Pittsburgh Steelers 2022 Draft Targets: Tyler Linderbaum

(Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press)

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For all of Brian's 2022 Steelers' Draft Targets, click here: Steelers' 2022 Draft Targets

While offense has certainly been the focal point of my Pittsburgh Steelers draft target series to this point, all of those players discussed have been at the skill positions.  Although those players provide a lot of flash and flair, they don’t necessarily exemplify the type of player that has been the backbone of the black and gold for so many years.  For that reason, and a few others, I thought it would be worthwhile to mention someone who does their best work out of the spotlight and in the trenches. 

Last year’s offense featured a lot of passes designed to get the ball out of the quarterback’s hand quickly.  And while part of that had to do with former quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s lack of mobility, it also resulted from the offensive line’s inability to block for long stretches of time.  I discussed at length last season that the team’s decision to put together a piecemeal offensive line, largely through middle round draft picks and career backups, turned out to be a huge failure. 

It was for that reason that the Steelers made the offensive line their biggest priority this offseason.  They signed linemen Mason Cole and James Daniels, while also re-signing Chuks Okorafor.  They invested a good chunk of money into these guys to help bolster the weak line play we saw last season.  Daniels was the 3rd highest rated free agent offensive lineman per Pro Football Focus, so the line play should improve next season.  

However, these signings don’t guarantee we’ll be seeing the stout offensive line we were accustom to over the past few decades.  Cole has already been on a handful of teams in his brief NFL career and Okorafor was by no means a top-tier player for the Steelers last season. 

As a result, I think there’s a chance we could see the Steelers look to strengthen this unit with one of the top offensive linemen in the draft.  The one that has caught my, and many others in the media’s, eye is Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum.

Linderbaum won the Rimington Trophy in 2021, which is awarded to the nation’s top center.  While that is certainly no small feat, I can’t say that it’s all that surprising.  Iowa plays a hard-nosed style of offense that wants to run the ball, and then run the ball some more.  It's this emphasis on blocking that has helped them produce several offensive lineman that have succeeded in the NFL, and Linderbaum appears to be the next one.  

His workouts leading up to the draft have pleased scouts as well.  He’s shown off a good deal of athleticism that doesn’t come by offensive linemen easily.  Linderbaum ran a sub-5 second 40-yard dash, which surprised many.  His performance in this and the other agility drills, to go along with the film of his superb blocking in college, has proven that he's capable of excelling at the next level. 

The reason that Linderbaum appears like he may slide down the draft board is the thought that he’s a bit undersized for an NFL offensive lineman.  His measurements at the combine were 6’2”, 296 pounds and 31 1/8” arms.  In today’s era of football, you don’t come across too many offensive linemen weighing in at under 300 pounds.  Also, his arm length falls a good bit below the average NFL offensive lineman's, which could hamper his blocking abilities against the most elite pass rushers in football.  The argument against this is that he has shown what he lacks in size, he makes up for with his athletic abilities. 

The question that arises is why would the Steelers draft an offensive lineman when they signed three in the offseason?  As I alluded to, their signees aren’t guaranteed to succeed.  I can’t say any of them are going to be the next Alan Faneca.  

Therefore, upgrading through the draft seems logical.  Plus, the two linemen they signed externally, Cole and Daniels, have positional flexibility.  Both have played center and guard in their careers and the Steelers have shown a knack to use their lineman at all positions on the line.  Therefore, drafting Linderbaum wouldn’t clog up the depth chart and prevent their new additions from playing.  

With Linderbaum at center and Cole and Daniels playing guard, that would keep Dan Moore Jr. at left tackle and Okorafor at right tackle.  While it could lead to some growing pains with three new additions to the line and a new quarterback playing behind them, I would feel much more confident in that offensive line than the one we saw last season. 

While there seems to be a large range of outcomes for what Linderbaum could be as a professional, the upside I’ve seen mentioned by scouts has me intrigued.  Some believe that we’ll be looking back on this draft in years to come, wondering how Linderbaum fell down the board with the type of talent he could be in the NFL.  It’s that kind of ceiling that makes my ears perk up.  

The Steelers have had success over the years developing the offensive linemen they've drafted.  If the Steelers do indeed select Tyler Linderbaum with their first round pick, I think there’s a good chance we might be seeing the next Maurkice Pouncey, which is something that should delight all Steelers fans.