If one thing was obvious to the Pittsburgh Steelers coming out of the 2021 season, it was that the quality of performance from the offensive line was insufficient. To that end, they have signed two outside free-agent offensive linemen to significant contracts, and the 2022 NFL Draft still awaits.
To that end, one of the biggest pieces of the puzzle is figuring out whether and where their 2021 NFL draft selections at the position fit. Fourth-round choice Dan Moore Jr. started 17 games at left tackle last season. Third-round pick Kendrick Green started 15 games before suffering a late-season ankle injury.
Thus far, Pittsburgh’s offseason moves, outside of re-signing right tackle Chukwuma Okorafor, have focused on bolstering the interior offensive line, with the additions of James Daniels and Mason Cole, both of whom have experience at both guard and center, though the former is preferably a guard and the latter preferably a center.
So what does this mean for Green as he heads into his second season? Exactly what we assumed all along, apparently. Speaking from the annual league meeting Florida just recently, head coach Mike Tomlin confirmed (again) that the team is open to moving Green to guard, if that is what it takes to put the best offensive line combination on the field.
Coach Tomlin said he is open to switching Kendrick Green to put the best unit on the field and have quality depth.
— Teresa Varley (@Teresa_Varley) March 27, 2022
“He had true position flexibility in college. All the other guys do as well”, Tomlin added, via Teresa Varley, covering his remarks for the team’s website. “We really feel good about having an opportunity to put the pieces together to put the very best unit that we can on the field and not only that but have quality depth to address attrition and the things that naturally happen during the course of the journey”.
Primarily a guard during his time at Illinois, Green was moved to center by the Steelers coming out of college last year, where he started only four games. He talked, both during training camp and during the regular season, about some of the struggles that he encountered making the adjustments from center to guard.
Cole, meanwhile, has stated multiple times since signing that his preference would be to play the center position, even though he is open to playing guard, and has significant experience starting there as well. There is also J.C. Hassenauer as a potential center candidate.
As we sit here today, I would expect that Daniels and Cole will make up two-thirds of the Steelers’ starting interior offensive line, with Daniels at guard and Cole at center. That would leave one guard position up for grabs, with Kevin Dotson a 2021 incumbent, though he missed the majority of the past season due to injury.
This is pure speculation on my part, of course. There is a lot of offseason left, both in terms of acquisition opportunity and actual training and coaching. I think the only thing we can guarantee right now is that Daniels will be starting, providing that there are no unforeseen snags over the next six months.
Green graded out as one of the worst centers in the league last season, and when you watch his tape, it really confirms that. Still, one could easily argue that he wasn’t ready to start last season, and shouldn’t have been in that position. He should certainly be in a better place going into 2022, but will that be at a starter level—and will that be at center or guard?