After two days with news, things swung back toward normal for Pittsburgh Steelers fans, as the transaction train stopped. While it was no surprise that the team re-signed Max Starks, it was a bit surprising that the team released Jonathan Scott prior to training camp. Yes, he was probably not destined for the opening day roster with his $2.2 million salary, but he would have been a solid rotational person for preseason games.
Last season (and really the last few seasons), the line was in flux almost from day one when Willie Colon suffered another season ending injury. The Steelers made no secret about their desire to improve the offensive line play using three selections (including their first two) in the NFL Draft on offensive linemen. Incredibly, two of those rookies could open the season as starters in this newly configured line.
While these are only projections, it is clear that only center Maurkice Pouncey is firmly entrenched at a position he started at in 2011. Pouncey, who is only entering his third season in the NFL is clearly one of the best offensive pivot men in the league and should be around to anchor the Steelers offensive line for years to come. Prior to the draft, it looked as if RFA Doug Legursky or UFA signee Trai Essex would be the primary back-up, but now, with the moving of Colon and the drafting of guards David DeCastro (first round) and Kelvin Beachum (seventh round) makes this one of the more interesting training camp battles.
At guard, as of today Willie Colon and DeCastro should be projected as the starters at left and right guard. Yes, Colon will be transitioning, but when healthy, he is an athletic and strong presence along the front line and should be able to pick-up the intricacies of the new offense. DeCastro has the potential to be a mainstay of the Steelers offensive line for years to come. The first round selection is a physical technician who can excel in any scheme. Behind Colon and DeCastro, RFA Ramon Foster, seventh round selection Beachum and the winner of the battle between Legursky and Essex should add depth.
The offensive tackle position definitely has more questions than answers at this point. Projecting this unit today has rookie second round pick Mike Adams and second-year pro Marcus Gilbert holding down the fort. Last season, Gilbert was solid and played a huge role at solidifying the right side of the offensive line when Colon went down. Adams is the wildcard of this unit. A talented but troubled lineman at Ohio State, the Steelers took a chance on his upside to come in and be the left tackle the team has been searching for.
Behind those, newly re-signed Max Starks should settle into the swing tackle if he does not win the starting job in training camp. The mammoth offensive tackle is extremely underrated and if healthy could add more than veteran leadership to the young offensive line. Behind Starks, Essex has the versatility to slide outside in a pinch, but does not look like a long-term solution as a swing tackle.
Last season, the Steelers kept nine offensive linemen and should keep at least that many if not more in 2012. While we at Steelers 101 firmly believe Starks will be on the roster on opening day, he remains unsigned and cannot factor into this projection. The 10 offensive linemen selections for the 2012 Steelers opening day roster are:
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