They’re young. They’re talented. And they are full of potential but they also have a lot to prove and I’m not talking about the newest Menudo line-up. I am speaking of course about the offensive line for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
While many of the faces are familiar in 2013, there are some in different places along the line and some that are now absent altogether. Gone from last season are Willie Colon and Max Starks who held down the left guard and left tackle positions respectively.
Expected to fill their shoes as of right now are Ramon Foster at guard and Marcus Gilbert at the all-important left tackle position. Important because Gilbert is now entrusted to protect the blind-side of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
The one proven commodity is center Maurkice Pouncey who has been a force since coming into the league as a rookie in 2010. While his health has been an issue at times, he has remained a vital constant in the O-line. With Doug Legursky no longer on the roster, that leaves only West Virginia rookie Joe Madsen as a potential back-up.
Madsen of course has to be able to make the roster which is probably a long shot at this point. This is exactly why Kelvin Beachum has been taking some snaps at center which could make the second-year man extremely versatile on the line.
Second-year man David DeCastro settles in at right guard after missing most of his rookie season with a leg injury suffered in a pre-season game in Buffalo. Much will be expected of DeCastro who was a first round pick in 2012 but until we can get a full season look at him, the jury will remain out. Obviously, he has all of the tools to be another great one at right guard.
Manning the right tackle spot is Mike Adams. Drafted in the second round behind DeCastro, Adams had an up and down rookie campaign. He thrived in the running game, struggled with pass protection and then spent the rest of the season on injured reserve. Adams had six starts and gave up seven sacks during his ten game stint.
As of right now, the Steelers like Adams on the right because they like to run right and that’s where Adams is clearly better suited. Gilbert meanwhile will anchor the left, but don’t be surprised to see these two do some work at the other’s position in training camp.
Ramon Foster will not do anything flashy at the left guard spot and that’s just fine with the Steelers. First and foremost, he’s durable which is something this line needs a lot of and secondly he’s a top-notch locker room guy who does his job. A better run blocker than pass protector, Foster has persevered as a reserve and spot starter and now will get his shot.
This is all well and good entering the season, but some of the guys on this line struggle to play full seasons and there is little if any experienced depth behind them.
The Steelers best example of depth is in recently acquired tackle Guy Whimper who has 22 career starts entering his 8th season. The only other lineman on the roster with a start to his credit is Beachum who started five times in his rookie campaign and performed admirably.
The very bottom line for this group of guys is that they have to stay healthy. With a new zone-blocking system in place, that puts even more emphasis on being on the field rather than off of it. Marcus Gilbert, who missed 11 games last season and two in his rookie year, cannot afford to come off the field when he gets bumps and bruises as he is apt to do.
While it’s easy to say because it applies to every team equally, if this offensive line stays healthy and proves it can handle the new system as well protect the quarterback, then the sky is the limit for them and the offense. Should the injury bug hit again for long periods of time, then the entire fate of the season could be sent spiraling downward.
Here’s to their good health!
Marc Uhlmann writes for and co-owns www.steelcityblitz.com. Follow him on Twitter @steeldad and follow the website at @SCBlitz. He can be heard Mondays on Trib-Live Radio at 4pm ET talking Steelers.