It’s been a rough start to the 2021 season for a rebuilt Pittsburgh Steelers’ offensive line under new head position coach Adrian Klemm and new assistant coach Chris Morgan.
Injuries, position changes and relatively poor play across the board has factored into that rough start. Fortunately for the Steelers and Klemm, veteran swing tackle Joe Haeg helped get the Steelers’ offensive line back on track in Week 4 at the Green Bay Packers.
Haeg, who signed with the Steelers as a free agent, stepped into the starting role with Chukwuma Okorafor in Week 4 and played well, according to Klemm, who spoke to the media Friday ahead of the Week 5 matchup with the Denver Broncos.
“Yeah. Joe’s a guy with a ton of experience, just won a Super Bowl last year and he’s played all along the line, you know, everything but center, he’s played extra tight and he’s done all those things,” Klemm said Friday, according to audio provided by the team. “You know, we have some guys that are and have done pretty well at tackle in terms of putting themselves in the mix, you know, and competing. And Joe’s right there, he’s on the cusp. We saw him go in the game last week and I thought he did a pretty nice job. He competed at a high level. He was physical. He did all the things necessary to what we asked him; no missed assignments. You’re just competing, you know, but it’s all of them competing and…his number’s called, he’s ready to answer. And I think he did that last week.”
Against the Packers, Haeg played all 60 offensive snaps and had the fourth-highest grade among offensive linemen, though he provided much-needed stability in pass protection and moved some bodies for the Steelers’ rushing attack.
Steelers Depot contributor Jonathan Heitritter put together a film room piece of Haeg’s performance on Sunday against the Packers, highlighting Haeg’s abilities in the run game and in pass protection, stating that he came away very pleased overall with Haeg’s performance.
“For being “athletically limited” as a pass protector, Haeg provided some of the best pass protection we have seen from the tackle spot this season,” Heitritter writes. “Not only was he able to anchor in against power and handle the counter inside, but he also showed technique to keep pass rushers from winning with speed around the edge.”
Though Haeg played well and pleased Klemm, it appears that Okorafor will return to the starting lineup on Sunday against the Broncos, fully recovering from a concussion suffered against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 3. Haeg has certainly shown his ability to hold down the fort at right tackle, but at the very least he’ll be back to providing solid depth at the position once again.