The Pittsburgh Steelers have already confirmed that they are moving on into the 2022 season with the assumption that Ben Roethlisberger will not be their quarterback. Head coach Mike Tomlin even seemed to acknowledge recently that he doesn’t view either Mason Rudolph or Dwayne Haskins, at least at this time, as full-fledged starters. Quarterback, in other words, is a glaring, crying, screaming need.
But it’s not the Steelers’ biggest need this offseason, according to Pro Football Focus, and I would have to agree with them. In a recent article breaking down team draft needs for those who have been eliminated from the postseason, the outlet highlighted instead the men up front: the offensive line.
“The big, glaring storyline surrounding the Steelers this offseason will be how they transition into life without Ben Roethlisberger”, Ben Linsey wrote. “Whether Pittsburgh decides to go big at the position or simply insert Rudolph or Haskins into the starting lineup, improving the offensive line should be the team’s biggest priority this offseason”.
While the Steelers’ offensive line was already in need of sprucing up from 2020, they lost four starters in one year, with left tackle Alejandro Villanueva and left guard/right tackle Matt Feiler leaving in free agency.
Future Hall of Fame center Maurkice Pouncey retired, and the team’s hand was forced in releasing right guard David DeCastro when an MRI revealed that he would require ankle surgery that would preclude him from being available at the start of the year. DeCastro has presumably effectively retired at this point, as well.
The team used a portion of the cap space saved with DeCastro’s release to replace him with a veteran on the downswing in Trai Turner, plugged in at right guard. Third-round rookie Kendrick Green started at center, and fourth-round rookie Dan Moore Jr. started at left tackle, with second-year Kevin Dotson emerging at left guard, though he spent half the year injured. Chukwuma Okorafor moved back to left tackle after Zach Banner had a setback in his rehab.
And nobody played at a level that would distinguish themselves as irreplaceable. Pro Football Focus provided a list of potential replacements, while noting that the Steelers as an offensive line recorded the most ‘lost’ pass-blocking reps on the season of any team on plays in which they didn’t give up a pressure—thanks to Roethlisberger’s incredibly rapid time-to-throw.
No surprise, but interior lineman Tyler Linderbaum out of Iowa leads the outlet’s list of potential future Steelers. Kenyon Green, a tackle/guard out of Texas A&M (and thus a college teammate of Moore’s) is also on the list, as are tackles Trevor Penning out of Northern Iowa and Daniel Faalele from Minnesota.