The Pittsburgh Steelers are trying to establish nearly an entirely new offensive line this season. While not all faces may not be brand new to their teams, most are at least in new roles, and that includes their offensive line coach, who was promoted from an assistant’s role that he served for the past two years.
It’s not even clear how many jobs are settled along the offensive line—perhaps just one, with Trai Turner at right guard. Kendrick Green still has to compete to start at center. Zach Banner may be secure at right tackle, but he has to get back to a full workload. Chukwuma Okorafor and Kevin Dotson haven’t been in team drills while nursing injuries.
That’s afforded rookie fourth-round tackle Dan Moore Jr. plenty of times to go up against the best edge rushers the Steelers currently have on the field, namely Alex Highsmith and Melvin Ingram. “I think it’s a challenge, and it’s a challenge that I’m not afraid of”, he told reporters following practice today. “Coming in, I know what awaited me, and I think it’s helping me get better”.
The Aggie struggled initially with this baptism through fire process, but has been picking things up as we move along through training camp, perhaps especially since the pads came on, and at this point it seems inevitable that he will start the Hall of Fame game, and play quite a bit on the right side.
The pass rushers that he has had a chance to face in practice will have certainly helped him prepare. He believes “100 percent” that working against the likes of Highsmith and Ingram have helped him get better with his all-around game. “Just everything. When I punch, not opening the gate all the time, being more physical in the run game. I think it’s helped me in all aspects”, he said.
When he was first drafted, the presumption was that he could perhaps be a starter—some time in the future, down the line. Offensive line coach Adrian Klemm, though, said at that time that he expects him to be able to compete right away.
As he continues to progress through his growing pains, perhaps he will continue to make himself more and more of a viable candidate for a starting job as a rookie by the time the preseason process ends. And then we’ll find out who is sitting on the bench—and how long a leash he has.
Not that the Steelers are down on Okorafor. General manager Kevin Colbert recently said that he believed Okorafor would have won the starting job against Banner last season had it been on the left side as opposed to the right, believing that he is more of a natural there. It’s just a matter of him getting healthy enough to be a full go in practice.