Steelers Could Find Interior Line Help From SEC
Behind names such as David DeCastro, Ramon Foster and Maurkice Pouncey, the Pittsburgh Steelers interior anchored what many considered to be one of the best offensive lines in all of football for the last few years.
Yet nobody wins against father time, as players begin to drop in performance and/or suffer through injuries that derail their play towards the end of their career. While the play of DeCastro has continued to maintain excellent pace, health questions surrounding Pouncey and Foster (who has remained a popular pick to be released due to cap reasons) have once again resurfaced.
While the trio will likely remain in Pittsburgh for the coming years, it's never too early to invest in the future of your offensive line. This might be an option for general manager Kevin Colbert, as the team has yet to select an interior offensive linemen since DeCastro was drafted in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft.
While there are other needs that should rank ahead of the offensive line in the early rounds of the draft, drafting potential starters down the road/beefing up the depth may become important, especially if the team loses B.J. Finney to free agency.
Two potential options? LSU's Lloyd Cushenberry and Kentucky's Logan Stenberg.
Cushenberry and Stenberg both had themselves solid outings during Senior Bowl week in Mobile, enough to boost their draft stock heading into the NFL Combine that is currently slated to start in less than a month.
Cushenberry has climbed draft boards everywhere, with some proclaiming him as the number one interior linemen of this draft. Cushenberry anchored LSU's offensive line towards the Joe Moore award, given to the nation's top offensive line. On personal levels, Cushenberry achieved second-team All-American honors while also taking home team MVP rights as well.
Cushenberry is as decorated as he is talented, as he's shown capable of hanging with the best in this draft class.
"I feel like I can play all three interior positions" said Cushenberry. "I didn't play center until I got to college, I started out playing guard. I feel like I'm athletic to do both."
Pro comparison's are popular when discussing the draft. With an agile player such as Cushenberry, capable of playing guard or center, there's quite a few players that he could choose to model himself after. The first names mentioned?
"The Pouncey brothers" said Cushenberry during Senior Bowl week. "I like the tenacity. They're around the ball every play. You watch them, how fast they're moving... They're both quick-twitch guys. I look to get to that level one day."
Would it be possible for Cushenberry to end up in black and gold? Scouring through mock drafts, Cushenberry typically finds himself as an early day two player, going somewhere between the second and third-rounds of the draft.
Kentucky guard Logan Stenberg finds himself slightly lower than Cushenberry at this point, as DraftRite's John Vogel currently has Stenberg pegged as a fourth-round talent. However, don't discount the fiery first-team All-SEC guard who's been known to talk the talk while walking the walk.
"I like Taylor Lewan, I love how he plays the game" said Stenberg when asked about favorite professional players. "He's a nasty player, he plays it hard. I think I'm modeled after him a little bit."
The comparison checks out.
Stenberg would be a familiar face for Steelers running back Benny Snell, Kentucky's all-time leading rusher thanks in part to Stenberg among others.
"I think I'm just a tough player" said Stenberg when discussing his strengths. "I'm smart. I know what I'm supposed to do. I do it well, and I execute it at a high speed".
Whether it be Cushenberry or Stenberg, both provide seasoned, versatile bodies to learn behind some of the best in the business before stepping into the role of starter (or perhaps starter, depending on Ramon Foster's situation). Cushenberry prides himself on his intelligence and leadership, while Stenberg hangs his hat on finishing every play like it's his last. Both got it done for their respective teams against top competition, national championship or not.
While the Steelers continue to do their due-diligence, one thing is certain: Options are certainly not limited when it comes to the interior.