When you play in a hard-nosed division like the AFC North, a division thatís known for itís rushing attacks, adding physical, athletic lineman up front is critical. So, itís 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 Woodís 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, ďIt doesnít really matter. I feel comfortable at both positions right now. Iíve been working a lot at guard, since I havenít had as much experience at it. But the way I look at it, thereís probably a two-thirdís chance Iím going to play guard next season. The fact is that thereíre twice as many guard spots as there are center spots. Iím going to do all that I can to make a team and play as early as possible. I want to start from Day One, thatís my goal; wherever that may be, Iím going to have that same goal in mind.Ē
The offensive line is the most important aspect on a football team, and itís 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. Woodís 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, ďI could see myself on a tough natured team like the Steelers.Ē He could also see himself on one of the two other teams heíll 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, itís 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 havenít shown much interest in retaining their starting center Eric Ghiaciuc, whoís also an unrestricted free agent.
Interestingly enough, Wood is from Cincinnati and was a die-hard Bengals fan growing up.