Given how significant the Pittsburgh Steelers’ rookie class has been so far during the 2021 season, it would be fitting if we use some of the downtime this week during the team’s bye to pause and take stock of where those rookies are right now.
Pittsburgh drafted nine players, with eight of them making the initial roster. Seven of them have been regular contributors for all or most of the season, including numerous starters, so there is a lot to discuss, with four starters on the offensive side of the ball alone.
After investing in the skill positions in the first two rounds with running back Najee Harris and tight end Pat Freiermuth, the Steelers turned to the offensive line, with center Kendrick Green in round three, followed by tackle Dan Moore Jr. in round four. All four are starting.
Their next four picks all went to the defense, starting with inside linebacker Buddy Johnson in the fourth round, followed by defensive lineman Isaiahh Loudermilk in the fifth, outside linebacker Quincy Roche in the sixth, and defensive back Tre Norwood in the seventh. They rounded things out with punter Pressley Harvin III with a final seventh-round pick.
T Dan Moore Jr. (Round 4)
Dan Moore Jr. has been the most surprising of the Steelers’ rookies, in that he has been starting all season. He wasn’t supposed to be, and if not for injury issues, he wouldn’t be. But he has, and, overall, he’s done a solid enough job to potentially keep the starting spot now that the tackle position has gotten healthy.
A fourth-round pick out of the SEC from Texas A&M, Moore gained plenty of experience and against quality competition during his college career, but there are reasons that he was not drafted earlier, and we have seen some of those. He has a real problem with bull rushes, for example, with speed-to-power moves in particular having him on skates, and he hasn’t shown great recovery.
But the important part is that he is growing, learning, and improving. He already has six NFL starts under his belt, and he is better for it. I think he has shown enough that he can be in the conversation as having the potential to be a genuine NFL starter.
The question is, what is the Steelers’ next move? They have Zach Banner back now, who may very well find his way into the starting lineup. If he does, he will displace Chukwuma Okorafor, but will Okorafor then slide to the left side, where he was supposed to play this year? Or will he go to the bench and play as the swing tackle?
With all that being said, the Steelers’ search for quality offensive linemen, including quality starting tackles, is certainly not over. All three offensive line positions should be fairly high on their needs list entering the 2022 offseason, because there is always room for improvement.