The Pittsburgh Steelers have a two-fold task on their hands in the trenches this summer: Establish a new offensive line is the main objective, but before they can do that, they need to get them on the field healthy, first. Three of their five projected starters are still working their way back, but at least there are signs of progress.
That applies particularly to Zach Banner, their projected starting right tackle, who is in the final stages of rehab, essentially, coming back from a torn ACL. At this point, so it seems, it’s just a matter of acclimating him back to full-contact work. He was dipped into team drills today, including some work on the goal line, though still held out of live tackling sessions.
Still, the short-yardage work today was overall a positive, according to head coach Mike Tomlin, who attributed that to the performance of the offensive line, including Trai Turner, who was held out of practice the day before the break.
“I thought they answered the bell today. I thought we won the line of scrimmage when we had to”, Tomlin said after practice. “I didn’t see a lot of guys in the backfield in terms of some of the negativity. Most of the time, in those scenarios, you win the line of scrimmage, you get a varsity runner to the line of scrimmage clean, he does the rest. Largely, I thought they did what it is they needed to do, and Zach of course was a part of that”.
You already know the deal with the offensive line, so there’s no need to recap extensively every time the topic comes up. Four starters out, four starters in. Lots of work to do in order to get everybody to gel into a cohesive unit, but availability has slowed that process.
Projected left guard Kevin Dotson and left tackle Chukwuma Okorafor have not done much work in team sessions so far during training camp as they work their way back from what should be minor injuries, but appear to be inching their way back, slowly but surely.
The Steelers play their first preseason game in just a few days, facing off against the Dallas Cowboys in the Hall of Fame game. At this point, I wouldn’t expect any of the players mentioned other than Turner to actually participate.
That means more work for guys like rookie Dan Moore Jr., Joe Haeg, and Rashaad Coward, the latter of whom in particular has gotten extensive opportunities to be on the field in the starting lineup. Back during OTAs, he was running at right guard with David DeCastro out, before he was released. Now he’s been running in Dotson’s spot.