The Pittsburgh Steelers are once again Super Bowl contenders this year. That's no secret nor should it be a surprise. They have won two Super Bowls and have been to three in the last six seasons, including last year.
They have a star quarterback in his prime, a solid running game and all of the starters back from the best defense in the NFL.
That being said, every team has flaws. The Steelers have two big ones. One is lack of depth and talent in their secondary. The other is and has been the offensive line.
The Steelers are set and look good at both center and right tackle. The left tackle position still has a competition going on, but it's a healthy one. The Steelers' main concern on the line is both of their guard positions.
Tony Hills, who converted from left tackle, has turned into the front-runner for the right guard position. Hills has been the best player at right guard this preseason for the Steelers, competing against Chris Scott, Ramon Foster and Doug Legursky.
Legursky became a fan favorite last year, filling in for both guard positions at times, and at center for an injured Maurkice Pouncey. That being said Legursky has not looked good this preseason. Legursky is undersized and often gets manhandled by his opponent.
Legursky will make the team and he should, just not as a starter. As a backup, he’s perfect. Legursky can play and has starting experience in three different positions.
Ramon Foster is just not good. There’s really no way around it. I guess he’s going to make the team, but I surely hope he never has to start.
The same can be said for Chris Scott, who could win least valuable player for the Steelers’ preseason so far. I would be shocked if he made the team.
In a bit of a desperate move, the Steelers brought back Trai Essex. Essex was on both of the Super Bowl winning teams as a backup. Essex reportedly lost a lot of weight and has played both guard and tackle for the Steelers.
Personally, I think Essex stinks. They’ve tried and tried to give him chances to be a full-time starter and he never showed anything.
Which means the starters will be Hills (right guard) and Chris Kemoeatu (left guard).
Hills got the start at right guard last week but had to move to left tackle because injuries to both Marcus Gilbert and Jonathan Scott.
Hills is one of the best athletes among the Steelers O-linemen, and athletically should be able to be a decent guard for the Steelers, who like to use their guards by pulling them a lot.
That being said, Hills still has a lot to work on. He plays way too high, often getting driven back by the pass-rusher. If he can stay low, he should be able to keep his own for the Steelers.
No one should be happy by the lack of good candidates than Kemoeatu. Kemoeatu’s stock has risen without even playing this year. Kemoeatu has been out with a knee injury, and his competitions at guard have done nothing about it.
Kemoeatu, who I think is overpaid, might have been in trouble had the Steelers had some of their guards step up and show something. Now he’s more valuable than ever. As long as he’s healthy to play, Kemoeatu will be on the team and starting at left guard, with Hills starting at left guard.
So the locks to make the team are Jonathan Scott, Chris Kemoeatu, Maurkice Pouncey, Willie Colon, Marcus Gilbert, Tony Hills and Trai Essex. That’s eight guys right there. Usually only seven offensive linemen dress on game days and 10 or 11 make the 53-man roster.
I would guess that Legursky makes it because of his versatility alone. That means that Chris Scott, rookie Keith Williams and Ramon Foster could all be competing for one spot. Foster would likely be the favorite just because of his starting experience.
As you can see, the guard position is not a pretty picture with the Steelers right now. Pouncey and Colon might be playing at a Pro Bowl level this year, but the rest of the offensive line will cause Ben Roethlisberger to once again run for his life out there.
Maybe offensive line coach Sean Kugler can work a miracle with this group. I think it’s arguably the weakest position in terms of talent and depth on the team.
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