Left to right, the Pittsburgh Steelers have a brand new looking offensive line this season. Not to mention a brand new offensive coordinator, new head offensive line coach, and new assistant offensive line coach. This line is full of questions and right now, not many answers, but Mike Tomlin is confident there’s plenty of time to figure all that out.
Speaking with reporters following Friday’s practice, Tomlin wasn’t worried about the lack of continuity with the group.
“We’ve got a lot of time particularly relative to those that we compete against,” Tomlin told reporters via a team transcript. “Most people have three preseason games. We have four. That’s not something that’s a big concern on our radar right now. We appreciate the additional time that we have, and we intend to utilize it.”
The Steelers will kick off their season against the Dallas Cowboys August 5th. That’s followed up by a trip to Philadelphia one week later, their lone exhibition home game versus Detroit on the 21st with their finale taking place on the 28th at Carolina. In past years, the preseason was set at four games. But the league reduced that number to three with the expansion of a 17-game season. Per CBA rules, the league can only create a 20-game season, though the HOF Game is an exception. Pittsburgh and Dallas will play 21.
Though the preseason may be a boring time for many fans, it’ll be as important as ever for Pittsburgh. This is an offensive line that needs as many reps as possible. Questions among this group exist individually and collectively. Playing as a cohesive starting unit is as critical there as anywhere. Recognizing and picking up/passing off stunts, twists, and blitzes. And in the Steelers potentially heavier zone schemes, being able to see the same things and be on the same page is critical. Knowing the rules when covered/uncovered, when to release to the second level, what the correct block is based on how the lineman or linebacker flows.
Based off the first two days of camp, it sounds like the Steelers are going to give their brand new faces long looks in the Hall of Fame Game. Center Kendrick Green will start it and offensive tackle Dan Moore Jr. appears to be in line to see a significant amount of time, too.
It’s hard to imagine this group not dealing with growing pains this season. Matt Canada admitted as much. The question is how quickly this group can come together and play as a group. The quicker they do that, the better off the entire offense will be. If there is any silver lining, the start of the Steelers’ schedule is a bit easier than the end. But this is the NFL and any weakness can and will be exposed. That makes the offensive line the X-Factor of not only the offense but the entire team.