When the Pittsburgh Steelers draft OT Dan Moore Jr. in the fourth round of the 2021 NFL Draft, the supposed intention was to have Moore come in and compete with FA signing Joe Haeg to be the swing tackle with Chukwuma Okorafor and Zach Banner penciled in at the starting tackle spots. However, when Banner got put on IR after dealing with complications involving his ACL rehab, Moore was thrust into the starting lineup, being thrown to the wolves as the blindside protector for Ben Roethlisberger as Okorafor kicked back to RT where he played the entire 2020 season.
When looking back at Moore’s performance, it went about as well as you can expect for a fourth-round rookie that was seen as more of a developmental prospect coming out of Texas A&M than a plug-and-play guy like some first round tackles can be. It was trial by fire for Moore at the beginning of the season, getting exposed in several areas of his game that we highlighted coming out of college. However, there was a maturation process with Moore throughout the season and given the team’s decision to keep him in the starting lineup despite his struggles, all signs point to him remaining a starter in 2022.
With this being said, I wanted to go through Moore’s final game of the season against Kansas City and highlight areas of his game that he still needs to work on heading into next season in order to take his game to the next level as well as highlight several areas where he showed growth over the course of the 2021 campaign.
Where Moore Needs To Get Better:
Playing with Leverage/Hip Bend
When watching Dan Moore Jr. this season, one issue that consistently stuck out on tape was his lack of leverage both in pass protection as well as a run blocker. Standing at 6’5, 315lb, Moore has the size of a prototypical LT in the NFL, but tends to play high in his pass sets, being susceptible to losing the leverage game against smaller power rushers. For example, watch as Moore gets a great vertical pass set out of his stance, but can’t keep #24 Melvin Ingram from getting underneath him, taking him for a ride into the pocket as he gets uprooted by the power rush. Developing a snatch trap move would be ideal for situations like these to use Ingram’s leverage against him.
Here’s an example of Moore playing high in the run game, getting into #55 Frank Clark off the snap, but gets extended almost immediately, stopping his push forward as Clark shocks him back with the left long arm, holding Moore up as #22 Najee Harris runs to the outside, stacking and shedding Moore to force Harris back inside where he is bottled up for a loss on the play. You can say that Moore needs to use his hands better to keep Clark off his shoulder but coming out of his stance low and with leverage will generate more of a forward push rather than a stalemate at the LOS.
When categorizing “better leverage”, I am specifically referring to hip bend and the ability to drop anchor against the rush. Hip flexion is key for offensive linemen as they take on large defensive linemen coming at them full speed, needing to absorb the contact and stall the rush while holding their spot. We see on this rep against #51 Mike Danna that Moore stands fairly upright out of his stance, allowing Danna to get up underneath him and bulldoze him back into Roethlisberger’s lap who manages to get the pass off.
Here is another example in just a few plays later where Danna does the exact same thing to Moore, walking him back into the lap of the QB, forcing Ben to throw the ball hot. When working with athletes as a strength and conditioning coach, hip flexion often comes back to either an issue of a weak posterior chain or overall lack of flexibility. While Moore may benefit from improving his flexibility, his main focus this offseason should be getting stronger in his lower half, especially in his glutes and hamstrings to better sit in against the rush and not cede ground on nearly every pass blocking snap like we have seen for a majority of the season.
While I do think Moore can play with better hip bend on this rep, this play does give an example of Moore syncing up his feet and punch to neutralize the rush by Danna. He gets a great vertical pass set and gets a good punch inside the defender’s chest, digging his feet into the ground as he battles to keep Danna’s hands off his frame, giving Ben the time he needs in the pocket to find Johnson for the TD strike.
Sustaining His Blocks
Along with syncing up his hands and feet together, Moore needs to continue working on sustaining his blocks in the run game instead of the initial punch and allowing the defender to fall off and pursue the football. We see an example of that here where Moore gets into Frank Clark and shocks him back with his first punch, but then allows Clark to run across his face and get in on the tackle attempt. Again, it’s a leverage issue for Moore as he is standing nearly upright after the initial hit, rather needing to stay low and drive his feet on contact to push Clark out of the play.
Moving His Feet Laterally
When it comes to vertical pass sets, Moore is about as good as they come kicking that left leg back on the snap of the football. However, when he is asked to mirror defenders in pass protection from side to side, his feet appear to get heavy and he has a tough time staying in-phase with the pass rush. Here’s a perfect example where Moore does a good job ceiling off the outside to Clark, but turns his shoulders too quickly without having his feet in position to cut off the counter back inside which Clark exploits, going across Moore’s face as his feet plod to the right, wrapping up Harris in the backfield to stuff the play.
Where Moore Has Improved:
While it may feel like I have been grilling Moore up until this point, I do want to point out some areas he appears to have growth through his first season in the league. As mentioned earlier, Moore can execute blocks at a high level when his feet and hands are synced up together. In terms of hand placement on his pass sets and run fits, this is an area that has shown improvement from the beginning of the year. Watch how Moore gets a good punch inside Clark’s chest and then keeps his left arm inside and places his right hand on Clark’s inside hand, being able to turn Clark away from the play and create a running lane off his backside.
Executing Down Blocks
Going back to the college tape, Moore appeared to be an effective down blocker in the run game. While he has a transition period early in the season going up against NFL talent, he has shown to represent himself well in this area of his game when crashing down on a defender’s outside shoulder like we see here against #90 Jarran Reed While the play design may have been flawed expecting #88 Pat Freiermuth to seal off a grown man like Melvin Ingram who makes the play, Moore executes his assignment washing the defender down the LOS, albeit needing to stay upright and not fall of his block like mentioned earlier.
Vertical Set in Pass Protection
As mentioned, several times previously, Moore has that kick back in his vertical pass set down that you like to see in a blindside protector. He needs to continue working on consistently setting the depth of the pocket after that, but he has plenty of snap in that left leg. He may not be at the level of David Bakhtiari when it comes to his kick step, but no one is currently in the league. Given it being his first season as a professional, you have to be happy where Moore is at in this facet of his game.
In summary, Dan Moore Jr. may not shock the world with dominating play at the tackle position, but given the expectations and circumstances, it was pretty close to what you could expect this season. There is no denying he must get stronger in his lower half in order to play with a more consistent anchor and better leverage as well as work on his lateral foot speed to prevent counters back inside. However, Moore did make subtle strides in his play to close out the season, giving hope that he can potentially develop into a serviceable starter going forward into 2022.
What are your thoughts on Dan Moore Jr.’s play overall this season? Do you think that he improved over the course of the year, or was his performance similar at the end as it was at the beginning? Do you think that he can be a capable starting OT going forward, and should Pittsburgh trust him to man the LT spot in 2022? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below and thanks again for reading!