When it comes to the team’s offensive line, the Steelers are moving into some territory where they have not been in for a good while. With Ramon Foster’s retirement, B.J. Finney’s departure via free agency and Matt Feiler, Zach Banner, and Alejandro Villanueva entering the final years of their contracts in 2020, the Steelers have some legitimate question marks along the offensive line.
The signing of Stefen Wisniewski, who could start at left guard, is a nice addition. However, the Steelers are likely to be in both the tackle and interior offensive line market in the draft. Thus, here are the realistic best options to bolster the offensive line for them at each draft position:
49: Lucas Niang, OT, TCU
The pick at 49 is a weird zone for an offensive lineman. The Steelers situation at left tackle might be more worrying than anything past this year, but there does not seem to a guy that played left tackle heavily enough in college that would be good value here. On the interior side of things, Cesar Ruiz is likely to be long gone. So, that means Lucas Niang, an athletic, smooth right tackle is the best-case scenario here.
Niang might not fall to this spot here, but there is certainly that possibility. Coming off of offseason hip surgery, Niang does have a medical red flag associated with him and it most definitely affected his play on the field with his flexibility. In reality, this is a guy with good hands, smooth feet, and a high football IQ. That is something the Steelers could use at either tackle spot and Niang could certainly be the day one starter at right tackle given how polished his game is at this juncture. Given the Steelers’ mold of lineman, Niang fits extremely well and is the best-case scenario here.
102: Saahdiq Charles, OT, LSU
Charles is great value here, and with the ability to play left tackle, this is a nice insurance pick. Again, though, the Steelers seem to be caught in between the void on some of these offensive line prospects. The next wave of interior guys like Robert Hunt, Matt Hennessy, and Lloyd Cushenberry will go before this spot and it will leave the Steelers a little starved for options there, so tackle seems to be the best value.
Charles brings great footwork and athleticism to the position along with great grip strength. This is a guy who has shown the ability to hold down defenders for a long, long time. Not just that, but Charles in the running game has good power at the point of attack to drive guys out of their gaps. Charles could stand to add some mass to his frame and needs to improve his hand usage since he gets his hands too far outside at times, but this is a guy who can be a starter in the league at left tackle with confidence.
124: John Simpson, IOL, Clemson
Finally! An interior offensive line option, this one in the form of Clemson’s John Simpson, who played exclusively at guard for the Tigers, but fits exactly what the Steelers look for in their interior offensive lineman. This pick is rather likely with the Steelers having gone to Clemson’s Pro Day. The smoke is there for this pick to happen.
The Steelers, should they get Simpson, get a guy who is not the best athlete on the field, but one that is going to move guys. His functional strength is ridiculous. That does not even account for how good Simpson’s hand placement and punch power are. With that in mind, the gap schemers that the Steelers run are perfect for Simpson. He was built to be a power football, grind it out Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman. Simpson is a starter in the NFL just because of his power and football IQ, even if he is a bit athletically limited as a whole.
135: Kevin Dotson, IOL, Louisiana-Lafayette
This is another guy that the Steelers have shown their hand some regarding their interest. Dotson had a private workout with the Steelers before the coronavirus restrictions and on film, it is not hard to see why the Steelers would like a guy like Dotson. Similar to Simpson, he packs a real punch and gets guys to just move. Dotson just opens holes up on film in gap schemes with good hand placement and power.
Very similar to Simpson, he is also athletically limited, although Dotson has smoother feet than Simpson. Dotson is a good player who fits the Steelers motto of running through guys until they hit the ground. The fit is really nice and Dotson offers more interior offensive line depth.
198: Cordel Iwuagwu, IOL, TCU
Add another Horned Frog to the list of guys that the Steelers could pick. Iwuagwu is a guy who can play both guard spots in a pinch and has been a late riser in the process. His functional athleticism is very good and he is one of the better pure pullers in this interior offensive line class. When he meets guys in the open field, best be assured that he gets them to move and creates lanes for running backs.
There are certainly some issues he has to fix, including grip strength and pad level issues, but this is a guy who has good hand placement, packs a punch, and is a very smooth athlete. For a team that has thrived on finding offensive lineman gems, Iwuagwu would just be another in that long lineage of them.
232: Cohl Cabral, IOL, Arizona State
This young man is fascinating. There is almost no hype behind Cabral but he can play. He is so unique this late because he can play both guard and center. That is a versatility that a lot of guys in this are simply lacking, but Cabral has it and that almost certainly means he will be drafted.
Cabral is a guy who is not a great athlete by any means, but he is a really solid player. The grip strength, power, footwork, and football IQ he plays with are really nice things to watch. He should go earlier than this because his tape is really just so solid. The limitations on his athleticism though will drive him down a bit and Cabral is a good player who can be a starter in the NFL.