If you thought that the offensive line battle was over—or, at least, who was going to play where—then you were wrong. So says Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, who told reporters on Wednesday that there is still work to do to figure out who lines up where, and that they intend to use every minute of the time allotted to them to figure it out before the regular season begins.
“We’re gonna continue to work until the eleventh hour”, he said, when he was asked if the work of solidifying their top five players had been completed. “We’re not anointing anyone or making any strong declarations about positioning or division of labor at this point at any position”.
The offensive line has underwent a massive overhaul since last season, with four starters now gone. Longtime center Maurkice Pouncey retired after 11 seasons. Right guard David DeCastro was waived injured after an MRI revealed he would need ankle surgery, and he is considering retiring. The left side of the offensive line—tackle Alejandro Villanueva and guard Matt Feiler—left in free agency.
The Steelers added several players via free agency, though it’s likely only one will be in the starting lineup. That would be Trai Turner, signed to a one-year, $3 million deal the same day that DeCastro was waived, brought in to take over his spot. Also signed were Joe Haeg, Rashaad Coward, Chaz Green, and B.J. Finney, the latter of whom, of course, is familiar with the team.
They also drafted two linemen in the middle rounds, most notably Kendrick Green, brought in to play center. He appears to be in line to start the season on the field there, though in recent days, Tomlin has walked back the notion that anything has been decided at center, with J.C. Hassenauer still listed as the first-team center on the depth chart.
The other rookie draft pick is Dan Moore Jr., the tackle out of Texas A&M, who has logged the most snaps during the preseason on the roster, and has recently gotten more work on the right side after being on the left side.
While it initially appeared that he might be in the mix to start at one of the two tackle positions, for either Chukwuma Okorafor on the left side or Zach Banner on the right, his working on both sides suggests that he is being groomed for a swing tackle role. “He’s been playing both and he’ll continue”, Tomlin said of Moore Wednesday.
Outside of Okorafor, Banner, Turner, and Green, the other projected starter is Kevin Dotson at left guard, the second-year player. He started four games last season, and generally impressed in his playing time. After overcoming an early ankle injury in training camp, he has been back firmly entrenched in the first-team line.