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Scouting the offensive linemen
1. Greg Robinson
Auburn, OT, 6-5, 332
Wowed the combine with a 4.92 in the 40 — at 332 pounds. Should start at left tackle immediately. One worry? Auburn ran so much, he didn't pass protect nearly as much as most elite linemen. One scout's assessment? Violent.
2. Jake Matthews
Texas A&M, OT, 6-51⁄2, 308
Johnny Manziel had better protection than a president with Luke Joeckel at left tackle in 2012 and Matthews there in '13. Son of Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews; he's a strong technician who was versatile enough to also be the long snapper. Made 46 career starts, starting as a freshman.
3. Taylor Lewan
Michigan, OT, 6-7, 309
Started every game for last three seasons. Plays with an edge. Two-time Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year. Intense. Involved in an alleged restaurant fight four months ago.
4. Xavier Su'a-Filo
UCLA, OG, 6-4, 307
The best guard prospect since David DeCastro. First non-redshirt freshman to start a season opener in UCLA history (2009), but then spent two years on a Mormon mission. Played both LT and LG. Is quick, strong and fast and a likely NFL starter from Day 1.
5. Zack Martin
Notre Dame, OG, 6-4, 308
All 52 Irish starts were at tackle, but is expected to play guard in the NFL because he operates best inside; has a shorter wingspan than the top tackles. Notre Dame OL of year for four straight seasons.
6. Weston Richburg
Colorado State, C, 6-3, 298
A Texas farm boy, he's strong, aggressive and tenacious. Made 50 straight starts, two at tackle. His 5.1 40 time at the combine was the best of all centers. Played QB and LB in high school.
7. Gabe Jackson
Mississippi State, OG, 6-3, 336
Never missed a start in four seasons. Not the exceptional athlete that Robinson is, but is a physical mauler who knows how to get the job done. Son of a coach.
7. Cyrus Kouandjio
Alabama, OT, 6-6 1 ⁄ 2 , 332
Once expected to be No. 1 tackle, he's slipped in assessments as the draft draws closer. Very strong, but conditioning is a question. Didn't have a good combine, and there are health questions (knee).
9. Joel Bitonio
Nevada, OT-OG, 6-4, 302
Widely varying opinions on him. A tackle in college who may move inside in NFL. May be hurt draft-wise over lack of consensus about his position. Ran 40 in 4.97.
10. Marcus Martin
Southern Cal, C, 6-3, 320
Only 20, he started all but two of 35 college games. LG in ‘11 and ‘12 before moving to C. Adjusts rapidly to all that's going on all around him. Can play all interior line positions.
Best fit for Steelers
David Yankey, Stanford, 6-6, 315
He'll go too early for Steelers to get him, but Yankey is a tackle-sized guard and an exceptional run blocker. He'd fit right in with ex-college teammate DeCastro.
One to watch
Matt Hall, Belhaven, OT, 6-81⁄2, 323
He's mostly unknown despite starting his career in 2008 at Arkansas, transferring to Mississippi in 2010 (started 10 games in '11) and, finally, landing in the NAIA (2012). He's traveled more than the Globetrotters, but could find a home in NFL.
John Urschel, Penn State, OG, 6-3, 313
Urschel made 25 career starts and could be a late-round find. An academic All-American, he taught three math courses during the fall semester and has a master's degree. He is working on another.
In the 1974 draft in which the Steelers landed four Hall of Famers, 14 of the 26 first-round picks were defensive linemen or linebackers. Only one was an offensive lineman.
Oh, how priorities have changed. Last year, the top two picks, three of the top four and nine in the round were offensive linemen, led by tackles Eric Fisher and Luke Joeckel.
With teams desperate to protect quarterbacks who carry $120 million price tags, expect the run on offensive linemen to continue Thursday. Three tackles — Greg Robinson, Jake Matthews and Taylor Lewan — should be off the board within the first 10 picks.
“It was a big boy draft (in 2013),” NFL Network analyst Charles Davis said. “This year, I would say the three offensive tackles that are consensus at the top of the board are rated higher than the two that went 1-2 last year.”
With defense such a priority to them, the Steelers likely won't go for an offensive lineman early on unless a top-rated one slides to them. But, unlike 1974, offensive linemen don't slide far these days.
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