While we await official confirmation, it appears likely that the Pittsburgh Steelers are gearing up to start rookie fourth-round pick, Dan Moore Jr., at left tackle in the regular-season opener a week from today. He has been practicing there since last week with the first-team offensive line, and the team placing Zach Banner on the Reserve/Injured List almost makes it a guarantee that he will have to be out there.
Whether he is or is not, Moore knows one thing: the line will dictate the fate of the Steelers’ offense this year. That is a mentality that is shared throughout the offensive line room, instilled in them by Coach Adrian Klemm, and it’s one they’ve taken to heart and believe in fully.
“100 percent. As far as I’m concerned, this team is going to go as far as this offensive line goes, at least on offense”, Moore said when speaking to reporters early last week. “We put the pressure on our backs, and that’s the way it should be. Keep our quarterback clean and keep our running back getting yards”.
There is a lot of pressure on their backs, in part because of the performance of their predecessors, who are now mostly gone. Four-fifths of last year’s starting offensive line is now gone, all established veterans, that chain of departures beginning with center Maurkice Pouncey announcing his retirement.
Both left guard Matt Feiler and left tackle Alejandro Villanueva subsequently left in free agency, the former with the Los Angeles Chargers and the latter now the Baltimore Ravens’ right tackle. In late June, the Steelers waived right guard David DeCastro with an injury designation after learning that he would require ankle surgery. DeCastro will revisit whether or not he wants to continue playing once he’s fully healed.
Most of the line was to be made up of in-house promotions, but with Banner on the shelf for at least three weeks, the Steelers will start three players in week one who were not in the team last year. Aside from Moore, another rookie, third-round pick Kendrick Green, will start at center.
The other new addition is now the team’s most veteran offensive lineman, with Trai Turner heading into his eighth season. He has been to the Pro Bowl five times, and he has readily accepted the role of instructor and mentor to the team’s young offensive linemen.
While Banner was to be one holdover from last season’s roster, the Steelers still return Chukwuma Okorafor and Kevin Dotson. Okorafor, now in his fourth season, has 18 starts at right tackle, 16 coming last year. He had been working on the left side until last week with Banner’s status changing.
Dotson was a rookie last season after being selected in the fourth round out of Louisiana-Lafayette, yet appears to be the one offensive lineman that most observers feel good about. Pro Football Focus recently projected that he is in line for a big season, while remaining skeptical about the rest of the Steelers’ offensive line.