For most of the offseason I have been talking about the Pittsburgh Steelers improving the offensive line in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft by selecting North Carolina’s Jonathan Cooper. Not everyone disagreed with me however, most did not really like the idea of the Steelers taking another offensive linemen within the first two rounds of the draft. Now most everyone has taken Cooper completely off the Steelers board with the re-signing of Ramon Foster this offseason. Even though it could look like the Steelers have much higher needs than on the offensive line, there really is no other unit that you should ever stop trying to improve. Especially when a player like Cooper could possibly be there for the taking for the Steelers in the first round.
No one thought the Steelers would have a shot at re-signing Foster because of the assumed contract demands that he would make. With as consistent as Foster has been for the team and the opportunities he could have possibly had on the open market, you would think the Steelers did not bring him back to be a backup. I do agree that the Foster signing did surprise me and yet I still think the Steelers would select Jonathan Cooper if he was there at number 17.
You could input Cooper at the LG spot from day one and have Foster compete for the RT spot with Marcus Gilbert and Mike Adams. Whoever loses between the three tackles would then become the top backup at the position, with Foster obviously providing depth on the inside as well in case of injury. Let me say also that me pushing Cooper is in no way an indictment on Foster or OL Kelvin Beachum on the roster. I simply see a way to greatly improve the team all the way around by adding a player of the caliber of Cooper.
If you look at the other options that could be available to the Steelers, they all have question marks around them. Georgia’s Jarvis Jones, who I actually like as a pass rusher, has not had a great draft process and I honestly don’t even see him being available at 17. The other Georgia LB Alec Ogletree, who is the consensus number one ILB in the draft, is talented but has had his own off the field problems. Guys like Tennessee WR Cordarrelle Patterson, West Virginia WR Tavon Austin, Notre Dame TE Tyler Eifert, Florida S Matt Elam and Notre Dame ILB Manti Te’o could all be considered reaches at this point in the draft.
The only other player that I could argue being of greater value for the Steelers at 17 would be Texas S Kenny Vaccaro and I don’t really think he’ll drop that far.
If the Steelers end up going in a different direction come draft day I won’t be surprised or disappointed though at this point I see the best option for the team to go with North Carolina’s Jonathan Cooper.