If it hadn’t sunk in already, it did on Thursday. The Steelers’ offensive line was totally unrecognizable from a year ago. Dan Moore Jr. at left tackle, B.J. Finney at left guard, Kendrick Green at center, Rashaad Coward at right guard, and Joe Haeg at right tackle. And four of those five guys aren’t expected to start Week 1.
The Steelers are counting on those young guys, their two 2021 draft picks in particular, Green and Moore, to step up. For the short-term and definitely the long-term. It’s impossible to draw conclusions on either player after just one game but Green and Moore flashed with their athleticism, strength, and football IQ.
Let’s talk about each.
The first play that jumped out to me was this rep in the first quarter. In camp, OL/DL in particular, Green has flashed his grip strength and anchor in pass protection. He hasn’t won every rep, far from it, but we noted progress there, even against crafty veterans like Tyson Alualu.
Here are two individual reps we noted from his last two days of practice.
“Great rep here from Kendrick Green. Locks up Isaiah Buggs whose swim move fails and Green finishes the rep, driving his feet and burying Buggs into the ground. The two roll over into Zach Banner, standing on the side, who is hyped and congratulates Green for a strong rep.”
“Strong hands and grip by Green, who locks onto Alualu, trying to disengage but can’t. Alualu converts to a bull but Green anchors and stones him.”
He showed that Thursday night. Facing the Cowboys’ Neville Gallimore, a third-round pick of 2020 and talented, athletic interior lineman, Green locks him up the whole rush. Good punch, hand placement with a strong anchor (excellent knee bend and leverage) and he doesn’t let Gallimore disengage the entire rep. Clear assignment win.
(I’m sorry for the grainy footage. This is zoomed in and we’re doing our best working with what we have this time of year).
But I love this one. WR screen to Diontae Johnson. Green out in space and he absolutely takes off downfield. He’s almost easy to miss. Check out that athleticism in the open field. Dude has serious wheels.
No, he didn’t block anyone, though he was clearly going after a safety downfield and off-screen. You could argue he needed to block Micah Parsons. But with Parsons backside of him when he got out in space, I imagine their rules generally are if the guy is behind you, let the backside lineman take him. You find someone to the frontside. Meaning, Rashaad Coward was responsible for Parsons (#11) and Green was working down the line.
Arguing about that is besides the point. Even if Green was in the wrong, Pittsburgh can teach him that stuff. That athleticism? You either have it or you don’t. And Green has it.
Worth pointing out, and I saw it live, Moore got out in space and actually threw a block to spring Johnson for the first down. That’s a play Alejandro Villanueva wouldn’t have made last year (or for most of his career).
Dan Moore Jr.
Play that really stuck out to me was this stunt pickup. It doesn’t get repped as often under Adrian Klemm (though still practiced, to be clear) and this was a great rep.
Watch him here as the LT (#65). Kickstep, sees the RDE crash, and he mirrors with arms extended and slides down and passes him off to the LG, Finney. Once Finney picks it up (you can’t pass off the crasher until then), Moore slides back to his left and knocks down the hands of the looping RDT, sending him to the ground.
Fluid, in-sync, and a great finish. Hard to ask for a better rep.
Again, just one game for each of these guys. And it wasn’t perfect for either man. But an encouraging start. And the byproduct of two rookies available every single day of practice, soaking up first-team reps against quality opponents, and developing because of it.