After yesterday’s post on the prospects of Willie Colon moving to guard, I starting thinking. Assuming that we were all transported to a magical place where this could actually happen (in this land, Ike can catch), I was all set to write today about what such a shuffling along the o-line would mean for the Steelers’ draft plans.
Specifically: would a starting lineup of Max, Kemoeatu, Maurkice, Colon and Flozell (and, for shiggles, let’s say the Steelers also re-signed Trai and Jonathan Scott) mitigate the need for drafting an offensive lineman in April? (Obligatorily ducks because I know you just threw something at your screen upon reading that last sentence. Fair enough but hear me out…)
I only bring it because the names mentioned above, along with Dougie Legursky and Ramon Foster, give the Steelers nine offensive linemen. Draft a guy in the first three or four rounds, and you expect him to make the final 53. Not sure where he’d fit in, although there’s always the possibility that Essex or Scott (or both) don’t return to Pittsburgh.
All else equal, I’d lean towards getting younger along the o-line through the draft and jettisoning Essex … and if necessary, whoever grades out as the worst lineman among the names remaining. The danger is that, like the 2010 season, there could be a run on injuries and a rookie would be forced into the lineup. I would say it’s unlikely, but the laws of probability don’t seem to apply to the Steelers. I saw things in 2010 that I could have never, ever imagined (Tony Hills at guard! Ramon Foster at tackle!).
But there is a problem with all of that. As I pointed out yesterday, why the hell would Colon want guard money when he’s an NFL tackle? Second, Eddie Bouchette writes that there is “little chance” Colon will be with the Steelers next season. This assumes that the league and the players’ union avoids impending labor doom, because there are scenarios where Colon might not have a choice on his 2011 whereabouts.
PFT‘s Gregg Rosenthal wonders if that’s just Colon’s agent working from the assumption that the Steelers won’t pay his client what he wants. Seems plausible. And while I’d love to have Colon back (it would be nice, for once, to be able to say “Yeah, the offensive line isn’t the team’s biggest issue heading into training camp.”), I was never convinced that he was anything more than an average to above-average tackle. Yes, there was talk about him being one of the league’s best right tackles before blowing up his knee, but you don’t have to be JJ Cooper to see that that was a stretch.
Yes, Colon would help the Steelers next season, but it wouldn’t take me long to get over the loss if the team decided to move on. Which brings us full circle, in terms of the draft. If Colon leaves, Pittsburgh will again be in the market for an offensive lineman. We know what the current cast of characters can do, and even if Flozell is a year older, it’s not like losing a step will suddenly cripple his game. It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to see him playing right tackle in a wheelchair. In fact, it might actually increase his mobility. But he’s a stopgap. Youth and depth are at the top of the to-do list if Colon bolts.
I’m guessing you saw my “CB or OL?” post from last week (not sure how you could have missed it; I mention it every chance I get). In the comments, tequila0341 links to Mike Mayock’s full take on the Steelers draft needs, specifically the possible lack of cornerback depth at the end of the first round.
During a conference call, Mayock, speaking generally, said that “If you’re looking for a cornerback at the end of the first round, you might have a problem.” But added:
Remember, these are my preferences. Pittsburgh might like the kid from Texas. They might like the kid from Miami. I happen to think the kid from Miami to me is a second or third round corner. He’s not a first round corner.
Aaron Williams, I think would be interesting to them. He’ll tackle. He’s kind of a physical guy, bigger corner. He might be the guy that they look at. If it’s not corner, then I think it has to be offensive line.
I thought they did a great job keeping it together with all the injuries they’ve had this year. But they’ve got to go get one of those big tackles that I’ve already mentioned or get one of those inside guys. One way or another, they’ve got to upgrade the athleticism of the offensive line.
At this point, two months out from the draft and with free-agent implications surrounding the lockout yet to be decided, I don’t know what to think. If Flozell and Colon return (along with a few key reserves), I could see the team passing on an offensive lineman altogether. And, hell, who knows, maybe they’ll even trade up to get the defensive back they really want.
(That, folks, is my clumsy attempt at foreshadowing. I’ll have a post going up soon about the team’s recent history at trading up and down the draft board.)