Deciding to go with the youth movement in the trenches on the offensive side of the football, the Pittsburgh Steelers came out of the 2021 NFL Draft believing right guard David Decastro and right tackle Zach Banner could carry the load for an offensive line that would likely start rookie Kendrick Green at center and bring along tackle Dan Moore Jr. slowly.
Those plans obviously changed rather quickly as Decastro was released in the summer due to an ankle injury, and Banner has yet to see snaps due to a setback in his recovery from the torn ACL he suffered in Week 1 of the 2020 season.
All that forced Moore Jr. into the lineup at left tackle and caused the Steelers to bring in veteran guard Trai Turner off the street as a late free agent signing, plugging him into the starting lineup at right guard in place of Decastro.
Since then, Turner has been the elder statesmen of the young offensive line, serving as a key leader for a group that has matured and gelled quickly, helping the Steelers get back into contention in the AFC North and in the AFC playoff picture.
On Saturday, Moore Jr. told reporters just how the offensive line views Turner in the room when asked if the five-time Pro Bowl guard is viewed as the leader of the group.
“Definitely, definitely,” Moore Jr. told reporters, according to video via Steelers.com. “We were all laughing, because we were sitting on the bench earlier and he started talking and everybody kind of gathered around him. And somebody made a joke just saying like anytime Trai’s talking and everybody kind of gathers around. He’s kinda like…the old man of our room, always preaching wisdom, coaching up the young guys. So he has a huge presence in the offensive line.”
That definitely matches what Turner talked about one day prior to Moore Jr.’s media availability, stating that the group is continuing to gel and is putting in the work away from practice and games to become better as individuals and as a unit. Behind it all is Turner, the driving force in the line’s resurgence, leading by example.
After Wednesday’s practice, the entire starting o-line reportedly remained on the field for an extra 10-15 minutes.
“That’s what those extra 10-15 minutes on the field is about. It’s one thing going over in the meeting room, but there’s a different thing when you put the cleats on,” Turner said to reporters Friday, according to video via Steelers.com. “Cleat the grass and actually feel punches, feel steps, feel sets. Actually getting to describe and show rather than just articulate what to do. Showing people how to do things and going over the small details and nuances of things. Just to critique it and create a clearer and better understanding.”
Having a veteran who has seen it all and played at a high level for a long stretch of his career has certainly helped the Steelers’ young offensive linemen develop in a hurry, helping the Steelers get back to winning ways in the process.