Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will not have a single lineman who took the field with him to open the 2020 season when the Pittsburgh Steelers play the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. All five starters along the offensive line in last year’s regular-season opener are not on the 53-man roster; the only one still on the team is Zach Banner, who is on the Reserve/Injured List.
Three of the starters for the game will be new to the team, among them two rookie draft picks, with third-rounder Kendrick Green the team’s new starting center following Maurkice Pouncey’s retirement, and fourth-round pick Dan Moore Jr. with a shot to lock down the left tackle spot over the first three-plus games.
“It’s not like they’re perfect or they don’t make mistakes, but when they do make the mistakes, you can see how much it burns”, Roethlisberger said of his two rookie blockers. “It bothers them when they make a mistake. I think that’s a sign of a professional, it’s a sign of a man that takes pride in his work, and I’ve seen that from those guys. They’re both going to be exceptional football players”.
Green has been expected to be the starter all along since he was drafted. For Moore, however, it was more likely that he would be a reserve initially. In fact, that was the assumption until last week when Banner was moved to the Reserve/Injured List. He played better on the left side, though, and one imagines that as long as he plays above the line, he will stay put. Even through struggles.
“There are going to be growing pains. We’re all going to experience them, even someone in their 18th season is going to experience growing pain”, Roethlisberger said. “The key is: Do we learn from those growing pains? How often do those pains come? Do we learn from them the one time? I’m excited for them. I think they’re nervous and excited, but they have passion for this game and this team, and you can see it already. You can see those two are black and gold”.
Both young linemen were targeted specifically because the Steelers and new offensive line coach Adrian Klemm felt that they would fit into what they were looking to do in the trenches, both functionally and dispositionally.
By and large, both have displayed starter traits over the course of their rookie offseason. They wouldn’t be out there otherwise. The Steelers could have chosen to open the season with J.C. Hassenauer or B.J. Finney under center. Even at tackle, they could have started Joe Haeg with Banner sidelined.
Green and Moore are getting these opportunities because they earned them, plain and simple. Not just through their performance, but also through their professionalism and perseverance.