Two years ago Mike Tomlin inaugurated the off season with the edict that the Steelers needed to get "younger and stronger on both lines." As Steel Curtain Rising has indicated in the time since then the Steelers, with help from father time, have indeed embraced a youth movement on both lines.
But how much younger and stronger have they gotten, and how should that affect their draft plans?
The Steelers Situation at Offensive Line
Gone are Alan Fanaca, Marvel Smith, Kendall Simmons, and Sean Mahan. As Yoda might say, "Younger, at offensive line the Steelers have become."
But have they become stronger?
The answer is, "not much, if any." Max Starks, Willie Colon and Chris Kemoantu give the Steelers three solid starters, although non one is comparing them to John Jackson, Leon Searcy, and Will Wolford yet. Justin Hartwig is and upgrade from Mahan, but is aging, and Trai Essex is perhaps a very good sixth lineman.
Behind these men the Steelers have no depth. 2008 and 2009 draft picks Tony Hills, tackle, and Kraig Urbik, guard, are behind unrestricted rookie free agents on the depth chart.
What the Steelers Must Do At Offensive Line
Time was that the Steelers seemed to have an unofficial policy of using a premium pick on a lineman every year. Some of those did not work (Jermaine Stephens, Paul Wiggins, Chris Conrad and Kris Farris ring bells?).
But it was a good policy, and one the Steelers need to revive.
The Steelers need help at all three positions on the offensive line, and they must get it early in this draft.
The Steelers Situation at Defensive Line
In contrast to their counterparts on offense, the Steelers still have the same starting defensive line they had when Mike Tomlin arrived. In fact, two of those men have signed contract extensions in the last year.
Nonetheless, the unit counts on two back ups, Ziggy Hood and Sunny Harris, taken respectively at the top and bottom of the Steelers 2009 draft.
What the Steelers Must do at Defensive Line in the Draft
Hood came on strong late in the year, and his presence will only help elevate the play of the other three. We’ve seen less of Harris, but he got good reviews in training camp and since his return from his stint on Carolina’s practice squad.
Still, the Steelers need depth on the defensive line, particularly at nose tackle. While this also needs to be a top, early round priority, it nonetheless takes a back seat to needs on the offensive line and secondary.