Steelers unlikely to spend premium draft pick at center, guard
The last time the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted a guard was in 2012, when David DeCastro fell to them with the No. 24 overall pick.
The last time the Steelers selected a center was in 2010, when Maurkice Pouncey was the No. 18 player off the board.
Clarification: Those two seasons are not the last time the Steelers chose a guard and center in the first round of the NFL Draft. Or even the early rounds. That’s the last time they selected a guard and center in any round.
The Steelers have taken tackles on several occasions in the ensuing drafts, but DeCastro was the last guard and Pouncey the last center.
Clearly, the Steelers didn’t whiff on either pick. DeCastro has been selected to the Pro Bowl in each of the past four seasons and is a two-time, first-team All-Pro. Pouncey is a seven-time Pro Bowl selection, including three in a row, and two-time, first-team All-Pro.
Could the Steelers end their drought of drafting an interior offensive lineman in 2019, particularly because they will enter the three-day event with 10 picks? It’s a possibility, but given the team’s actions in the offseason, the Steelers will be focusing their attention elsewhere.
In March, Pouncey was given a three-year contract that will keep him with the Steelers through 2021. To the surprise of many, the Steelers also gave their other starting guard, 33-year-old Ramon Foster, a two-year contract through 2020 on the same day Pouncey agreed to his deal.
DeCastro, meanwhile, also is signed through 2021.
Age, however, is starting to creep up on the interior of the Steelers line. Foster might be the oldest, but Pouncey turns 30 in the summer and DeCastro is 29. Top backup B.J. Finney, who like Foster was an undrafted free agent, will become an unrestricted free agent after the 2019 season. The only other player with interior line experience in the NFL is Matt Feiler, who will be competing for the right tackle job this season.
The Steelers also didn’t pay much attention to the offensive line during the three-week predraft visitor process. Of the 32 players they hosted, the only interior player was LSU guard Garrett Brumfield, who is viewed as a late-round pick or undrafted free agent.
While Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert didn’t view this crop of interior linemen as being “deep,” NFL Media draft analyst Lance Zierlein rated it the third-strongest position, trailing interior defensive line and edge pass rushers.
Zierlein’s rating, though, was based on Alabama’s Jonah Williams and Oklahoma’s Cody Ford playing inside. Both players also are rated as tackles.
“There is enough guard depth to project a decent number of early starters and future starters headed all the way into the late-fourth and early-fifth round,” Zierlein wrote in late March.
N.C. State’s Garrett Bradbury is considered the top center of the class, and he was ranked No. 18 overall by NFL Media in its recent grouping. Ford is considered the top prospect at guard provided he remains on the interior. He and Williams are viewed as first-round picks.
Penn State’s Connor McGovern, rated the No. 4 guard prospect by NFL Media, could be a second-day selection. He started 35 of 39 career games for the Nittany Lions before declaring for the draft with one year of eligibility remaining. McGovern started at center as a sophomore and moved to right guard as a junior.
“He can really uproot defensive linemen,” NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah said. “He’s a drive blocker. He’s nasty. He’s a finisher. He’s got the ability to play any of those three interior spots. He’s very, very football smart and savvy when they’re running twists and games on him. He’s somebody that I think is going to probably fall in that second-round range. At worst, I would think maybe the third round, but I think he’s a plug-and-play guy who is ready to go.”
Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .