When you play in a hard-nosed division like the AFC North, a division that’s known for it’s rushing attacks, adding physical, athletic lineman up front is critical. So, it’s no surprise that three of the four teams in the division are after the same interior force. A source told Scout.com that the Pittsburgh Steelers, Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns will entertain Louisville C Eric Wood over the next few weeks.
Steelers offensive line coach Larry Zierlein will fly to Louisville and conduct a private workout with Wood on April 6th, the Bengals will host Wood at their facility on April 14th and the Browns will do the same on April 15th.
A four-year starter at center for Louisville, the 6-foot-4, 310-pound Wood holds the school-record for most consecutive starts at 49. His durability and ability to dominate in the trenches has been noticed during his career and especially during the draft process. To expand Wood’s draft horizons even further, teams have been exploring the possibility of moving him to guard, which makes him more versatile.
One of the nation's premier centers, Wood has received plenty of attention as a guard.
During a recent Q&A with Scout.com, Wood was asked about what position he preferred to play at the next level and he said, “It doesn’t really matter. I feel comfortable at both positions right now. I’ve been working a lot at guard, since I haven’t had as much experience at it. But the way I look at it, there’s probably a two-third’s chance I’m going to play guard next season. The fact is that there’re twice as many guard spots as there are center spots. I’m going to do all that I can to make a team and play as early as possible. I want to start from Day One, that’s my goal; wherever that may be, I’m going to have that same goal in mind.”
The offensive line is the most important aspect on a football team, and it’s become the in vogue area to upgrade through the draft. Over the last couple of years, the offensive tackle position has been among the most popular to address on draft day, but the interior portion of the line is equally important, and teams are open to using an early pick on a guard or center.
The Steelers have depth issues on their offensive line, an offensive line that allowed their franchise quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, to be sacked 48 times last season. Drafting an offensive lineman with the 32nd overall pick seems to be the direction the Steelers are going to take on draft day. Wood’s draft status over the last two months has ascended dramatically, and he could find his way into the latter part of the first round, possibly being selected by the Steelers.
In the Q&A with Scout.com, Wood stated, “I could see myself on a tough natured team like the Steelers.” He could also see himself on one of the two other teams he’ll meet with, since he was born in Ohio.
The Browns and Bengals hold the fifth and sixth picks respectively in the first round, but if Wood happens to fall out of the opening frame, it’s possible one of the teams will take him in the second round, as the Browns own the 36th pick, and the Bengals have the 38th pick.
The Browns added some depth on their offensive line during free agency with the signings of John St. Clair and Floyd Womack, but they could use more depth and youth. The Bengals have serious concerns up front, after they allowed unrestricted free agent OT Stacy Andrews to sign with the Philadelphia Eagles, and they haven’t shown much interest in retaining their starting center Eric Ghiaciuc, who’s also an unrestricted free agent.
Interestingly enough, Wood is from Cincinnati and was a die-hard Bengals fan growing up.
A member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America, Chris Steuber has provided his analysis of the NFL and NFL Draft prospects on the web and on the radio since 1999. Steuber’s features are published across the Scout.com network and on FoxSports.com. If you wish to contact Chris Steuber, email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.