By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH — For the most part, the Pittsburgh Steelers have taken a defensive posture during the NFL Draft, but the club went offensive again in the sixth round Saturday afternoon.
For the second time in six rounds, the Steelers bolstered their offensive line by taking Nebraska guard Keith Williams. They also took tackle Marcus Gilbert from Florida in the second round Friday night.
“Keith is a very physical player, (and) he likes to mix it up,” Steelers offensive line coach Sean Kugler said. “He has nasty to him, (and) he’s an aggressive player. He has pulling skills. They utilize that at Nebraska, and that shows up on film. We had Keith in the building (because) we wanted to get an even closer look at him. We (already) liked what we saw on film.”
Kugler believed the 6-5, 310-pound Williams was a “willing learner” who should be able to improve his pass-blocking skills, which were somewhat lacking. Williams started 34 career games at Nebraska, including all 14 last season at left guard. He helped the Cornhuskers lead the Big 12 in rushing last fall.
“The thing about Nebraska is that we try to compete at a high level all the time (and) give it everything we’ve got and playing relentless up front,” Williams said. “That’s the way we work, (and) that’s been fun. … I’m very aggressive, (and) I like to finish. I like to get after it. When it comes to passing, (though), I need a little work there. (But) I’m ready to go.”
Williams was among the 30 out-of-town prospects that the Steelers brought in recently for personal interviews, and the club made an immediate impression on the 23-year-old player.
“When I was visiting the Steelers, I was very happy,” Williams said. “The Steelers like to run the ball a lot, and I was really happy about that. Being drafted by the Steelers is a really great thing. It’s great, really great. I’m very, very happy and fortunate to be picked by the Steelers.”
Many believed the Steelers needed to bolster their offensive line in this draft, and Kugler said the club accomplished that goal.
“You’re always looking to add to your room, and you’re always looking for quality in guys,” Kugler said. “In Marcus Gilbert, I think we got a guy that’s a high-energy guy with good size, good tools to work with, (who) is going to become a productive player.
“With Keith Williams, we have a good-sized guard who’s a battler. They’re different types of players. … Both have qualities that we like. They’re both smart kids, (and) I think they’re both going to fit well in the room. (So), they’re going to be good Steeler-types for years to come.”
In the brief time that Kugler has been with the Steelers, it has been apparent that they have leaned more toward offensive linemen who are more maulers and brawlers than finesse players.
“Yeah, we want to be a physical offensive line,” Kugler said. “We want to be able to run the ball effectively and efficiently, and we want to protect (quarterback) Ben (Roethlisberger). So, there is a lot that goes into it, so I am (more inclined to go after those guys).”
The Steelers have one seventh-round pick to close out the draft.