The 2020 NFL Draft is now less than a two weeks away. This year’s Draft will be like nothing we have ever experienced. Due to precautionary measures around the global pandemic of the coronavirus, the NFL will hold a virtual draft. Teams are not permitted to have their brass congregate in war rooms and most of the footage will be done through video and teleconferencing. The 2020 Draft was supposed to be a giant display of showmanship in Las Vegas, but instead will look like a high-end production of your beer league fantasy draft. As we have done the last few years, in the weeks leading up to the Draft we will be taking a position-by-position look at the Steelers roster and where their biggest needs lie in the Draft. We start by taking a look at the offense, which was statistically one of the worst in the league last year. The Steelers offensive line was widely considered one of the better units in the league, but were often overwhelmed by teams stacking the box against the run as they did not fear the passing game without Ben Roethlisberger under center.
Check out our previous positional previews:
Also check out our Prospect Profiles for a more detailed look at a number of draft prospects.
Returning Players: Alejandro Villanueva (T), Maurkice Pouncey (C), David DeCastro (G), Matt Feiler (T/G), Zach Banner (T), Chukwuma Okorafor (T), Derwin Gray (T/G), JC Hassenauer (C)
New Arrivals: Stephen Wisniewski (G/C)
The Departed: Ramon Foster, BJ Finney
Draft Need: Medium-High
The Steelers signed Matt Feiler and Zach Banner to tenders to prevent them from hitting the market, which means 5 of their top 6 linemen will be returning for 2020. Starting LG Ramon Foster opted to retire, completing his entire 11-year career as a Steeler (an impressive feat for an undrafted free agent). Backup center and guard BJ Finney departed in free agency, signing with Seattle. The Steelers signed Central Catholic and Penn State grad Stephen Wisniewski who was part of the Eagles and Chiefs Super Bowl Championship squads. Wisniewski is capable of playing center or guard, though it is uncertain if he will start at guard or be the top backup to both positions. The Steelers typically keep 9 offensive linemen, so there are 1-2 more spots that could be filled by draftees.
Likelihood of Drafting: Medium
The Steelers have not yet revealed their plans for the offensive line. There is a school of thought that Matt Feiler will move from RT to LG, allowing the RT spot to be decided between Banner and Okorafor. If that happens, Wisniewski will be the top interior backup and the loser of the RT battle will be the 6th lineman. Last year’s 7th round pick Derwin Gray could earn a roster spot as a swing tackle/guard. The Steelers could still use more depth on the inside with another center/guard type player, especially considering Maurkice Pouncey’s injury history. While they are fortunate to not need a starting lineman this season, if they draft a lineman it will likely be a player capable of playing multiple positions. There is the need for at least 1, possibly 2, more linemen to fill out the depth chart. Don’t be surprised to see the Steelers add a lineman at some point in the draft.
This is not a great draft for elite interior linemen, and it is entirely possible that none are taken in the first round. That said, there are a handful of players that are considered borderline 1st/2nd round players so there could be a run in the early second round. The big-name players mainly hail from the Big Ten, including Michigan’s Cesar Ruiz (widely thought of as the draft’s top center), LSU’s Lloyd Cushenberry, Ohio State’s Jonah Jackson, and Wisconsin’s Tyler Biadasz. The Steelers reportedly met with Cushenberry at the Combine. At tackle, the Steelers met with West Virginia’s Colton McKivitz at the Combine and had scheduled a pre-draft visits with Louisiana’s Kevin Dotson and Bosie State’s Ezra Cleveland before all of the visits were cancelled. Other players to keep an eye out for are TCU’s Lucas Niang, Georgia’s Isaiah Wilson, and USC’s Austin Jackson.