Pro Football Focus continued its series ranking the top 32 players in the NFL at every position on Monday, releasing rankings for all three spots along the offensive line. The Pittsburgh Steelers did not appear on the list of tackles, but Kendrick Green ranked 23rd on the list of centers. The best position along the line for Pittsburgh was at guard, where the Steelers were one of 10 teams to place both its starting guards among the NFL’s top 32.
Long-time anchor of the offensive line David DeCastro appeared first, ranked 15th in the NFL by article author Sam Monson. Monson wrote this about the Steelers’ star:
“DeCastro is still a very good player, but at his best, he was arguably the best right guard in football, and that is no longer the case without a reversal in the direction his play has been trending. DeCastro now has seven straight seasons with a PFF pass-blocking grade of at least 80.0, and he has surrendered just two sacks in four years, including the playoffs.”
He has fallen from where he was at his prime. But DeCastro remains not only the best lineman on the Pittsburgh Steelers, but one of the top guards in the game, even at a step back from his prior peak. DeCastro’s leadership is invaluable for the team this season, as he plays alongside four linemen this year with one combined season of starting experience among them.
One of those lineman is projected for a big leap forward this season by PFF, and that is left guard Kevin Dotson. Despite making just four starts in 2020, Dotson appeared in the top 32 at 29th overall, with Monson writing this:
“The biggest projection on the list outside of rookies, Dotson has just 358 snaps of NFL action under his belt. In those snaps, he earned a pass-blocking grade above 87.2, allowing just one hurry.”
Dotson stepped up in a big way last season as the Steelers dealt with injury woes along the line. The mauling rookie from Louisville quickly showed himself to be an excellent draft pick and future starter along the line, cut in the mold of DeCastro and other Steeler guards of the past.
With the departure of Matt Feiler in the offseason, the starting guard spot opposite DeCastro is his. Based on his play last season and PFF’s rankings, that appears to be an upgrade in the short and long-term for Pittsburgh. Ranked three spots below Dotson was Feiler himself, now with the Los Angeles Chargers after signing as a free agent this offseason. Dotson also placed one spot above the New York Jets’ Alijah Vera-Tucker, the 14th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Dotson was a spot back of Jacksonville’s A.J. Cann.
DeCastro was a spot below Baltimore Ravens’ guard Kevin Zeitler, and a spot ahead of Seattle’s Gabe Jackson. Zeitler was the lone Raven to appear on PFF’s rankings. That was better than Cincinnati, who missed the list entirely.
The Cleveland Browns were among the nine other teams that, like Pittsburgh, had both guards ranked. PFF actually named the Browns’ duo of Joel Bitonio and Wyatt Teller the best guard pairing in the NFL. Bitonio ranked fourth, and Teller ranked ninth.
Quenton Nelson of Indianapolis was selected as the top guard in the NFL, an easy pick for the player who has become the gold standard for the position in just three seasons, all of which ended with an All-Pro selection.