The Pittsburgh Steelers surely had an inkling that changes along their offensive line were on the horizon even a year ago. Perhaps they didn’t realize just how radically it would change so quickly, with Alejandro Villanueva, Matt Feiler, Maurkice Pouncey, and David DeCastro all gone in one single offseason.
DeCastro was the last domino to fall, and that came after minicamp when he received an MRI on his ankle indicating that he would require surgery—not just to play again, which he hasn’t yet decided upon—but for his own long-term health.
The news put them in an unfortunate position, and they determined that their best course of action would be to waived him with a Non-Football Injury designation. They used part of the salary cap space that they saved with the move to sign veteran guard Trai Turner.
Turner will step right in at right guard, and is immediately by far the most veteran lineman in the room. That is important, considering the Steelers will likely have a rookie starting at center. Third-round pick Kendrick Green was already given the nod to start the Hall of Fame game, and as long as he plays well throughout, he’s probably not losing the job.
Addressing the media yesterday, the rookie talked about how valuable it is to have a presence like Turner next to him, calling him “a hard worker, knows football, and he likes to play hard. He’s helped me out a lot already, just with minor tweaks and stuff, just because he’s been around the league so long. I appreciate him. I love working with him”.
Of course, it would have been nice if he could have had the same experience with DeCastro, though the Steelers probably wouldn’t have added outside linebacker Melvin Ingram without the former’s release, so you can view is as a swap for both Turner and Ingram.
On Green’s left side will be Kevin Dotson, a 2020 fourth-round pick who started four games last season. He has not been practicing so far in training camp with what has been characterized as a minor injury, so that is not helping the chemistry-building process, either.
Veteran Rashaad Coward lined up at right guard in the Spring when DeCastro was not on the field. Now with Turner in and Dotson on the sidelines, Coward is playing at left guard for the time being, so at least there is that continuity with Green.
Not only is the vast bulk of the veteran presence gone, the Steelers also have a first-year head offensive line coach running the show with Adrian Klemm. Admittedly, his predecessor, Shaun Sarrett, wasn’t much more experienced.