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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

Mic Drop: Adam Zielonka of Washington Times on McFarland, Brooks

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Instead of trading for a proven running back like Leonard Fournette, the Steelers simply drafted a rookie with their 4th round pick. That rookie is Anthony McFarland out of the University of Maryland. To fully explain what McFarland brings to the table, Mike Asti was joined by Adam Zielonka, who is a sports reporter for the Washington Times. Zielonka also touched Antoine Brooks, the other Maryland product drafted by the Steelers.

Click here to also watch Mike and others discuss if the Steelers should have instead traded for Leonard Fournette on Pittsburgh Sports Live.

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2020 NFL Draft

Colbert Explains Why He Wanted Three Rounds Added to 2020 Draft

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Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert is offering an explanation as to why he wanted three rounds added to the 2020 NFL Draft.

Speaking with NBC Sport’s Mike Florio on the PFT PM podcast Tuesday, Colbert took the opportunity to clarify his suggestion.

“The reasoning was, part of it was selfish,” Colbert said. “You wanted to have a safety net because we’re dealing with less information, and the more picks you have, maybe you’ll have a little bit of a safety net again.”

With the league’s self-implemented travel restrictions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, clubs were unable to conduct their normal scouting activities prior to the Draft. This included Pro Days, private workouts and in-person interviews.

Less opportunities to watch and speak with prospects results in a larger margin for error.

Colbert went on to say that it also would have benefited some of the fringe prospects in the Draft that never had the chance to showcase themselves at a Pro Day or other setting.

“The other thing was it would give the marginal player that didn’t get his opportunity to go to a Pro Day and to perform. Maybe there will be more players drafted and then those players will then again have the chance they might not get.”

Now without rookie minicamps, the challenges are mounting for clubs and NFL hopefuls.

“Every year a team might stumble upon a tryout player,” Colbert said. “Maybe if we ever get on the field, we can think of a way to help those because there’s a big group of players that aren’t getting opportunities because of the situation.”

Colbert reminded Florio that the Steelers discovered Devlin “Duck” Hodges as a tryout in camp last year.

It is unclear when teams will be allowed to return to the practice field for their offseason programs, with clubs currently conducting theirs entirely from home.

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2020 NFL Draft

Mic Drop: NFL Draft Recap Show

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It was eat, sleep, draft coverage, repeat for Mike Asti and the Steelers Now crew this past week. And now that the draft is over, Mike Asti evaluates each pick and gives his thoughts on some moves he says the Steelers should have made.

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