The Steelers are one high draft pick away from rounding out their offensive line—if they’re not yet willing to give Kelvin Beachum a shot at left guard. Personally, I feel that the kid has earned a shot, but the team may not agree. They’ve spent a lot of time rebuilding this unit, and it’s about time that it started paying dividends.
Let’s take a look at some of the prospects the Steelers may target throughout the draft.
The Steelers always try to take the best player available.
If Luke Joeckel, Eric Fisher or Chance Warmack somehow fall to the Steelers at No. 17, then I’d be surprised if those guys were not the pick. However, each has impressed in the early portions of the scouting process and thus are unlikely to be available when the Steelers choose.
With that being said, let’s run down the potential targets.
Cooper is a fluid athlete who opened up huge holes for running back Giovani Bernard, another possible Steelers target.
He’s a hair undersized for a guard at 6’3” 310 pounds, but the Steelers are likely looking for athleticism in their new zone-blocking scheme. Plus, his long arms and sound technique would make him a good fit on the line.
A potential flaw in his game arises when he battles bigger, stronger defensive tackles who can drive him backwards. Despite this, Cooper will be selected in the first round of the draft barring a huge surprise.
If the Steelers let Doug Legursky walk in free agency, Jones would be a great candidate to step in and take over the utility lineman role. He started three national championship games at three different positions, and his technical knowledge of how to play on the offensive line tops the rest of the prospects.
He could either start at guard or provide depth at the tackle and center positions, freeing up a roster spot or two.
Jones won’t blow people away with his athleticism or his raw strength, and for this reason he should be available in the second round.
Larry Warford’s 330 pounds make it difficult for quick defensive tackles just to slide by him en route to the quarterback.
He moves pretty well for a big guy, showing the balance that one might expect from a player 50 pounds lighter.
Warford shows good instincts and has a great initial punch at the point of attack. His pure speed leaves a lot to be desired, though, and he won’t be an option as a pulling guard. For the Steelers, David DeCastro will probably draw the pulling duties if he’s paired with Warford, a likely third-round prospect.
Capable of playing either guard position, Bailey is a road-grader who explodes forward at the snap of the ball on running plays.
Unlike Warford, Bailey earned his scholarship at Arkansas by being a pulling guard who can get to the second level of the defense.
Bailey does have some issues in pass protection, as his technique tends to break down at times and he tries to block defenders as if it was a running play. He’s a player that the Steelers could target in the fourth round.
The athletic Long has just four starts under his belt at Oregon, but he showed that he may have what it takes to compete for either a guard or tackle spot on an NFL roster. He is very mobile, and will likely run the fastest of all of the offensive lineman at the NFL Scouting Combine.
There isn’t much tape on Long, but he seems to be a natural talent and a worthwhile project in this year’s draft. The Steelers could fall in love with his potential and take him anywhere in rounds 3-5.