As July comes to an end, we are in the week of training camp. Come Saturday, the Pittsburgh Steelers will report to Latrobe for the dog days of training camp, and here at Steelers N Stuff, we continue to break down each position on the team.
State of the Offensive Line Position: Well it seems that the Steelers are looking at a much better offensive line than they were last season at this time, mainly because of one major addition. Offensive line coach Mike Munchak was hired by the Steelers after he was released of the Titans’ head coaching position. Munchak is a Hall of Fame offensive guard after making a total of nine Pro Bowls. Munchak became an offensive line coach for the Titans for several years and put together several premiere offensive lines over a 13 year span.
Returning to the starting lineup after being injured almost the entire 2013 season, is starting center Maurkice Pouncey. Pouncey went down in week one of the regular season after his own teammate (David DeCastro) took out his knee. Pouncey is the leader of the offensive line and was rewarded with a big contract this offseason (five years -$44 million) to remain that leader.
As last season ran on, the play of DeCastro and tackle Kelvin Beachum grew without question. Guard Ramon Foster stepped in as the leader after Pouncey went down. Heading into camp, the Steelers are looking at their best offensive line in a very long time.
The bottom line is the Steelers won six of the last eight games in 2013. A lot of that had to do with the improvement of the offensive line. With Munchak in the mix, the Steelers may have one of the more dominating offensive lines in football come 2014.
A look at the offensive line…
Kelvin Beachum: Last season at this time, the Steelers knew they had something special with Beachum with his versatility to play all five positions on the line. However, heading into 2014, the left tackle spot is Beachum’s to lose. The Steelers have great confidence in Beachum’s abilities as he started 11 games at left tackle last season.
Ramon Foster: Since being an undrafted free agent in 2009, Ramon Foster has made a name for himself and believes he can only get better. Foster has started a total of 57 games over a five year span. Foster is a seasoned veteran and a leader in the locker room.
Maurkice Pouncey: When the Steelers drafted Pouncey in 2010, they were given everything they wanted and more. Pouncey is the first center in NFL history to be selected to the Pro Bowl in his first three years. Coming back from a season ending knee injury, Pouncey is more than ready to get back and lead the offensive line.
David DeCastro: After being injured most of his rookie season, Decastro finally got his first real taste at right guard in 2013 as he started 15 games and held up quite nicely. DeCastro has all the ability to be a great run blocker for running back Le’Veon Bell.
Marcus Gilbert: Gilbert is the only offensive lineman who stayed healthy and started all 16 games for the black and gold in 2013. Gilbert will need to prove to the coaches that he is better than his competition to remain the starting right tackle.
Mike Adams: After starting the 2013 as the team’s left tackle, Adams lost his job when he played way under par – allowing Beachum to take his job. Adams is still trying to find his role on the offensive line but has not been consistent enough to keep a starting role on the offense. Adams will get yet another chance to prove himself in camp.
Guy Whimper: After seeing action in 11 games (two starts), Whimper was rewarded with another contract by the Steelers this offseason. Whimper signed just a one-year deal to keep him on the roster until the end of the 2014 season. Whimper seems to be a solid interior backup for the Steelers.
Cody Wallace: Much like Whimper, Cody Wallace earned another contract with the Steelers. However, Wallace signed a contract that will keep him on the roster for three years. Wallace made four starts at center for the Steelers last season and held up well after Fernando Velasco went down late in November.
Bryant Browning: Browning was an undrafted free agent in 2011 and has only seen action in one game in his NFL career. With practice squad availability running out, Browning needs to prove he can make an NFL roster.
Chris Elkins: A Pennsylvania native, Elkins is an undrafted rookie who has a lot to prove this camp. Elkins played guard and center at Youngstown State – starting 38 consecutive games. Elkins helped his team produce a 1,000 yard rusher in four consecutive seasons.
Chris Hubbard: After spending the entire 2013 season on the team’s practice squad, Hubbard hopes to prove he is worth a roster spot in 2014. Hubbard was a four-year letterman at UAB before going undrafted and signed by the Steelers.
Wesley Johnson: Johnson was drafted by the Steelers with their second, fifth-round pick of the 2014 NFL Draft. Johnson started all 52 games of his college career (39 at left tackle). Johnson might be a versatile project for the Steelers. Johnson registered 252 key blocks/knockdowns and was credited with fifty touchdown-resulting blocks.
Emmanuel McCray: McCray was signed by the Steelers after the Rams released him on May 14th. McCray is a rookie from Mississippi who helped block for offenses that recorded two of the top three seasons in total yardage in school history.
David Snow: The Steelers signed Snow late in the 2013 season but he was inactive in all four games. Snow will now get a chance to prove his worth in camp and into the preseason. Snow was released by the Bills prior to the Steelers signing him.
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