TUESDAY, JANUARY 15, 2013
by Dale Lolley
It's all just speculation until a new offensive line coach is named - and there's no hurry there at this point - but with three key offensive linemen heading into free agency, the Steelers are going to have a different starting group in 2013.
Left tackle Max Starks, guard Ramon Foster and backup center/guard Doug Legursky will all be unrestricted free agents, and the Steelers could have a tough time bringing any of them back.
Starks and Foster want to start, and that opportunity might not be available with the Steelers. Of the three, Legursky could be the one who re-signs with the Steelers to continue as Maurkice Pouncey's backup - though he's shown enough as a true center to justify a team taking a chance on him as a starter.
With the Steelers having taken Maurkice Pouncey, Marcus Gilbert, David DeCastro and Mike Adams with premium draft picks in the past three years, they figure to hold down four of the starting spots. At what position - at least for Gilbert and Adams - remains to be seen.
At this point, if I were positioning them, Adams would be the left tackle and Gilbert would be the right. But that could change.
I know Adams struggled at left tackle last preseason, but he was a rookie at that point, seeing his first playing time. He's now had a decent amount of game experience and should have a better understanding of what's required.
At the same time, Adams proved to be a very good run blocker in the games he started this season, which would seemingly make him a better fit on the right side.
As for Gilbert, I question his footwork for a move to the left side. He also had issues last season on the right side handling power pass rushers, but again, perhaps an offseason to work on technique and strength will be good for him.
The wildcard in the equation is Kelvin Beachum. Beachum was taken late in last year's draft to be the new Trai Essex, a guy capable of playing guard or tackle.
He proved to be reasonably solid as a pass blocker, but didn't have the functional strength to run block. He's another player who will benefit from an offseason in the weight room.
The Steelers are trying to get away from the big, hulking, overweight linemen of the past - which is what you get when you fill your line with late-round draft picks.
And they've done a good job of becoming more athletic up front.
The next step is getting those linemen in the right places.