The Pittsburgh Steelers will have at least three new, or essentially new, starters along their offensive line when they take the field in 2021. Longtime center Maurkice Pouncey retired. Left guard (and former right tackle) Matt Feiler signed with the Los Angeles Chargers in free agency. Left tackle Alejandro Villanueva is now with the Baltimore Ravens.
One of the many questions facing this unit is how many rookies will be starting. They drafted two in the middle of the weekend, taking interior lineman Kendrick Green in the third round, and then coming back to the trenches with their next pick in the fourth round with Texas A&M tackle Dan Moore, Jr.
Green, whose competition is B.J. Finney and J.C. Hassenauer is the favorite to win the starting center position, but Moore seems to have longer odds and a more difficult path toward a starting job, which likely would come at left tackle, at which Chukwuma Okorafor is penciled in. Zach Banner, who won the starting right tackle job last season but tore his ACL in the opener, recently offered his thoughts on what he’s seen from their young linemen.
“Very coachable men. They take constructive criticism to the fullest. They give a lot of effort, which, you can’t coach effort”, he told reporters earlier this week. “That’s actually the hardest thing, is when you have a talented guy, or you have a guy who shows a promising future, and they don’t want to put in the work. They do. All of our new young guys, all of our new guys, it’s a culture that was recruited and put together by Coach T this offseason, and it really shows”.
Kevin Dotson, a second-year lineman who is projected to step into Feiler’s most recent spot at left guard, made a similar observation about Green and Moore, who called them “guys who work actively to better themselves”.
That seems to be the theme that they are building in the trenches, with guys like Banner who are also self-starters, at least when they’re in a healthy place, both mentally and physically. That intrinsic desire for self-improvement is what, if anything, is going to turn this back into one of the better offensive lines in football.
The switch at the coaching level is perhaps equally significant. Many called the hiring of Mike Munchak the biggest move the Steelers made that offseason. They were unable to retain him two years ago, but now Adrian Klemm will have his chance to put his stamp on the unit following an underwhelming two years under Munchak’s protégé, Shaun Sarrett.
And in that sense, it’s good to have these young guys come in at the same time that they are preaching new techniques, concepts, schemes, and philosophies. They’re blank slates with respect to what the Steelers might have done in the past, and are learning the new things along with everybody else.