Solving the quarterback situation is priority #1 for the Pittsburgh Steelers. But right behind that is improving the five men tasked with protecting whoever is under center in 2022. Speaking with WTAE’s Andrew Stockey Thursday, Steelers’ President Art Rooney II gave an overview to how the team is approaching its offensive line this offseason.
“Certainly offensive line is something we’ll be looking at,” Rooney told Stockey. “It was not where we want it to be this past season.”
The Steelers completely retooled their offensive line from 2020 to 2021. Not one of their Week 1 starts this past season started two years ago. LT Dan Moore Jr and C Kendrick Green were rookies, LG Kevin Dotson was in his second year, RG Trai Turner replaced injured veteran David DeCastro, and RT Chukwuma Okorafor briefly served as the Steelers’ backup before Zach Banner’s 2020 ACL tear.
Expectedly, the line struggled, especially early in the season, and they needed to be reminded of basic fundamentals like helping your quarterback up when he does get hit. While things improved by year’s end, Ben Roethlisberger was sacked 38 times in the regular season, his highest since 2013. Even his NFL-quickest snap-to-time throw couldn’t keep those sack numbers down. Compare that to a season ago when Roethlisberger was sacked just 13 times and went multiple games without being sacked once.
Despite the line’s problems, Rooney pointed out the youth and hopefully, the development of this group heading into 2022.
“We did have some young guys stepping in and we look for those young guys to continue to develop.”
Turner aside, the Steelers had a young and largely inexperienced offensive line. Dan Moore Jr’s game significantly improved over the final eight weeks of the season, while Dotson is only going into his third year while missing the latter half of 2021 due to a high ankle sprain. Even Kendrick Green will be a better version of himself in year two, much more comfortable at center assuming the Steelers keep him there.
The Steelers will have decisions to make prior to free agency. Turner and Okorafor are set to be free agents. While neither will be at the top of the market, linemen aren’t cheap, especially mid-20 year tackles like Okorafor. Banner earned $4.5 million per year an offseason ago despite having one career start at tackle in Pittsburgh. Okorafor should command well north of that number. And Rooney recognized the team’s O-line rebuild isn’t done yet.
“But we’re gonna have to add some pieces to the mix as well.”
It’s unlikely both Turner and Okorafor are retained and certainly possible both are let go. If the latter occurs, the team will likely sign at least one starter in free agency in addition to spending early draft picks addressing the position.