Depending upon who you ask, the biggest news coming out of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ camp was either a changing of the guard in the specialist room, a skirmish between Chase Claypool and Minkah Fitzpatrick, or a reshuffling of the offensive line.
Pending further developments, I’m inclined to go with the latter, as it shakes up long-held expectations that Chukwuma Okorafor would start at left tackle and Zach Banner would start at right tackle. With the most recent developments, it’s possible that this changes, whether by choice or necessity.
Rookie fourth-round pick Dan Moore Jr. practiced at left tackle yesterday, his natural position, where he played well during training camp and the preseason, and Okorafor played at right tackle, where he has played in all 18 of his career starts. Banner, who is coming back from a torn ACL, did not practice at all, and it is not clear if he will be available for the season opener.
Speaking to reporters yesterday, left guard Kevin Dotson confirmed Moore was at left tackle yesterday. When asked if he feels it’s “looking like that’s the way it’s gonna be” from a reporter’s question, he responded, “I believe, because Dan is definitely more comfortable at left, because he played that in college, but I feel like he’ll be ready to play either”.
So should we anticipate a starting lineup, from left to right, of Dan Moore, Kevin Dotson, rookie Kendrick Green, veteran Trai Turner, and Chukwuma Okorafor, to start the season? Moore is more comfortable on the left side, to the Plan B if Banner is not available appears to be to flip Okorafor.
The complicating factor is Banner’s status, as he was projected to start at right tackle, and in fact beat out Okorafor for the right tackle job a year ago before tearing his ACL in the opener. If he’s available for the opener, will he play? Either way, Dotson is prepared.
“I’m comfortable with both guys. I’ve pretty much trained with both of them, so I’m pretty comfortable with whoever they put in that position I feel like they can do the job”, he said about playing next to either Okorafor or Moore.
“We’ve trained both of them, so I feel ready for it either way”, he continued. “Since we’ve trained with each other, him and Chuks, I feel comfortable with the run-blocking with either one. I definitely feel good with Dan. He’s a quick learner, so anything you tell him, he’s trying to adapt to it, trying to get right on it”.
If this is truly in play now, then it is a somewhat sudden and surprising development. Moore was afforded the opportunity to play a lot of first-team snaps at left tackle at the start of training camp because Okorafor was injured, and he played there in the first two preseason games, but then moved to the right. There is a not insignificant continent of fans that would like to see him starting already.