The Steelers will hit Latrobe for Training Camp in just under two weeks as they begin their quest for a seventh Lombardi Trophy. The summer has come and gone (thankfully) with minimal excitement on the Steelers front. A truism of the NFL is that no good news can happen between the end of the Draft and the start of Training Camp. Over that time, most NFL news revolves around players getting suspended or injured. As we prepare for the formal beginning of the Steelers 2018 campaign, we’ll be taking a position-by-position look at the roster. If you’re heading out to Latrobe to visit Training Camp this year, be sure to check out our sponsors Taps n’at for a wide selection of craft beers and food. Today we continue with the Offensive Line where the starters are set but who fills in at key depth areas?
By The Numbers
2017 Rushing Yards: 1,667 (20th)
2017 Passing Yards: 4,380 (3rd)
2017 Pass Protection: 24 sacks given up (T-3rd)
Maurkice Pouncey (9 seasons)
Pouncey continues to be one of the NFL’s best centers. A six-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro, he continues to be the anchor of the Steelers’ front. Pouncey brings both leadership and athleticism to the position. His ability to pull right or left gives the Steelers tremendous options in the running game that other teams do not possess. Pouncey has had injury issues in his career missing all of 2013 but he’s been a stalwart over the last several seasons.
B.J. Finney (3 seasons)
Finney has proven himself to be an excellent back up at both guard and center. I am of the opinion he excels better at the guard position but if Pouncey needs to be spelled Finney is competent. He is a very good run blocker who has a ‘road grater’ mentality and in several of his seven career starts resulted in huge days for Le’Veon Bell.
David DeCastro (7 seasons)
DeCastro is a three-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro selection. His nasty disposition is more than welcome to this offensive line which often looks to DeCastro for huge blocks in the running game. He is a quiet leader in the locker room and leads by example on the field. There’s no reason for him to not have another Pro Bowl season in 2018.
Ramon Foster (10 seasons)
Foster continues to be one of the great stories for the Steelers. It’s not often a late round selection makes a team let alone becomes a long-time starter. Foster is a very good run blocker and team leader who isn’t afraid to tell you what’s on his mind. His pass blocking has not been as good as it always needs to be but it’s been enough to keep him in as a starter. I suspect he’ll be pushed by Finney this year more than over.
Alejandro Villanueva (4 seasons)
The former US Army Captain anchors the left side of the line and is responsible for Ben Roethlisberger’s blind side. There is no question that the development of Villanueva is due in part to his work ethic and the coaching of Mike Munchak. Villy is often a victim of his own size because he has trouble getting the necessary bend in pass blocking situations. Still, his strong locker room presence and commitment to the team shouldn’t be overlooked.
Marcus Gilbert (8 seasons)
In the last two seasons, Marcus Gilbert has played in just 20 of 32 possible regular season games. Those missing games were due to injuries and this current offseason, he’s spent a lot of time working on staying healthy. When he’s on the field, he’s a very good right tackle. He run blocks well and he pass blocks well too but he’s never been voted to a Pro Bowl or made All-Pro. He’s an important piece to the offense’s success but he must stay on the field.
Matt Feiler (2 seasons)
Feiler went from a guy that was destined to be looking for a job elsewhere this year to a guy that suddenly looked serviceable as a reserve. While he’s played in just six total games, including one start, he’s progressed positively. When given the chance he’s been better at guard than tackle but with Finney entrenched as the top inside reserve, he’s going to have fight to make the roster.
Chukwuma Okorafor OT, Bryce Harris OT, R.J. Prince OL, Jake Rodgers, Larson Graham, Joseph Creek OL, Chris Schleugger OG, Patrick Morris C, Parker Collins C
This much is certain; the Steelers’ starting offensive line is set. Villanueva, Foster, Pouncey, DeCastro and Gilbert will be the men up front. If you want me to tell you who is on the thinnest ice I would tell you Foster because Finney has proven his worth at guard and is younger and less expensive. Do not take that as a guarantee, it’s just something to consider. With Jerald Hawkins lost for the season with a leg injury suffered in OTAs, the pressure on rookie Chuks Okorafor has risen significantly. I have tremendous faith in Mike Munchak but Okorafor has a lot of technique issues to clean up and I’m not sure OTAs and Training Camp is enough to do that. The Steelers must have a competent swing tackle with Chris Hubbard now in Cleveland. Bryce Harris has been a journeyman of sorts and could fill that role but ideally the Steelers would prefer Okorafor. One guy to keep an eye on is Patrick Morris, a rookie Center from TCU. He’s had some injury issues and isn’t technically sound but he tested off the charts at this pro day and had he been at the Combine, he would have Top Six in the forty, the bench press and the vertical jump. Again, I didn’t say he was making the team. He’s just someone I’m watching though for sure.