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: Which of the experienced/pedigreed offensive linemen is most likely to miss the cut this year?
The Steelers’ offensive line suffered a series of blows this offseason with the departure of three starters: Alejandro Villanueva and Matt Feiler in free agency, and Maurkice Pouncey via retirement. But they signed three free agents and drafted two more to replenish the depth. Even if they’re figuring out the order of the pieces.
There are 10 players in consideration here, and I’ll name them specifically so there’s no ambiguity. We have those returning from last season: Chukwuma Okorafor, Kevin Dotson, David DeCastro, Zach Banner, and J.C. Hassenauer. We have the free agents: B.J. Finney, Joe Haeg, and Rashaad Coward. And we have the rookie draft picks: Kendrick Green and Dan Moore Jr.
Of those 10, who is the most vulnerable? I think we can say that Okorafor, Dotson, DeCastro, Banner, and the rookies Green and Moore are locks, though I suppose one could make the argument against Moore. The others have at least an outside shot of finding themselves missing the roster.
For most of the offseason, I’ve had it in my mind that Hassenauer and Coward would be duking it out for the ninth lineman role. The reality is that Finney is certainly guaranteed nothing (except for a $137,000 minimum signing bonus), either.
They gave Haeg a two-year, $4.6 million contract, which included a $1 million signing bonus, making it unlikely that he would lose out. In theory, they could still save $1 million (prior to displacement) by cutting him if they don’t feel he’s one of their four best tackle options.
And if you really want to make the case for Moore, which I doubt anybody will, feel free below.