Pittsburgh Steelers: Assessing the offensive line entering summer

Sep 25, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers tackle Alejandro Villanueva (78), guard David DeCastro (66), center Maurkice Pouncey (53), guard Ramon Foster (73) and tackle Marcus Gilbert (77) wait on the sidelines against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. The Eagles defeated the Steelers, 34-3. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers OTAs and minicamps are now history. Next up is training camp. How does the offensive line look these days?

Welcome to Part 5 of this series on NFL Spin Zone. To recap, the players for the Pittsburgh Steelers have a brief respite prior to training camp. Thus, we are breaking down various position groups and units for Mike Tomlin’s club. We have already have previewed the quarterbacksrunning backs, wide receivers and tight ends. Now it’s time to dip into the trenches and doing a little evaluation of the offensive line.

From pillar to post (aka tackle to tackle), the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offensive front is a formidable unit. But when it comes to this group, experienced depth is certainly a concern.

In strong side performer Alejandro Villanueva and right-sider Marcus Gilbert, Mike Tomlin’s club has the league’s 24th- and 11th-ranked tackles in the NFL via Pro Football Focus. They also have versatile Chris Hubbard. He filled in for Gilbert for three starts this past season and can also line up at both center and guard.

Left guard Ramon Foster (2) and two-time Pro Bowler David DeCastro (9) can both be found in Pro Football Focus‘ Top 10 list at their positions. Veteran center Maurkice Pouncey has been named to the Pro Bowl in five of the six seasons he’s been on the field. After missing all of 2015, the two-time All-Pro started 15 games this past year.

For now, the new backup pivot is Kyle Friend, who spent much of the 2016 season on the New York Jets practice squad. Meanwhile, reserve center Cody Wallace remains an unsigned free agent.

Evaluation:

Developing depth is a necessity for any offensive front. This will likely be a big emphasis of the Pittsburgh Steelers 2017 training camp. Also keep an eye on 2016 fourth-round pick Gerald Hawkins this summer (via Curt Popejoy of Steelers Wire).

The former LSU product missed all of his rookie season but should be a factor on the field this fall. All told, offensive line coach Mike Munchak has done a superb job with this unit and this is still a relatively young group. Again, building a little insurance behind the starters is key.

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