The Pittsburgh Steelers underwent significant changes this offseason along the offensive line, losing four stalwarts in Alejandro Villanueva, Maurkice Pouncey, Matt Feiler and David DeCastro to retirement, an injury-related release, and free agency, leaving the offensive line in a state of flux ahead of the 2021 season.
Now, with names like Trai Turner, Kevin Dotson, Kendrick Green, Zach Banner and Chukwuma Okorafor expected to be the new starters across the board up front, Bleacher Report’s Brad Gagnon says the offensive line in general in Pittsburgh remains the team’s biggest hole heading into the 2021 season.
At this point, that’s a given. But honestly, can that group be worse than the 2020 version was? I think not.
Gagnon though, he wants the Steelers to add to the group from a handful of big-name veterans that remain on the market as training camps get underway.
“The Pittsburgh Steelers said goodbye to veteran offensive linemen Alejandro Villanueva, Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro and Matt Feiler this offseason. They only have Chukwuma Okorafor, Kevin Dotson and Zach Banner returning and Trai Turner joining the fray,” Gagnon writes. “Even if the Steelers pencil in those four at two tackle spots and two guard spots, they’ll be left with an issue at center. That’s where they might rely on rookie third-round pick Kendrick Green, which is far from ideal for a veteran team trying to make one last deep playoff run before its Super Bowl window closes.
“But let’s not assume anything about Doston based on limited action as a rookie fourth-rounder in 2020, or an unproven Banner coming off a major knee injury, or Turner in a new home while facing durability concerns, or even Okorafor in an entirely new role. The Steelers could use another accomplished, starting-caliber player anywhere along their offensive line. Mitchell Schwartz, Russell Okung, Austin Reiter and Rick Wagner would all make sense.”
As you can see, Gagnon identifies three veteran tackles and a veteran center that the Steelers should add. At this point in the offseason, those four guys remain available for a reason, and for a team tight against the cap, the Steelers won’t be calling. Gagnon laments relying on a guy like Banner, who while unproven is coming off of a knee injury, and also laments the Steelers relying on Turner at guard before then proceeding to highlight three tackles with lengthy injury histories as names to add at tackle.
Talk about hypocrisy.
Then there’s Reiter. I made the case for signing him prior to the 2021 NFL Draft. He has plenty of starting experience and played 31 of 32 games the last two seasons as the Kansas City Chiefs made a run to the Super Bowl in back-to-back seasons.
However, it’s very clear center is Kendrick Green’s job now and moving forward as the Steelers appear to let him grow and develop on the fly at center in front of Ben Roethlisberger.
Questions certainly remain regarding this group overall, but the Steelers will not be chasing a big, veteran name at tackle, guard or center. They feel comfortable with the group they’ve put together. Time will tell on the field.