It’s been a long journey from…well, not quite Milan to Minsk, but it might have felt that way at first for Dan Moore Jr., the Pittsburgh Steelers’ rookie offensive tackle, who in the middle of training camp was transplanted from his more familiar left side to the right in order to prepare him for his likely role as the swing tackle.
Like Kevin Dotson a year ago, who was only a right guard coming into the NFL, he has had to learn how to be ambidextrous in terms of playing on both ends, because your swing tackle needs to be capable of filling in on either side. Though it was new to him, he has made good progress, but it remains a process.
“It’s definitely been a challenge, especially going to right”, Moore said of his first offseason and the position switch, following last night’s game, during which he started on the right side for Zach Banner. “I’m not very comfortable on the right side. But like I said, just getting more reps and having a great defense to challenge me every day and a great coaching staff to help me with the game plan definitely helps, for sure”.
A fourth-round pick out of Texas A&M, Moore has generally been positively assessed, at least once the pads came on during training camp. There were some troubling early reports about his struggles, for example, with veteran edge defender Cassius Marsh and second-year Alex Highsmith, but we now know that Highsmith has been doing that to every tackle he’s faced.
Right after the team first drafted him, offensive line coach Adrian Klemm said that he expects Moore to be capable of competing for a starting job right out of the gate. Truthfully, I don’t know that he isn’t already one of the Steelers’ two best tackles.
Chukwuma Okorafor is in line to be their left tackle, where he has offered baseline serviceable play, primarily in pass protection, at best. On the right side is projected to be Zach Banner, who has only played a dozen snaps this preseason as he continues to work his way back from a torn ACL he suffered in the 2020 season opener.
The only other candidate on the roster to start is Joe Haeg, a veteran free agent pickup back in March, who, to his credit, has actually graded very well this preseason, particularly as a run blocker. And that could be a problem for Moore.
Haeg is experienced in the tackle-eligible role, something Pittsburgh likes to use a lot. If Haeg shows adeptness there, he may dress over Moore as the swing tackle. But with the ability to dress an eighth lineman since last year, and Haeg’s ability to play inside as well, perhaps both will dress.