It’s that time of year again. Free agency is creeping up in just a couple of weeks, so before we get there, we’ll get going over the Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster, position by position, making an assessment of what kind of shape they’re in, trying to figure out how they might, or should, attack the roster on that basis.
The Steelers are likely to be subject to more change than they are used to this year, with more than a dozen players scheduled to be unrestricted free agents, including numerous starters. Ben Roethlisberger’s retirement looms large over all discussions for the foreseeable future.
Position: Offensive Tackle
Total Positional Figure: 6
Dan Moore Jr.: A fourth-round draft pick last season, Moore started all but one game at left tackle last season, missing one due to injury. While he had significant struggles at the start of the year, he did show encouraging signs of growth as the season progressed, including a physicality in the run game.
Chukwuma Okorafor: A four-year veteran, Okorafor has been the team’s primary right tackle for the past two years, though he was intended to be a backup in 2020, and was supposed to move to the left side in 2021. While he has developed overall into a mostly solid option, he will be an unrestricted free agent.
Zach Banner: The intended starter at right tackle entering both the 2020 and 2021 seasons, Banner has only managed to play 64 snaps during that time. An ACL injury in the 2020 opener has, at least for the time being, derailed his opportunities. He had a setback in his recovery just before the start of the 2021 regular season, which landed him on the Reserve/Injured List for a while. By the time he returned, the lineup was set, and he was even passed over for the next man on the list when Okorafor missed a start.
Joe Haeg: Signed at the start of free agency last season to a modest two-year deal, Haeg gave the Steelers over 300 snaps on offense, including a start on each side of the line at tackle. He did a solid enough job, and could potentially become a mainstay on the depth chart among reserves.
John Leglue: After spending most of the year on the practice squad, Leglue eventually got called up due to injury, and made a number of starts at left guard. However, he has tackle size, and a background there as well, so he has position flexibility, which could eventually come useful.
Chaz Green: A veteran tackle, Green was on the Steelers’ practice squad, but was elevated a couple of times due to injury, stressing as a reserve. He was signed after the season to a Reserve/Future contract.
The Steelers have to be pretty open about this position entering this offseason and not operate under the assumption that any starting job is locked in. Ideally, they should be able to add at least one clear new starter via free agency, and at least one potential candidate via the draft.
If a franchise quarterback candidate isn’t there in the first round, I would expect that a number of offensive linemen will be on their board who could be selected with their first pick. And there really isn’t a round in which they shouldn’t be considering the position.
At the same time, they have to give thought to their own free agents, Okorafor as previously mentioned, and Trai Turner, who started at right guard last season. They were arguably their two most consistent linemen in terms of season-long play, though that’s not a shock given Kendrick Green’s struggles, the carousel at left guard, and Moore’s shaky start to the season.