The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2020 season is now in the books. It ended in spectacular fashion — though the wrong kind of spectacular — in a dismal postseason defeat at the hands of the Cleveland Browns, sending them into an early offseason mode after going 12-4 in the regular season and winning the AFC North for the first time in three years.
Since then, they have lost several players in free agency who were key members of the offense and defense. Multiple starters retired, as well. They made few notable additions in free agency, and are banking on contributions on offense from their rookies, as well as perhaps a last ride for Ben Roethlisberger.
The only thing facing them now as they head into 2021 is more questions. Right now, they lack answers. They know that they have Roethlisberger for one more year, but was that even the right decision? How successful can Najee Harris be behind a questionable offensive line? What kind of changes can Matt Canada and Adrian Klemm bring to the offense? And how can the defense retain the status quo with the losses of Bud Dupree, Steven Nelson, and Mike Hilton?
These are the sorts of questions we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football is a year-round pastime and there are always questions to ask, though there is rarely a concrete answer. This is your venue for exploring the topics we present through all of their uncertainty.
Question: Have the Steelers done enough at the tackle position to get through the 2021 season?
The following is a rundown of what the Steelers have gone through at tackle since the end of last season. Failed to renew the contracts of starting left tackle Alejandro Villanueva and reserve Jerald Hawkins. Re-signed Zach Banner, who tore his ACL after starting the season opener. Signed veteran reserve Joe Haeg. And drafted Texas A&M’s Dan Moore Jr. in the fourth round.
Chukwuma Okorafor started 16 games at right tackle last season, including the playoffs, after Banner was injured. Villanueva started every game at left tackle. For the time being, Okorafor is projected to move from the right side to the left, where he’s only played in the preseason before.
Banner is projected to start at right tackle, where he was supposed to start all of last season, only now doing so on a surgically-repaired knee. He has very little in-game experience playing the tackle position, and Okorafor has none playing left tackle in-game, even if he has 18 career starts.
While not impossible, it’s generally not anticipated that Haeg will factor into the starting competition, but offensive line coach Adrian Klemm indicated that Moore would be involved. Can he win a job, and if he does, would he be ready for it?
More generally, have the Steelers done enough to give them a chance to contend this year, as far as it relates to the tackle position? Will they deliver enough time in pass protection and enough holes in the run game not to be a liability?