Study: What the Steelers are looking for when drafting interior offensive linemen (2022)

Let’s continue with our 2022 version of the “what the Pittsburgh Steelers are looking for” studies, looking at the position-by-position minimum cutoffs to see which players in this year’s draft best match what the team is looking for. Today we are going to check the interior offensive line, guards and centers.

A new name was added to the roster after Kendrick Green was selected in 2021. There was no combine so we strictly used his Pro Day data but his selection along with a review of my data previous years have changed the criteria compared to last year. But first, here are the inside guys selected in the days of Mike Tomlin with our updated criteria to follow.

2021: Kendrick Green

Height: 6017
Weight: 305
Arm length: 32 1/4″
Hand size: 10 1/8″
40 Time: 4.89
Split ten: 1.69
Bench: 25
Green: 35.5″
Width: 9’11”
Short shuttle: 4.67
Three cones: 7.79

2020: KEVIN DOTSON

Height: 6040
Weight: 310
Arm length: 33″
Hand Size: N/A
40 Time: 4.80
Split ten: 1.78
Bench: 33
Green: N/A
Wide: N/A
Short shuttle: N/A
Three cones: N/A

2019: DERWIN GRAY

Height: 6044
Weight: 320
Arm length: 34 3/8″
Hand size: 9 5/8″
40 Time: 5.26
Split ten: 1.89
Bench: 26
Green: N/A
Wide: 7’6″
Short shuttle: N/A
Three cones: N/A

2014: WESLEY JOHNSON

Height: 6053
Weight: 298
Arm length: 32 1/2″
Hand size: 10 1/8″
40 Time: 5.11
Split ten: 1.73
Bench: 26
Green: 29″
Wide: 9’3″
Short shuttle: 4.64
Three cones: 7.40

2012: DAVID DECASTRO

Height: 6047
Weight: 316
Arm length: 32 3/4″
Hand size: 10″
40 Time: 5.43
Split ten: 1.84
Bench: 34
Green: 29.5″
Wide: 8’2″
Short shuttle: 4.56
Three cones: 7.30

2011: KEITH WILLIAMS

Height: 6042
Weight: 318
Arm length: 32 3/8″
Hand size: 10″
40 Time: 5.36
Split ten: 1.89
Bench: 23
Green: 24.5″
Wide: 7’9″
Short shuttle: 5.03
Three cones: 8.42

2010: MAURKICE POUNCEY

Height: 6044
Weight: 304
Arm length: 32 1/2″
Hand size: 10″
40 Time: 5.29
Split ten: 1.83
Bench: 25
Green: 27″
Width: 7’11”
Short shuttle: 4.92
Three cones: 7.74

2010: CHRIS SCOTT

Height: 6045
Weight: 319
Arm length: 34 1/8″
Hand Size: 10 3/8″
40 Time: 5.55
Split ten: 1.93
Bench: 19
Green: 22.5″
Wide: 7’6″
Short shuttle: 5.03
Three cones: 8.24

2009: AQ SHIPLEY

Height: 6011
Weight: 304
Arm length: 29 3/4″
Hand size: 8 1/2″
40 Time: 5.26
Split ten: 1.85
Bench: 33
Green: 31″
Wide: 8’4″
Short Shuttle: 4.40
Three cones: 7.46

2007: CAMERON STEPHENSON

Height: 6032
Weight: 306
Arm Length: N/A
Hand Size: N/A
40 Time: 5.45
Split ten: 1.88
Bench: 34
Green: 28.5″
Wide: 8’5″
Short shuttle: 4.81
Three cones: 7.72

With the selection and inclusion of Green in this dataset, our criteria have changed. It is now:

Height: 6’3″+ (8 out of 10)
Mass: 300+ (9 out of 10)
Arm length: 32″+ (8 out of 9)
Hand size: 9 1/2″ (7 of 8)
40 Hour: 5.45 (9 out of 10)
Ten Splits: 1.90 (9 out of 10)
Bench: 25 (8 out of 10)
Green: 24″ (7 by 8)
Large: 7’5″ (9 of 9)
SS: 4.95 (6 out of 8)
3C: 7.8 (6 out of 8)

The height requirement dropped an inch from 6’4 to 6’3. Shuttle exercises have also become faster. The Short Shuttle went from 5.05 to 4.95 while the Tri-Cone saw a drastic improvement from 8.25 to 7.8.

Including undersized tackles and those planning to keep, three players ticked every box. They are:

Name/School Height Mass arm length hand size 40 times 10 Divide Bench green Large SS 3 Cone
Luke Fortner/Kentucky 6041 307 33 1/8 ten 5.21 1.77 31 24 8’6″ 4.95 7.75
Cole Strange/UT-Chattanooga 6047 307 33 10 1/8 5.03 1.71 31 28 10’0″ 4.50 7.44
Tyler Smith/Tulsa 6045 324 34 10 3/4 5.02 1.70 25 27.5 8’9″ 4.65 7.78

Fortner and Strange are ‘true’ inside linemen, centers, while Smith is a mauling tackle who could kick inside to guard or with his good length stay at tackle as well. Fortner and Strange are likely going to be late Day 2 picks, and Fortner particularly impressed me in the Senior Bowl. With Pittsburgh going to the inside line in free agency, neither is likely too likely to become a Steeler.

A crowd of players came to a box, a whopping 13 of them. They are:

A box away

Spencer Burford/UTSA: Three cones (DNP)
Ja’Tyre Carter/South: Three cones (7.84)
Deaton Dawson/Texas Tech: Bench (24)
Bill Dunkle/State of San Diego: Three cones (7.97)
Joshua Ezeudu/North Carolina: Three cones (7.83)
Zion Johnson/Boston College: Height (6025)
RAdm Jürgens/Nebraska: Height (6027)
Alec Lindstrom/Boston College: Weight (299)
Dylan Parham/Memphis: Height (6025)
Chris Paul/Tulsa: Hand (9 3/8″)
Cordell Volson/North Dakota State: Three cones (8.31)
Cade Mays/Tennessee: Bench (21)
Zac Thomas/San Diego State: Vertical (22.5″)

It’s rare to see so many players come so close and, in many cases, barely miss. The three cones and the height were the main reasons players missed. Carter and Ezeudu missed by less than 0.05 seconds in the three-cone. Johnson, Jurgens and Parham missed less than half an inch in height. But Chris Paul and Alec Lindstrom were the closest to getting there. Paul missed the hand size by 1/8 inch and Lindstrom missed the weight of a cheeseburger, just one pound.

It’s a solid list of names that lead the potential chart from Day 1 (Johnson) to the end of Day 3 / UDFA. Mays fits well as an ultra-versatile player with good playing strength.

One last thing about the study. I grouped guards and centers together due to sample sizes, but there are clear differences between height and center versus guard. Guys like AQ Shipley and Kendrick Green were smaller, squatter centers while guards are generally taller and longer. So personally, this 6-3 underguard misses more than the 6’3″ threshold indicates. Pittsburgh guards are typically 6’4″+.

Betty K. Park