The Pittsburgh Steelers’ offensive line will feature two rookie draft picks when they take the field tonight against the Dallas Cowboys in the Hall of Fame game. While center Kendrick Green, a third-round pick out of Illinois, is projected to be the starter, Dan Moore Jr., a fourth-rounder out of Texas A&M, will be playing on the left side in place of an injured Chukwuma Okorafor.
There is still some jostling of positions to figure out before the regular season begins, and it’s still possible that both (or even neither) of them are on the field come opening day, but head coach Mike Tomlin believes they have the traits to indicate they would be ready for it.
“The great thing about those two, they’ve got a level of maturity that I think positions them to be contributors, and it’s good, because we need contributions from them, and we’ve been pretty transparent about that”, he told Jim Miller and Pat Kirwan on SiriusXM Radio on Wednesday. “But the level of maturity of those guys, their approach to the business, is fun for us, and it’s one of the reasons why we pursued them”.
The Steelers promoted Adrian Klemm to head offensive line coach earlier this offseason, who brings with him a new philosophy that is grounded around a physical approach to the game. Both Moore and Green, they believe, also fit into that profile, but they were also impressed by their level experience at the college level.
“Dan’s played a lot of ball down there at Texas A&M. Three-year starter”, Tomlin noted. “Same thing with Kendrick Green. They’re more experienced than most that we get in today’s game, so hopefully that’s a help for them as they work to deliver for us”.
Of course, most of Green’s experience came at the guard position, so playing at center still involves a lot of positional education. That is true, though, of any rookie. You don’t know everything there is to know about your spot, even if you’ve played it all your life. Even Cameron Heyward is still learning as he teaches others.
As for the rest of the offensive line, it’s all really going to look quite new, especially tonight. Zach Banner is also not going to be out there as the team works him slowly back from a torn ACL. Kevin Dotson is not ready to be back on the field with whatever injury he’s dealing with. Trai Turner will presumably play, but perhaps not as much as the other starters.
Based on practice, Joe Haeg would be the next man up at right tackle, while Rashaad Coward, who has probably played more snaps this offseason than anybody else on the team, will fill in for Dotson. Many of them will likely play extensively throughout the game, through multiple lines.