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NFL Draft

Steelers Draft Picks in the 21st Century: Offensive Line

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We’ve moved past the skill positions in our ongoing series looking at every Steelers draft pick of the past twenty years.

All in all, Colbert, Tomlin and company have been pretty successful across the board on the offensive side of the ball. The results of which you can see below.

Running Backs | Wide Receivers | Tight Ends

Now we move on to heart and soul of any successful team: the offensive line.

The Steelers offensive line draft picks of the 80s and 90s begins and ends with legends Hall of Famer Dermonti Dawson and future Hall of Famer Alan Faneca. But the team’s more recent history features its own stars in two time All-Pros Maurkice Pouncey and David DeCastro; two Steelers who could one day be engraved in bronze in Canton alongside their 20 brothers in black and gold.

From 2000-2009 the Steelers spent 14 picks on offensive lineman, with varying degrees of success. Marvel Smith was a six year starter and made a pro bowl, Max Starks and Willie Colon were both solid six year starters, 1st round pick Kendall Simmons started for five and 6th round pick Chris Kemoeatu held down left guard for four seasons as a starter, including two Super Bowl appearances.

2000: 2nd round, Marvel Smith, Tackle, Arizona St.
2001: 4th round, Mathias Nkwenti, Tackle, Temple; 5th round Chukky Okobi, Center, Purdue
2002: 1st round, Kendall Simmons, Guard, Auburn
2003: None
2004: 3rd round, Max Starks, Florida; 6th round, Bo Lacy, Tackle, Arkansas; 6th round, Drew Caylor, Center, Stanford
2005: 3rd round, Trai Essex, Tackle, Northwestern; 6th round, Chris Kemoeatu, Guard, Utah
2006: 4th round, Willie Colon, Guard, Hofstra; 6th round, Marvin Phillip, Center, California
2007: 5th round, Cameron Stephenson, Guard, Rutgers
2008: 4th round, Tony Hills, Tackle, Texas
2009: 3rd round, Kraig Urbik, Tackle, Wisconsin; 7th round, A.Q. Shipley, Center, Penn State

2009’s two picks, Kraig Urbik and A.Q. Shipley both had some success in the NFL, but interestingly not with the Steelers. Both ended up with fairly long careers, mostly as backups.

2010: 1st round, Maurkice Pouncey, Center, Florida; 5th round, Chris Scott, Guard, Tennessee

For the first time since 2002, the Steelers used a 1st round pick on an offensive lineman, selecting Florida’s Maurkice Pouncey with the 18th overall selection. In the nine years since, Pouncey has made 8 Pro Bowls and been named an All-Pro twice. The only thing missing from his sterling resume is a Super Bowl ring.

2011: 2nd round, Marcus Gilbert, Tackle, Florida; 6th round, Keith Williams, Guard, Nebraska
2012: 1st round, David DeCastro, Guard, Stanford; 2nd round, Mike Adams, Tackle, Ohio St.; 7th round, Kelvin Beachum, Tackle, SMU

The Steelers make a concerted effort to protect franchise QB Ben Roethlisberger by spending lots of draft capital on the O-Line, grabbing Pouncey’s Florida Teammate, Marcus Gilbert in the 2nd round in 2011 and then using another 1st round pick on Stanford’s David DeCastro. Gilbert had a solid career with the Steelers starting for five seasons, but it’s DeCastro who’s been the star of the show. Considered one of the best guards in the NFL, DeCastro has made five Pro-Bowls along with two All-Pro teams in his seven years with the team.

Steelers 2012 2nd round selection Mike Adams was a huge bust, but the team did make its best 7th round selection since Brett Keisel in 2002 with Kelvin Beachum. Beachum started much of four years with the team before leaving in free agency.

2013: None
2014: 5th round, Wesley Johnson, OL, Vanderbilt
2015: None
2016: 4th round, Jerald Hawkins, Tackle, LSU
2017: None
2018: 3rd round, Chukwuma Okorafor, Tackle, Western Michigan
2019: 7th round, Derwin Gray, Tackle, Maryland

With the emergence of undrafted free agents Ramon Foster–who earned the starting job in 2011–and Alejandro Villanueva in 2015, the Steelers were largely set at offensive line. With Pouncey anchoring the middle, Foster and DeCastro at guard and a combination of Villanueva, Beachum and Marcus Gilbert at tackle, the Steelers had one of the best lines in the NFL under Mike Munchak. From 2013-2019 the team only used four picks on the offensive line, none before the 3rd round.

2000-2020 draft offensive line breakdown

Total selections: 26
Years selecting an OL: 16/20

Selections by position:

Center: 5
Guard: 7
Tackle: 13
OL: 1

Selections by round:

1st round: 3
2nd round: 3
3rd round: 4
4th round: 4
5th round: 4
6th round: 4
7th round: 3

Selections by conference:

SEC: 7
ACC: 0
Big 12: 2
Big 10: 8
PAC 12: 5

Power 5: 22
Group of 5: 4

Notes:

The Steelers really like those Big 10 and SEC offensive lineman, selecting them 15/26 of their total picks. … As with most positions, the Steelers tend to stick to Power 5 schools, with 22 out of their 26 picks. … Steelers draft picks have combined for 14 Pro Bowl appearances, 13 of them by two players, Maurkice Pouncey and David DeCastro. … 11 of their picks have started more than 50 games in the NFL (44%). … The Steelers have had the most success with Florida recruits (Pouncey, Gilbert, Starks), with 19 years of starting experience between them.

NFL Draft

NFL Releases Pro Day Schedules

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The 2021 NFL Combine should be kicking off this week in Indianapolis, but like so many other things in the past year, it has been canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The NFL has decided not to risk bringing together prospects, scouts and media from around the country and will instead be relying on the schools’ individual pro days to evaluate prospects.

With that in mind, the league has taken a greater measure of control over the process, and on Wednesday, released a preliminary schedule for each team’s pro day.

March 5: Kansas

March 9: Kansas State, Northwestern, Wisconsin-Whitewater

March 10: Arkansas, Marshall, Maryland, Wisconsin

March 11: Clemson, Nevada, Texas

March 12: Arkansas State, North Dakota State, Oklahoma

March 15: Army, Kent State, Middle Tennessee St., Vanderbilt

March 16: Georgia Tech, Temple

March 17: Arizona, Georgia, Illinois, Pitt, San Jose St.

March 18: Auburn, Buffalo, Central Arkansas, Louisiana Tech, Louisiana-Monroe,
Stanford, Troy, West Virginia

March 19: Memphis, Ohio, TCU

March 22: Air Force, Bowling Green, Colorado, Colorado State, Florida State, Iowa, Missouri, Toledo

March 23: Alabama, Central Michigan, Iowa State, Nebraska, Purdue

March 24: Michigan State, Mississippi State, South Carolina, USC, Virginia

March 25: Georgia Southern, UMass, Ole Miss, North Texas, Penn State, San Diego St., SMU, Tennessee, Western Michigan

March 26: Boston College, BYU, Michigan, South Dakota State, Virginia Tech

March 29: Arizona State, Duke, Louisiana-Lafayette, Miami (Fla.), Miami (Ohio), North Carolina

March 30: Alabama, East Carolina, Florida Atlantic, Louisville, NC State, Ohio State, Texas A&M, Tulane, Washington

March 31: Boise State, Florida, Kentucky, LSU, Notre Dame, Wake Forest

April 1: UCF, Minnesota, Charlotte, Oklahoma State, Oregon State, USF, Western Kentucky

April 2: Oregon, Tulsa

April 7: Texas Tech

April 9: UAB, Ball State, Houston

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2021 NFL Draft

Should Steelers Use First Round Pick on a Center?

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Does the news of Maurkice Pouncey’s retirement mean the Steelers should now draft a center in the first round? Pouncey’s absence obviously creates a need at an important position, but is center now a big enough hole that it becomes the top priority?

Should Steelers Draft a Center in the First Round?

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NFL Draft

NFL Releases Further Details of Altered Draft Process

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After cancelling the in-person NFL Scouting Combine last week due to COVID-19 concerns, the league released further details of the significantly altered draft process in a memo to clubs Friday.

Teams are prohibited from timing, testing, interviewing or examining draft prospects at any location other than all-star games or the respective player’s pro day.

Clubs are also banned from hosting draft prospects for facilities visits, dinners, film sessions and private workouts. Violations of these rules would be subject to punishment in line with the NFL’s anti-tampering policy.

Further muddying the process, clubs will only be allowed to have a maximum of three individuals attend pro days. However, all times and measurements are said to be made available league-wide.

Lastly, the league also released further details and restrictions on the pre-draft interview process. While in-person interviews and visits will be prohibited, they can be conducted virtually or via telephone.

Clubs can schedule up to five video conferences or phone calls with a prospect, with each conversation limited to one hour. Virtual psychological tests will not count against the five interview limit.

Teams can begin conducting interviews with draft eligible underclassmen on Monday, Jan. 25.

Interviews with seniors can begin on Monday, Feb. 1.

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