One matchup that Steelers fans and national media alike were keeping an eye heading into Pittsburgh’s divisional showdown against the Cleveland Browns Sunday was how rookie LT Dan Moore Jr. would hold up against All-Pro pass rusher Myles Garrett. Garrett came into the game with 9.5 sacks along with ten TFLs, making a statement league-wide to be in consideration with Pittsburgh EDGE T.J. Watt as a frontrunner for the NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award. Moore had his highs and lows so far this season, as to be expected for the fourth-round rookie out of Texas A&M thrust into the starting job Day One in the NFL. However, Sunday’s matchup with Garrett would prove to be Moore’s greatest test yet.
For the most part, the game went as expected by many for Moore who struggled to contain Garrett as he was left on an island with the talented edge rusher for most of the contest. As Pro Football Focus stated after the game: “Dan Moore Jr. had a difficult time handling Myles Garrett on the edge, as he was beaten eight times and allowed three hurries and one sack on 36 pass-blocking snaps. He allowed pressure on 13.9% of his snaps to finish with a 0.0 pass-blocking grade.”
Pittsburgh did Moore no favors, giving hardly any help on the edge against one of the NFL’s best, and Garrett made them pay for It. Garrett famously sported a Grim Reaper costume before the game including a cape with the names of all the QBs he has sacked since entering the league, and was able to add another tally to Ben Roethlisberger’s name in this one. On this play as Pittsburgh is driving at the end of the second half, we watch #95 Garrett get a fantastic jump off the ball on the snap, easily getting the outside shoulder of Moore who fails to seal off the edge as Roethlisberger gets hit from behind in the pocket for the sack on second down.
While Garrett was only credited with one sack on the day, he was extremely close to another that his teammate #58 Malik McDowell benefits from. Watch as Garrett gets right into Moore’s chest off the snap, walking him back in the pocket with the long arm right into Roethlisberger. He attempts to counter back inside across Moore’s face for the sack, but Ben starts to run up in the pocket right into McDowell who slams him into the ground for the big hit after tossing #69 Kevin Dotson with ease to get to the passer.
There were plenty of other close calls where Moore gives up the pressure in this game where Ben manages to get rid of the ball just in time before Garrett can get there to wreak the play. Here is one example on third-and-long on this completion to #88 Pat Freiermuth where Garrett does a great job bending around the corner on the rip right into the pocket, but Roethlisberger feels the pressure and goes to the check down option, failing to pick up the first down. Moore noticeably fails to move his feet on this rep and almost horse collar tackles Garrett behind after falling to the ground.
Here is another rep against Garrett in the first quarter where Garrett fakes inside on Moore who freezes his feet in pass protection, giving Garrett the easy outside rush to get to Ben as he drops back. Ben again is able to sense the pressure coming from behind and targets Freiermuth who fails to bring in the diving catch attempt.
However, when Moore wasn’t tasked with facing one of the most dominant defenders in the league one-on-one, he actually represented himself well. Here on this pass protection rep against #91 Joe Jackson, Moore gets a good vertical set off the snap and gets a good initial punch inside the pass rusher’s chest. Moore forklifts Jackson up once he has him squared up on his block, neutralizing the rush and allows Roethlisberger to fire it to the end zone on a pass that ultimately is too high for his intended target.
When it came to run blocking, Moore actually excelled in this area against Cleveland Sunday afternoon. Dave Bryan and Alex Kozora discussed in the most recent edition of The Terrible Podcast that Moore, as well as the rest of the offensive line, came up big in the running game, providing a great push upfront to allow #22 Najee Harris to rip off several successful runs against a fairly stout Cleveland defensive front. Here is one example were Moore gets a great down block on #97 Malik Jackson, washing him down the LOS, creating a big hole that Harris runs through into the second level as he takes the ball past the chains for the first down.
Probably Moore’s best play of the afternoon came on this run that has been highlighted by Bryan on Steelers Depot as well as offensive line guru Geoff Schwartz. Watch as Moore fires out of his stance at LT and aggressively attacks the outside shoulder of McDowell, throwing him to the ground as he combos off to #4 Anthony Walker at the second level, latching on to the defender and proceeds to run him backward five yards as Harris hole created on the blocks, getting first down yardage on the impressive surge upfront on the left side of the offensive line.
I am in no way neglecting the fact that Moore had a bad day at the office when it came to pass protection against Myles Garrett. He got beat on several occasions badly and if it weren’t for Ben recognizing the pressure coming, Garrett could have had an even bigger day on the stat sheet. However, seeing as Garrett has beaten the likes of Garett Bolles, Orlando Brown Jr., and fellow rookie OT Rashawn Slater for at least one sack in each of his previous matchups, putting Moore in a similar category can be seen as sort of a win given the fact that Moore was left on an island for most of the afternoon in his seventh start against one of the league’s best.
While many will write off Moore’s performance as a complete disaster, I like to look at it from a “Tale of Two Cities” perspective. Sure, he did struggle in pass protection, and that honestly was to be expected. However, Moore showed up big in the run blocking department, displaying the mobility, physicality, and nastiness Pittsburgh has been looking for all season, regularly driving defenders off the ball and getting a surge upfront to allow Harris to get several successful runs which were key in sealing the win. Moore needs to continue to develop as a pass protector and handle some of the league’s best but given his performance on the ground and what Pittsburgh wants its offensive identity to be, Moore presents promise moving forward.
What are your thoughts on Dan Moore’s performance Sunday against Myles Garrett and the Browns? Do you think that he should be benched for an alternative option, or do you think he represented himself well given the circumstances? How would you look at his play in pass protection compared to in the running game against Cleveland? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below and thanks again for reading!