Following one preseason game, it would be equally accurate and unsurprising to conclude that the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offensive line is a work in progress. While some individual players flashes their skills, as a group, there was much that was lacking, which can be improved over time.
Of course, the line also lacked most of the players who are currently listed as starters on their depth chart, namely Chukwuma Okorafor, Kevin Dotson, Trai Turner, and Zach Banner. Technically, Kendrick Green wasn’t listed as the starter, but he should be, and probably will be soon.
For obvious reasons, the Steelers didn’t have their starting quarterback on the field Thursday night, either, but those who were under center feel comfortable with where they are—not just in the game, but during training camp.
“Those are guys I’ve been around, more of them, for a while now with the exception of Kendrick at center and a couple other guys”, Mason Rudolph said after the game. “But we’ve gelled well. I enjoy working with them every day at practice. They’re younger guys but they’re very hungry to work, and I thought they did a good job today, like I said, in protection and opening up lanes for Najee [Harris]”.
Okorafor and Banner are expected to be the Steelers’ starting tackles, but both are working their way back from injuries, the latter a torn ACL suffered last September. Rookie fourth-round pick Dan Moore Jr. started at left tackle for Okorafor, and veteran Joe Haeg started at right tackle. For the most part, both seemed to hold up well enough, with Moore in particular to be commended, given it was his first game action.
With Dotson also coming back from an injury and Turner dealing with a presumed contusion of the birth certificate, we also got opportunities to see different faces at guard, albeit both veterans. B.J. Finney was at left guard, where he’s started five games in the past, with Rashaad Coward at right guard.
While there were a lot of possible reserves in the lineup, though Rudolph still feels that the line displayed the philosophy that new line coach Adrian Klemm worked to instill this offseason, and also handled new offensive coordinator Matt Canada’s wrinkles.
“I think Coach Canada’s offense having some new schemes, and some new run schemes, and some misdirection stuff, and jet motions, you see the defense a little uneasy”, Rudolph said. “And backers just kind of bouncing. They’re not able to fit in gaps as easily when you have a lot of motions going on pre-snaps. So, I think that combined with, yes, they’re younger and they’re hungry and they’re coming off the ball well”.
The first results could have been better, but there was certainly room for it to be worse, as well. They didn’t even allow a sack until late in the game on 32 total dropbacks during the game—though it would have been nice to break off even one 10-yard run.