At the club’s pre-draft press conference Monday, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said Mike Adams and Marcus Gilbert — the club’s primary right tackles the last two seasons — have the ability to play on the left side and that a decision on where they will play could take some time.
“I think one of the things that we learned through the trials of the 2012 season is that both of those young men are capable of playing both spots,” Tomlin said, according to the club. “We will use the spring and the summer to sort out where we play those two at, but both guys have shown that they are capable of being viable left tackles and right tackle-like candidates.”
The Steelers drafted Gilbert in Round Two of the 2011 draft and made Adams a second-rounder one year later. The duo has combined to start three-quarters of the Steelers’ regular-season games at right tackle in the last two seasons, though both missed time with ankle injuries in 2012.
Max Starks, who started all 16 games at left tackle for Pittsburgh last season, is an unrestricted free agent. General manager Kevin Colbert indicated Monday that the club was open to re-signing Starks and other free agents from a season ago, but whom the team drafts this week is part of that equation.
If the Steelers don’t draft another tackle early, the question becomes whether Adams or Gilbert can handle the left side on a full-time basis. Starks bought the Steelers some time, starting 28 regular-season consecutive games. If the Steelers had to call upon him later in the offseason, they know they would getting a short-term, plug-and-play option. That said, the Steelers didn’t invest two second-round picks in back-to-back years just to have strong depth at right tackle.