Because of a brutal salary cap situation, the Pittsburgh Steelers really had no choice but to turn to the draft to bolster their offensive line. They appeared to do quite well, too, nabbing Stanford guard David DeCastro in Round 1 and then taking Ohio State tackle Mike Adams in Round 2.
The revitalization project took a massive hit Saturday when DeCastro crumpled to the turf in Buffalo with what Mike Tomlin deemed a "potentially severe" right knee injury. That hit, plus Adams' unsteady play this preseason, means that the Steelers are basically back to their 2011 offensive line: Max Starks, Maurkice Pouncey, Ramon Foster and Marcus Gilbert all started at least 11 games last season; the only "newcomer" to the current line is veteran guard Willie Colon, who missed all but one game the past two seasons but started every game for the Steelers from 2007-09.
Sticking with the status quo might not cut it in Pittsburgh.
The Steelers' offensive line struggled mightily throughout 2011. Case in point: Ben Roethlisberger, for all his escapability, was sacked 40 times. Pittsburgh also finished in the middle of the pack on the ground (14th in yards).
Trying to improve upon those numbers with a pieced-together front will be difficult. DeCastro's injury robbed the Steelers of any meaningful depth they might have had -- with Foster being forced into the starting lineup, Pittsburgh basically has no remaining guards with game experience outside of the starters
The versatile Doug Legursky, on the depth chart as Pouncey's backup at center, likely would be first up if either Foster or Colon fell. Adams and Trai Essex are also available outside, though Essex has been a career underachiever and Adams still has a ways to go.
Long story short, two weeks before their regular season opener at Denver, the Steelers are in major trouble up front.
And if that was their only problem, it might be less disheartening. But Pittsburgh has still yet to see Mike Wallace on the field this offseason, has James Harrison and Jason Worilds on the PUP list and only recently got Casey Hampton back on the defensive line, not to mention injuries to top backs Rashard Mendenhall and, to a lesser extent, Isaac Redman. The Steelers remain one of the NFL's most consistent and well-run franchises, so you have to believe -- even in the midst of all this -- that they'll find a way to compete. DeCastro's injury, though, was a setback that this team did not need as it tries to move past a tumultuous offseason.