From 30 years as NFL linemen to 14. From 388 career starts to 114. A total of 23,696 snaps played in the regular season vs. 7,787.
That is the difference in career numbers between the four starters who are gone from Pittsburgh’s 2020 offensive line, and the numbers of the players replacing them in 2021. And adding to that discrepancy is that every one of those seasons, starts, and snaps from 2020’s starters came with the Steelers organization. The players replacing them? Just three seasons, six starts, and 635 snaps in Steeler uniforms.
That is a total reconstruction of an offensive line over the course of one offseason, done in response to the retirement of Maurice Pouncey, release and potential retirement of David DeCastro, and free agency losses of Alejandro Villanueva and Matt Feiler. Without Chukwuma Okorafor sticking around, Pittsburgh wouldn’t have a single starter held over from 2020 to 2021.
The rebuild leaves Pittsburgh’s most experienced lineman as Trai Turner, a seven-year veteran signed after DeCastro’s release. Responsible with providing Pro Bowl experience to a team of younger starters, Turner spoke about the new line with NFL Network’s Good Morning Football broadcast.
“Every year is different. Every team is different. Change is inevitable, and we always evolve. I think those guys paved the way and I think those guys have done tremendous things in the Pittsburgh community and for the team. But I’m excited man, we’ve got a group of young guys that I feel are highly motivated and just ready to put their own stamp on things,” Turner said.
Okorafor remains, going from injury replacement in Week 1 of 2020 at right tackle to the starting left tackle, replacing Villanueva. Kevin Dotson replaces Feiler at left guard, after making four starts and playing 360 snaps last season. Kendrick Green, currently the projected winner of a battle to be starting center, is a rookie replacing Pouncey. Turner steps in to replace DeCastro, and Zach Banner gets a second chance to start for the first time at right tackle, after suffering that Week 1 injury.
That’s a significant drop in experience, with Turner possessing nearly all of it among the group. It is also a chance for the Steelers to reinvent their identity along the line. Led by passionate coaching from Head OL Coach Adrian Klemm, the line is bringing out its aggressiveness, a staple trait of players like Dotson, Green, and Turner from throughout their collegiate and NFL careers.
Turner even had a signature phrase he used to describe that new attitude of the line. A phrase the Good Morning Football hosts immediately latched on to, and that many in Pittsburgh are likely to find just as fun to mention: Starting the party.
“Like I said, change is inevitable, but we had the same mindset of being attacking, being tough, being physical, and starting the party, you never want to come to the party late,” Turner said. “I just know that we want to attack it, start fast, and play ball.”
The next party begins on July 28 with training camp, when battles along the line begin to get settled and the most important work begins before Week 1 against the Buffalo Bills.