may seem like a reach isn’t. Once again it all comes down to good scouting and planning.

      • Anonymous

        If everyone is drafting OTs earlier, it’s no longer reaching. It’s a new consensus on relative value.

    • FW

      Not always the case. Recently, you have Mike Oher going in that vicinity of 1c (certainly in the region of a reasonable trade) and Rodger Saffold going to the Rams at the top of the next, 2a. Saffold, a guy I wanted to trade back for, has anchored LT for Sam Bradshaw rather well, and 2a is exceptional value for a LT rookie starter. I’d like to see workouts from Temple’s Darius Morris, who could be a OG/OT with a skillset similar to Saffold’s.

      I also think R1 will see an unusual distribution curve for OTs insofar as there is no consensus top tackle, and most have “buts” that could drop them. And there are some underclassmen who could creep into R1 from R2 grades currently. I like Tyron Smith from USC, a converted TE who has the footspeed to play LT or RT, but just needs a bit of sand in the pants. Give him a year in strength and conditioning and watch him become a starting LT for years to come… He also fits the Tomlin mold of R1 guys who are very young (20) and moldable.

      If we could get Smith R1, a top CB R2 (think there will be plenty there at our spot), Morris R3, and a safety R4 to better back up Troy and to learn FS, we’d be golden. Tyron Smith, Davon House, Darius Morris, Jaiquan Jarrett? Or see if an underrated NT is there R4 and S drops, Sione Fua R4, Jeron JOhnson R5?

  • steelerjunky

    Oh and thank you for the ESPN info. I don’t visit the pay sites until after the combine.

  • SteelerBill

    Good morning and Happy New Year folks….

    Ted….Ryan and some of the folks here are all too familiar with this: I don’t believe in drafting a man just because it says OL on his business card. If that were the case, I’d change my business card….

    That said…I love the big fat guy’s…and if the men that know much more about this then me believe that certain collegiate level fat guy’s would improve upon what we have now, I’m all for it……

    I just caution against drafting a man just because he is an OL – see Tony HIlls….

  • Steve

    Ted…you indicate Orlando Franklin is “slow”, but that he also has “great quickness”. Not sure I understand.

    • Ted

      Good catch, Steve. He will time well in the 40 and shuttle run, but plays slow, probably because he is lazy.

  • EasyLikeSundayMorning

    Here’s Kiper’s current take (from behind the ESPN pay wall) on who we’ll target. It is hard to know how seriously to take him, as he lists WR as one of our top 3 needs:

    Pittsburgh Steelers
    Top needs: OL, CB, WR
    Pick strategy: Pittsburgh is in a good position to get the kind of player it needs. You could see Carimi here, Derek Sherrod of Mississippi State or even Anthony Costanzo of Boston College, a player I thought could be a mid-first-round pick before the season. But I really think Pittsburgh should target a cornerback. Janoris Jenkins, if he’s around in the late 20′s, is a steal in terms of overall skill set. He’s a guy who helps out your defense in some capacity in Week 1. If he’s gone, Ras-I Dowling of Virginia could be available. Dowling was a constant on the Big Board for much of the year but fell off because of injury concerns, which doesn’t look like a long-term issue. I also think the Steelers will look at a WR at some point. Hines Ward keeps producing, but bringing along a rookie in the way they did Mike Wallace is a good idea.

  • markymarc

    Add me to the Mike Pouncey bandwagon. He could be the 2011 opening day starting right guard and let the twins reunite in the NFL!

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  • Man532

    Looking at the offensive line, we get Wille Colon back, who should be a guard and maybe Krueger get’s this. I’m hopeful Chris Scott (UT) gives us something. Say goodbye to Hills, J. Scott, and maybe Trai Essex.

    I think the draft should unfold as follows,
    1st Round: Offensive Lineman (Tackle before Guard)
    2nd Round: Cornerback (man to man and can run with receivers), Gay’s spot is open and ready to be taken by Butler or Lewis
    3rd Round: Defensive Lineman (our bread and butter is our defense
    4th Round: Offensive Lineman (Guard before Tackle)
    5th Round: Punter (Henry from Florida, Sepulvada is very brittle in the right knew department)
    6th Round: Ace Special Team LB or CB (someone who is a head hunter and makes it happen)
    7th Round: Defensive Lineman to work on practive team