Steelers Decide ‘Skill Position Players’ Isn’t Realistic Way to Protect Big Ben

That was something. I was at Radio City Music Hall for all 253 picks and while Thursday and Friday couldn’t have gone better for the Steelers (I was calling for them to trade up for DeCastro before the Bengals got their dirty mitts on him), after about four hours into Saturday’s action, I felt like I was at a casino and I couldn’t find the door.

Still, I ain’t complaining. We’ve whinged for years that the Steelers neglected the offensive line. I originally bought into Tomlin’s “there are two ways to protect the passer” philosophy, convincing myself that surrounding Ben with skilled playmakers would be just as effective as the more conventional approach of, you know, actually protecting the franchise’s best player.

Well, now we got our wish, which brings me to this: what’s the offensive line look like next season? I know Tomlin said that DeCastro isn’t guaranteed to start and that, as it stands, it’s a right guard. That’s all well and good, but what about Marcus Gilbert? He played right tackle for most of last season and with Max Starks a free agent (and he almost certainly won’t be re-signed now), Gilbert was set to move to the left side. Is that still the plan? I ask because there’s no Steelers mock draft that had them getting both DeCastro and Mike Adams with their first two picks without having to trade up.

But now that both are in the mix, what about this lineup, from left to right : Adams, Colon, Pouncey, DeCastro, Gilbert. (There are variations on this theme, of course: Colon at RG, DeCastro at LG; Colon at RT, Gilbert at LT, Foster or Legursky at G, Adams learns by watching; etc… And, yes, I know, I’m projecting Colon inside even though it’s never happened. Apologies in advance.)

Radio City Music Hall 2012, NFL Draft (iphone'd)

I questioned what Art Rooney was up to back in January when he said that Ben needed to tweak the way he played. If I knew he meant that “tweak” was code for “have better blockers in front of him” I would’ve kept my mouth shut.

As it stands, the Steelers have taken the risk-averse approach to Tomlin’s “protecting the passer” theme. Not only do they have the makings of a really good offensive line, they have some of the best skill position players in the league. And that list now includes fifth-rounder Chris Rainey, the type of player Houston talk radio host and draft brainiac Lance Zierlein suggested Todd Haley might be interested in.

And only three months till training camps start!

To kill time, feel free to give me your starting o-line in the comments.

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  • http://twitter.com/BrendanMonaghan Brendan Monaghan

    Would love them to find a way to have all three – Colon, Gilbert and Adams in the lineup, but my guess is that Adams will play the swing tackle spot behind Gilbert (LT) and Colon (RT) and next year they’ll cut Colon (cap casualty) and decide how to deploy Gilbert and Adams, right vs. left. 

    Next year, with Pouncey and DeCastro in the interior, they can either let Foster/Legursky fight it out for LG or draft someone (likely in rounds 2 or later; can’t see us going round 1 again). 

  • Beyond the pale

    The wildcard is Colon.  Will he be healthy?  Won’t he?  If he is healthy I see him at RT with Gilbert at LT, while DeCastro is at one of the guard spots.  I can’t see the Steelers starting TWO rookies on the o-line at the same time, if they can help it.  If Adams progresses like we think he will, then perhaps by midseason he will be the starting RT.

    • JCRODRIGUEZ

      I am not that much against the idea of playing two rookies, given that, well, those two guys have WAY more talent than the available vets they will be replacing.

    • JCRODRIGUEZ

      I am not that much against the idea of playing two rookies, given that, well, those two guys have WAY more talent than the available vets they will be replacing.

  • EasyLikeSundayMorning

    Last year may be an anomaly, but all the movement on the line seemed to
    impact the line’s performance less than getting the best guys out there
    each game.  It might also be a fluid situation for much of 2012.  By the
    end of 2012 or the beginning of 2013, though, we may have a clear lineup that is
    pretty stable and very good for several years. 

    Ted’s idea of signing Starks at LT when he’s healthy and then inserting
    Adams there when he’s ready makes sense to me.  Another possibility would be to follow the path of Starks and Marvel
    Smith, who began their careers at RT and then moved to LT.  So if Colon moves
    inside, Adams might initially be a RT.

    As for the guards, my understanding is that it is much more common in the NFL to have LGs pull than RGs.  I don’t see Foster or Colon being able to pull, and this is supposed to be a specialty of DeCastro’s.  So I’m guessing DeCastro is more likely to be at LG, regardless of whether Colon moves to RG.

    I’m hoping by the end of 2012 it is: LT Adams, LG DeCastro, C Pouncey, RG Colon, RT Adams with Legursky and Essex (and possibly Starks) dressing with lots of positional flexibility.  Some combo of Jonathan Scott, Chris Scott and Kelvin Beachum would round out the bench.

    One question: does anyone know what’s up with Chris Scott?  He seemed to have position flexibility at T and G and potential but has been hurt and seemingly off the radar screen.

    • Anonymous

      My understanding is that the left guard pulls more than the right guard because of the relative abilities of the tackles. A right-handed QB has a left blindside, which means the LT needs to be a good pass blocker. So most of the best pass blockers go to LT, leaving the better run blockers at RT. So if you’re going to run, you prefer running to the right, and so you pull the left guard.

  • Diehardsteeler7

    Colon has been told he will be playing guard this upcoming season. Also Starks is ahead of schedule on rehab and has been contacted to come in as staring left tackle. So it looks like the season will open up with Starks, Colon, Pouncey, DeCastro, Gilbert. If Starks accepts what steelers are offering expect J Scott to be let go.

  • Bill in DC

    We should resign Starks because, well, we end up having to every year anyway.

    2012
    Gilbert/Foster/Pouncey/DeCastro/Colon

    Starks
    Adams
    Legs
    Essex
    Scott

    2013
    Adams/DeCastro/Pouncey/Colon*/Gilbert

    *Colon or Guard to be named later

    • Anonymous

      This is my guess as well minus Starks and Essex.

      The 2013 may be in place by the end of 2012, or there may be an intermediate step with Adams at RT. Also, there will be injury-induced lineups.

    • Randy Steele

      At this point you have to prove to me that Willie Colon can still play. He essentially hasn’t seen the field during a real game in more than two years.

  • http://www.backupquarterbackblog.blogspot.com/ Backup Quarterback Blog

    Thank goodness you guys aren’t Browns fans . . . http://www.backupquarterbackblog.blogspot.com/2012/05/how-browns-blew-draft.html

    As for the Steelers, good to see they finally shored up that O-line.  Pouncey, Gilbert, Adams, and DeCastro could be very good for a long time.

  • Randy Steele

    Not so sure they won’t re-sign Max Starks. After all, he’d only get a vet minimum–about $800,000, which is very cheap insurance. We’ll see.
    The Steeler offensive lineman you heard groaning the loudest after the second round of the draft was Jonathan Scott. I don’t see how he and his $2.2 million contract survive the summer.

    • http://www.steelerslounge.com/ ryan

      I’m a Starks fan and would happily welcome him back. And based on Diehardsteeler7′s comments below, Starks could be re-signed. I just know the coaches didn’t like him until they literally had no one to play the position last season.

  • Raveloma

    About Colon…I’m not sure why he would have any hesitation against playing guard over tackle? To me it seems like it would not only be a better natural fit, but he would also compete against lesser competition, theoretically lengthen his career, and still get paid as a tackle. I also don’t think that he can be trusted at LG over DeCastro until he proves that he’s still the same player we remember from 2009. For me, I’d like to see Starks, DeCastro, Pouncey, Colon, Gilbert. I think most of us could agree that Adams and Gilbert are the LT and RT, respectively, of the future. Therefore I think it makes the most sense to leave Gilbert there and re-sign Starks until Adams is up to speed.

  • Callouswhisper

    I dont care what the combination is, I just want an interior that gives Ben a chance to breathe and can make a run block in red zone. 

  • Rob D

    I am still rubbing my eyes in disbelief at the talent injection along the O-line this draft has provided. Suddenly we have options we never believed possible. To me, I think we’ll have a very good O-line by midseason; one that will allow us to win games in a fashion we haven’t seen since around 2005-06 when Faneca was still on the team. A new coordinator with weapons and depth…an old coordinator with weapons and depth. I don’t know if they will be championship worthy given all the changes in players and scheme but they will be sooner rather than later.

    Sure doesn’t suck to be a Steelers fan…

  • Frank in Ohio

    My opinion, Willie Colon has not been healthery for two years in a row. I do not see him in this role as a starter. The ultimate ending to this story is as follows: LT Adams, LG Foster, C Pouncey, RG DeCastro, RT Gilbert. I know the Steelers want two athletic Guards as a High-target, however Willie Colon’s health will not dictate it. Further more Ramon Foster has been injury-free for the most his entier career, therefore history tells me he will be in the starting line up somewhere. I like the physicality he brings to the line up.