The new look secondary may be down and out but the new look offensive line seems to be all systems go.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have invested heavily in protecting their franchise quarterback. Over the past three seasons, they’ve used two first round and two second round picks in an effort to bolster their offensive line. Unfortunately, the Football Gods hate Ben Roethlisberger because every year the line is hit with a variety of injuries before the first regular season snap is taken. We’ve been waiting for a look at the team’s new look offensive line for two years now.
Well, cross your fingers because this may be the year. With the aforementioned overlords busy turning their wrath towards the secondary, the Black and Gold’s O-line has had a relatively quiet camp thus far. After last season where the Steelers used a different offensive line combination nearly every week and only one starter (Max Starks, who left Pittsburgh for the sun and babes of San Diego) made it through all 16 games, nearly anything would be an improvement. With any luck, we may finally get a chance to see all these vaunted draft picks in action at the same time.
Taking Mad Max’s place at left tackle is truck enthusiast/Wiz Khalifa hater Mike Adams. Adams played left tackle at Ohio State and was once considered a late first rounder due to the expectation he could hold his own at that position in the pros. He acquitted himself quite well at RT last season, starting 6 games before being lost to a season-ending ankle injury. During OTAs he was playing the right side with Marcus Gilbert manning the left but they’ve swapped places in recent practices.
Gilbert was expected to be the team’s starting left tackle last season before a horrific preseason convinced the team to go back to the veteran Starks. Gilbert moved over to RT and did a pretty good job until – you guessed it – an ankle injury sidelined him. Second rounder Gilbert also played LT in college although hasn’t shown to be nearly as quick or athletic as Adams. I have a feeling the two may flip flop a couple more times during the preseason just to give both a look at the position. In the end, though, Adams is my pick to start on the blind side.
Meanwhile, the interior line is enjoying the first healthy training camp for first rounder David DeCastro. DeCastro was hurt in a preseason game and despite returning later in the year, never really got out of the blocks as a rookie. DeCastro seems penciled in at RG alongside Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey and Ramon Foster on the left. As insurance against last year’s debacle, the team signed veteran D’Anthony Batiste, who’s played for six teams in his seven year NFL career before starting 10 games last season for the – drum roll, please – Arizona Cardinals! Batiste played tackle for Pittsburgh West but here in the east, he’s been practicing exclusively at guard.
Whatever combination the Steelers ultimately go with, it’ll definitely be a younger and more athletic offensive line. Old mainstays like Max and Willie Colon are no longer on the team as the Steelers have made concerted effort to revamp the line. Guess we’ll see if that effort has finally paid off.