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Steelers Draft '17: Offensive Line

Sorting through Steelers parameters for the ideal O-line prospect.

Have the Pittsburgh Steelers ever not drafted an offensive lineman?

It's seemingly a perpetual need, but the last time they did not draft one was - um - is this right? 2015?

OK, so they have a little experience skipping the position.

Oh, they didn't draft one in 2013 either?

All right, so the strongest and deepest Steelers offensive line in memory could go without a draft pick for the third time in five years.

That makes this group difficult to understand, if only because it's so well built. And young.

The oldest starter, Ramon Foster, is only 31. And he has the least amount of time left -- two years -- on his contract. Alejandro Villanueva also has two years remaining, but those are exclusive and restricted free-agent years and the Steelers hope to extend his contract this summer.

Of the reserves, Chris Hubbard is a restricted free agent and could be extended this summer as well. 

Both top reserves, Hubbard and B.J. Finney, are versatile enough to cover all five spots of the line in case of injuries, and tackle Brian Mihalik spent the last half of last season on the 53-man roster. There's also last year's fourth-round draft pick, Jerald Hawkins, who showed potential in the preseason before going down with a shoulder injury. Their two-year practice-squad player, Matt Feiler, also plays both guard and tackle.

So it's a quality, deep and versatile group.

If the Steelers draft an offensive lineman this year, he'll likely be what's known as a "Weekend Guy," or a guy they'll draft on Saturday in rounds 4-7, and most likely later in the afternoon.

Just a few parameters in our identification process:

* OL coach Mike Munchak prefers mobile projects who can get stronger in the Steelers' weight room, as opposed to massive men who need to develop better footwork.

* We'll also rule out some of the better tackles that some experts believe could fall to the later rounds, such as Pitt's Adam Bisnowaty (poor combine) and Bucknell's Julie'n Davenport (lack of polish). It's considered such a thin crop of tackles that both players are more apt to be overdrafted. 

Other prospects from Pennsylvania include IUP guard Ethan Cooper and Kutztown guard-tackle Jordan Morgan. The best of the local crop are guard Dorian Johnson of Belle Vernon Area High and Pitt, and center Tyler Orlosky of West Virginia. But both will likely be gone before the Steelers are interested. 

Another local prospect, WVU guard Adam Pankey (6-4 1/2, 313), might interest them in the seventh round or after the draft.

* The last parameter might be the most important: versatility must be a part of any late-round reserve. J.J. Dielman (6-5, 309) was Utah's right tackle before being moved to center last season. After five games he suffered a Lis franc injury that ended his season. 

A combination of struggling with the move and the injury could push Kris Dielman's cousin down into the late rounds for a team that has time to develop a player into a five-position backup.

Another player with similar versatility is San Diego State center-tackle Daniel Brunskill (6-5, 273). 

There are also the center-guards, Chase Roullier (6-4, 312) of Wyoming and Erik Austell (6-3, 301) of Charleston Southern.

A couple of interesting tackles with athleticism could benefit from Munchak's coaching and time on the practice squad: 

* Sam Tevi (6-5, 312) of Utah, who is still learning to play his position after being moved from the defensive line in 2014.

* Storm Norton (6-7, 307) of Toledo, who's too lean but may benefit from eating lunches and dinners with Villanueva.


Munchak has been afforded only one draft pick, Hawkins, in his previous three drafts, and if he gets another chance it should be a sixth or seventh-rounder.

Hey, Kevin Colbert found Kelvin Beachum with their fourth pick in the 2012 seventh round. Beachum could play all five positions but became too good at left tackle and was signed away.


* Sixth Round -- J.J. Dielman, Utah.

* Seventh Round -- Sam Tevi, Utah; Storm Norton, Toledo.

(To read about Tuesday's visiting prospects, click here.) 

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