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Fittipaldo Skeptical Steelers Can Land Plug-And-Play OT After First Round

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The Pittsburgh Steelers absolutely need a new starting center this year, but they could really use a new tackle, too. They can likely land a plug-and-play starter at either position in the first round; however, Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is less convinced that’s an option beyond Round 1 for tackles.

“While this OT class is not shallow there is a drop-off after the top six or seven guys”, he wrote in his latest chat session. “I think you’ll see five or six go in the first round and then five or six in the second round. But I’m not sure you can get a plug-and-play OT in Round 2”.

Notably, the most popular name mocked to the Steelers in the first round is a right tackle whom many believe lacks that plug-and-play capability. Georgia’s Amarius Mims is very inexperienced in terms of college-level playing time and comes into the league fairly raw.

Given that the Steelers sat former teammate Broderick Jones for several weeks last year, it’s hard to profile Mims as a Day-1 starter. However, he may have the advantage of inferior competition. If the Steelers were to draft him, he likely competes with LT Dan Moore Jr. Even Moore admits he’s far less comfortable on the right side, as has head coach Mike Tomlin. Playing on the left side for the past three years won’t make the move any easier, either.

Jones went head-to-head with Moore for the starting left tackle position last summer; he ended up at right tackle. That afforded Moore a reprieve, but the Steelers want Jones at left tackle, and they trust him to play now. It’s no longer a question of who they want at left tackle but who can play right tackle.

Tackles always come off the board in a hurry, which is why the Steelers traded up to 14 last year. The top end of this year’s class is arguably even deeper, with Mims hovering on that top-five range. Prospects like Joe Alt, Taliese Fuaga, and Troy Fautanu are all likely gone by 20.

However, many regard this year’s tackle class at the top end as being rather disparate. Each top prospect has unique enough strengths and weaknesses that many teams likely rank them quite differently.

So what about the next group of tackles, if the Steelers go another direction in the first round? Graham Barton, whom the Steelers likely view as a center anyway, isn’t going to make it to 51 in the second round, nor likely is Tyler Guyton. Things start opening up after that, but do the Steelers believe a Blake Fisher can start right away? Alex Kozora comped him to—Dan Moore Jr. But Moore did start right away as a rookie, so there’s that.

If the Steelers pass up tackle in the first round, they may lock themselves into one more year of Moore. They figure to have a better chance of getting a starting center or wide receiver in the second and third rounds. But you never know how these things work out. If you have someone who can develop linemen, you never know when you have an Alejandro Villanueva.

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