What’s the biggest hole on the Pittsburgh Steelers roster with less than two months to go before the start of training camp? NFL.com Senior Analyst Gil Brandt believes it’s the team’s offensive line. In fact, Brandt currently has the Steelers’ need for more offensive line help as his seventh biggest remaining roster concern for all 32 teams as of Wednesday.
Below is why Brandt has the Steelers listed seventh on his list of eight teams with remaining roster concerns.
Sure, the Bengals have question marks up front — but they’re still in better shape than their AFC North rivals in Pittsburgh. Center Maurkice Pouncey retired, left tackle Alejandro Villanueva signed with the Ravens and left guard Matt Feiler signed with the Chargers, and there’s only one position (David DeCastro’s spot at right guard) that will not see any turnover in 2021. Can Chukwuma Okorafor successfully shift from right tackle, where he started last season, to left tackle? Zach Banner, who missed 15 games in 2020 with a torn ACL, is in line to play right tackle, while 2020 fourth-rounder Kevin Dotson is set to be elevated to full-time starter at left guard and third-round pick Kendrick Green will compete with veterans B.J. Finney and J.C. Hassenaeur at center. How this unit performs under newly promoted O-line coach Adrian Klemm is critical to keeping 39-year-old QB Ben Roethlisberger upright — and to improving a run game that averaged an NFL-worst 3.6 yards per carry last season.
Is Brandt’s reasoning sound? Personally, I think it’s fair overall. After all, Okorafor is far from being a proven and reliable tackle as he enters his fourth NFL season. His now switching to the left side in 2021 will be quite interesting to watch play out. As for Okorafor’s counterpart, right tackle Zach Banner, he’s still very much unproven as well, despite being in the NFL since 2017. Sure, Banner won the starting right tackle job last year during training camp, beating out Okorafor in the process. Even so, he didn’t even make it through his first start of the 2021 season due to the serious knee injury that he suffered. And while we all hope that rookie center Kendrick Green can quickly become the Steelers next great center, he’s sure to have his growing pains in 2021. In short, the Steelers have three pretty large question marks at five of their offensive line positions heading into 2021.
The Steelers’ offensive line being a big concern when it comes to overall roster construction aside, I’m not really sure what Brandt thinks will happen with that position moving forward into the rest of the summer. After all, the Steelers did address their tackle depth in free agency by signing Joe Haeg. On top of that, the Steelers also addressed the tackle position in this year’s draft as well by selecting Dan Moore Jr. out of Texas A&M in the fourth round. Moore, should he have to play any during his rookie season, can play both tackle spots. In short, and barring a few injuries, the Steelers are probably done signing free agent offensive linemen. So, it is what it is, basically, and it is now up to new offensive line coach Adrian Klemm to help prove that the necessary moves were made on his unit this offseason. Brandt pretty much said that in his recap, and he was smart to do so.
Perhaps the biggest criticism when it comes to Brandt’s ranking of the Steelers isn’t necessarily that he has them listed. It might be that his concerns about their offensive line are bigger than that of the Cincinnati Bengals. Personally, I think I would rather enter 2021 with the Steelers’ current probable five starters than I would with what it looks like the Bengals might end up fielding in Week 1. Time will tell, however, if my assessment is right.