Ahead of the 2021 season, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offensive line remains a relative unknown, considering all the moving parts that came together this offseason to try and form the nucleus of the Steelers’ new starting five.
Gone are veteran stalwarts David DeCastro, Maurkice Pouncey, Matt Feiler and Alejandro Villanueva. In are names like Kevin Dotson, Trai Turner, and rookie center Kendrick Green to try and rebuild on the fly.
On paper, it’s a rough looking unit overall with two bookend tackles with very little experience, paired with an interior that looks nasty on paper but remains to be seen how it comes together on the field.
Veteran guard and five-time Pro Bowler Trai Turner remains the cream of the crop of the Steelers’ starting five, at least in name recognition alone. Though Turner’s play has fallen off in recent years, a lot of that can be attested to his bout with some injuries, causing him to lose some strength and overall athleticism.
It remains to be seen if Turner can shake the injury bug and return to prominence, but for now Trench Warfare’s Brandon Thorn (subscription required) — who remains the gospel when it comes to offensive line play — has Turner inside the top 75 offensive linemen in the NFL ahead of the start of the 2021 season. Thorn recently broke down each position into four tiers to rank the top 75 offensive linemen in football.
Turner came in low in the top four tiers at the position, but none the less he’s the lone Steelers’ representative in the exercise, which tells you a lot about the state of the Steelers’ offensive line heading into the season.
Turner was ranked as the 13th-best right guard in the NFL, which feels about right.
“Turner is the only player from this group that has been a tier 3 starter and even a borderline tier 2 starter at times over his career,” Thorn writes. “The reason he’s this low is due to him averaging 12 starts over his last four seasons while being dinged up for a chunk of those. This has taken away from his prior ability to impose his will on the opponent with regularity, although a fresh start in Pittsburgh could help the 28-year-old climb up a tier in 2021 if his health cooperates.”
Thorn is spot-on here with his assessment of Turner. Not too long ago Turner was considered one of the premier right guards in football, earning five straight Pro Bowl nods with the Carolina Panthers. Injuries are often the downfall of linemen — especially in the interior — and that bug has bitten Turner badly dating back to 2018.
Should he find his footing once again and remain healthy, the Steelers’ flier on the veteran right guard could pay off in a big way, allowing the Steelers to get younger and cheaper along the offensive line as the franchise eyes a move into a new era in the coming years.