Steelers Draft Grades: Pittsburgh Lands Steal in Round 1

The Pittsburgh Steelers got themselves a player valued a lot higher than pick 20.
Jan 8, 2024; Houston, TX, USA; Washington Huskies offensive lineman Troy Fautanu (55) against the
Jan 8, 2024; Houston, TX, USA; Washington Huskies offensive lineman Troy Fautanu (55) against the / Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
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It was apparent coming into the night that the Pittsburgh Steelers were going to address their offensive issues along the offensive line. The ultimate question was centered around what position they would be targeting first and with the supposed offensive tackle run expecting to be quick and fierce, it was surprising to see them nab a player of Troy Fautanu’s caliber.

Fautanu brings the Steelers a ready-made offensive tackle to the table and many respected analysts in this field tended to agree with that assessment:

Dane Brugler: 9th overall, OG 1

“A two-year starter at Washington, Fautanu manned the left tackle position in former offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb’s pass-centric scheme. After playing as a backup his first three years with the Huskies, he was an All-Pac-12performer the last two seasons and was awarded the 2023 Morris Trophy (as voted on

by conference defensive linemen). With his lower-body agility and flexible hips/knees, Fautanu displays athletic muscle twitch in his pass sets and when pulling and locating in the run game. Although he needs to become more disciplined with his technique, he flashes violence with his hands and makes defenders feel it when he

connects. Overall, Fautanu is explosive on the move and at contact with the foot quickness, body control and temperament to stack wins in both pass protection and as a run blocker in the NFL. While he has the talent to remain at tackle, his skill set also projects well to guard and center and he offers legitimate five-position potential at the next level.”

Lance Zierlein: 16th overall, OT 4

“Ready-made brawler without an ounce of finesse in his game. Fautanu has starting experience at tackle and guard and is well-coached, but he will default to unruly hand-fighting when his technique gets away from him. He plays with average hand placement and can be beaten by length, but his tenacity and footwork keep him connected to base blocks. He’s capable of getting to reach blocks in zone and chaperoning running backs wide as a pulling guard on the next level. He’s a pop-and-reset pass puncher who uses active hands and feet to help with extended mirroring he’s forced into. Fautanu needs to prove he has the leverage and hand quickness to play inside, but all signs point toward him becoming a good future starter.”

My analysis: 13th overall, OT 3

Possessing a very notable hip build and longer levers than his overall height would suggest gives one of the more ideal offensive line builds you could ask for. An extremely well coordinated athlete who is smooth moving out in space when being asked to pull on gap/power scheme runs.

Excels at being able to execute difficult reach blocks in a wide zone system, which will fit right at home in Arthur Smith’s offensive scheme.

Explosive pass setter who is very unlikely to get caught off guard by speed off the edge. Fautanu is so laterally gifted that even when he oversets in his pass set, he has the ability to speed turn like a cornerback to recover from being beaten inside.

What Fautanu brings to the table in pass protection is an advanced set of independent hand usage that allows him to stuff out whatever an edge rusher can throw at him, as well as being able to change up his pass sets to bait out rushers.

While the hands are good, he has to do a better job of not outwardly lunging with his upper body and leaving his lower half out to dry, which tends to leave him vulnerable to getting beat outside, as well as exposing his anchor.

Not super powerful as a run blocker, but has some nasty to finish at the 2nd level with some heavy hands on contact.

While guard is a popular projection, the playing style which comes from his hands first approach, less sitting and anchoring through bullrushes, as well as the lack of experience playing that position and just lack of position versatility in terms of reps in general makes it tough to ultimately believe he can make the switch. Would recommend playing him at tackle first before entertaining the move to guard. Many of his issues are much more fixable if you allow him to focus on his comfort position and he should settle in nicely as a solid starting caliber tackle for years to come.

NFL Comparison: Zach Tom

Scheme fit: Scheme independent

Grade: A

This is probably the first time since 2017 that I have given the Steelers an A grade for a first-round pick (TJ Watt was an A-). Pittsburgh came into the draft with a glaring need at offensive tackle and knocked it out of the park with their selection. Fautanu has a little bit of cleaning up to do with his lunging, but much of his game translates to being a day-one starting tackle in the league and he should fit in about as seamlessly as possible into Arthur Smith’s outside zone-heavy run scheme.

When the Steelers selected Broderick Jones last year, they were taking on more of a project when it came to overall pass protection technique and those struggles definitely popped up in year one. Coming away with a ready-made tackle in terms of pass protection was a must and with Fautanu’s heavy independent hand strikes, he should be ready for any of the AFC North’s ferocious pass rushers. Coming away with a center on day two is the final step to completing the Steelers offensive line rebuild.

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Nicholas Martin

NICHOLAS MARTIN

Nicholas has been watching the Steelers his entire life. He has been writing about the Steelers since 2016. Prior to All Steelers, he contributed over at Behind The Steel Curtain.