The regular season marks the culmination of an extensive investigation into who your team will be that year. By this point, you’ve gone through free agency, the draft, training camp, and the preseason. You feel good in your decisions insofar as you can create clarity without having played meaningful games. But there are still plenty of uncertainties that remain, whether at the start of the regular season or the end, and new ones continually develop over time.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: Joe Haeg should be given the chance to start at right tackle regardless of who else is available this week.
Explanation: While I wasn’t rushing to pre-fill my Pro Bowl ballot to right in Joe Haeg, the veteran lineman did play pretty well, all things considered, in his start at right tackle on Sunday, and can potentially provide more balance than Chukwuma Okorafor or Zach Banner.
While Haeg has not been a primary starter for a few years now, he is the most experienced tackle on the Steelers’ roster, and the most proven run-blocker—even if PFF has him graded poorly as a run-blocker after Sunday’s game, though they graded him highly in the preseason.
Chukwuma Okorafor has more experience in the Steelers’ system, but it’s not like Haeg doesn’t know what he’s doing, and has been here since March. This is a new offense under a new offensive line coach, so they’re all largely in the same boat, anyway. His performance on Sunday was probably the best single game they’ve gotten out of a tackle so far this year.
For starters, we haven’t gotten the opportunity to see Zach Banner back yet, and he has been the intended starter at right tackle for the past two seasons. He’s only made it to one start during that time due to a torn ACL. When he recovers, he needs to at least be given the opportunity to take over that role.
Another factor to consider is the compensatory pick formula. I don’t recall the specific details, but a certain threshold of playing time, relative to other compensatory free agents, could cost the Steelers a compensatory pick in 2022 if he plays too much. It’s not as though his level of play is so astounding that it would be a crime to keep him off the field. This line still needs the opportunity to grow and gel. It will get better regardless of who is playing at right tackle.