I am sure you have heard what the definition of insanity is several times in the past. When you do the same thing over and over again but expect a different result, people are going to look at you funny. That is probably how a large portion of Steelers fans feel about rookie LT Dan Moore Jr., who has so far had an up-and-down showing in 2021 after being thrust into the starting lineup with OT Zach Banner starting the season on IR. Since Banner’s return, Moore and Chukwuma Okorafor have manned the starting tackle spots, leaving Banner a game day inactive. HC Mike Tomlin stated this move was done to “put the best five out there we think can help us win that week.”
However, after Monday night’s game against the Bears, Tomlin recognized in his press conference Tuesday that he will be evaluating the play of his offensive line who notably took a step back in the running game to decide who the best five would be before taking the field against the winless Detroit Lions Sunday. This question was asked in direct correlation to Dan Moore Jr., who had his moments of struggle with the rest of the offensive line establishing the run game Monday night, but more importantly continued to struggle in pass protection in another contest against Chicago.
I most recently broke down Moore’s performance against Myles Garrett in the win over the Cleveland Browns a week ago where he understandably struggled to neutralize one of the best edge rushers in the game, but Moore’s struggles in pass protection date back to the beginning of the season against Buffalo as well as poor performances against Yannick Ngakoue of the Raiders, Trey Hendrickson of the Bengals, and several pass rushers of the Packers. Moore has had tendencies to shoot his hands early and drop his eyes in pass protection, looking to get a hand on the edge rusher quickly rather than be patient in attempt to make the defender run the arc.
His inconsistent footwork in his pass set, along with the dropping of his head results in his feet to pause, causing Moore to lunge forward at times in his pass set, something that anyone knows that evaluates OL play is a big no-no and will lead to losing reps. That is exactly what happens here in the first quarter when Moore goes against #94 Robert Quinn on the play action pass as Moore quick sets out of his stance to square up Quinn, pauses his feet, and leans forward into his block, allowing Quinn to treat him like a turnstile as he bends around the edge right into Ben for the sack.
The exact same thing happens here on this incomplete pass to Diontae Johnson as Moore uses more of a traditional vertical set this time on Quinn but isn’t able to set the depth of the pocket and panics as Quinn begins to turn the corner, putting his left arm into Quinn’s chest and uses his momentum to ride him around the depth of the pocket just out of reach or Roethlisberger as he attempts the pass. It could be possible that Ben threw this ball early and off-target due to the pressure of Quinn coming around the edge, but either way, Moore avoided being the culprit of another sack by just a hair on this play.
Moore has also had moments on tape where he has noticeably struggled to play with leverage, standing too high up in his pass protection, needing more hip flexion to set a proper anchor against the bull rush. On this incomplete pass by Ben where he loses his grip, we see Moore get walked back by Quinn on the bull rush as Moore gets poor hand placement outside Quinn’s shoulders and stands up high in his stance with little knee bend, making it easy for Quinn to get inside his chest and create instant pressure on the pocket.
Moore may not technically give up the sack here as #98 Bilal Nichols gets the sack on the stat sheet on Ben here, but Moore loses this rep bad leading to Ben getting tripped up as Nichols closes in as Ben stumbles due to the contact by Quinn coming off the edge. Notice how Moore starts in good position against Quinn on this rep, but he slows his feet as he turns his shoulders too early, leading to a poor punch and hand placement on the defender with one hand inside his chest and the other on his back.
Quinn bends the edge smoothly right into Roethlisberger and Moore ends up tackling Quinn to the ground rather than giving up another sack. However, Quinn is still able to get to Ben’s feet, impacting the play as Moore gets the holding call.
When Moore’s hands and feet are synced up, he fares well in pass protection. On this incompletion out of the back of the end zone by Ben, watch how Moore gets a clean pass set out of his stance, showing patience in his vertical set as Quinn gets off the ball, striking him with good hand placement inside his chest with his feet and shoulders squaring him up and enough hip and knee bend to avoid getting pushed back in the pocket, staying on Quinn as he tries to counter back inside, neutralizing Quinn for the entire rep.
Overall, Dan Moore Jr. has been a pleasant surprise as a rookie starting LT when it comes to his play in the run game. He generates a strong push off the ball regularly and plays with the demeanor you want to see in an offense trying to establish an identity in the run game. However, his inconsistencies as a pass protector are a major concern, as EDGE rushers are getting to Ben Roethlisberger far too often when he is tasked with protecting the blindside. It is reasonable to expect a fourth-round rookie may struggle being thrust into the starting role against high-level completion in his first season, but what concerns me is that Moore is struggling with the exact same issues in Week 9 that he did in Week 1 with little-to-no proof that improvement is being made.
He consistently makes the same mistakes in pass protection, and that could be vetted as an experience thing, but when the same mistake is made over and over again, when does it get labeled as a mental processing/ technical execution issue? Dave Bryan and Alex Kozora have discussed on the Terrible podcast whether it is more of a hands or feet problem with Moore, and I can say that both correlate to his failures in pass protection. His feet tend to slow down or stall altogether at times and his initial punch can be sporadic with it comes to placement. The forward lean/dropping of the head is what dooms Moore on his failed reps, and these issues need to be addressed ASAP by Adrian Klemm.
Tomlin already recognized the need to address the OL situation this week, and with Moore struggling as much as he is in pass protection, the possibility on kicking Okorafor to LT and giving Banner the chance to chance to start at RT may take place sooner rather than later. Pittsburgh would lose some in the run game going from Moore to Okorafor on the left side, but at the end of the day, the offensive line needs to keep its QB upright. If Moore can’t prove he can’t get those repeated issues worked out, it would make sense to sit him down with the protection of Ben in-mind.
What do you think of Dan Moore Jr.’s performance against the Bears and on the season in general when it comes to pass protection? Am I being unfair to the rookie trying to adjust to the speed of the NFL game, or is the criticism of his errors in pass protection warranted? If Moore would continue to struggle or get sat down for Okorafor, should Pittsburgh consider placing a high caliber OT that excels in pass protection near the top of the list of draft needs come next spring? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below and thanks again for reading!