The Steelers’ offensive line enters the 2022 offseason in a bit of disarray. It’s the team’s biggest area of concern, along with quarterback, of course. The team figures to make some reinforcements in free agency or the draft, or both, but they also need more from some of the in-house players.
GM Kevin Colbert discussed two players in specific on the offensive line at the NFL Combine on Tuesday when speaking to reporters.
“Those players [Banner and Dotson] didn’t contribute for us as we expected last year and we expect more,” he said. “We expect more opportunities and I believe they’ll have those opportunities.”
Kevin Dotson was expected to be the future at one of the guard spots for the Steelers. While he did start nine games at left guard, his performance didn’t go as planned. Injuries and COVID forced him to miss action as well, but he certainly disappointed in 2021.
As for Zach Banner, his ACL recovery from 2020 seemed to really set him back in 2021. Originally expected to be ready by training camp, Banner wasn’t healthy until a few weeks into the regular season. By then, rookie Dan Moore Jr. and Chukwuma Okorafor established themselves as the starters at tackle.
From there, the swing tackle was behind the eight ball. He wound up playing in seven games with just five offensive snaps. Entering his fourth year in black and gold, Colbert’s comments make it seem Banner will get a clean slate to prove himself.
“In all honesty, they need to give us more than we got last year and some of that was health-related. We understand that. But we also understand that we need more, we need better, and we’re going to work to try and get there.”
A right guard for much of his football career, Dotson has had to transition to left guard in the NFL. Matt Feiler’s departure and Trai Turner’s arrival at RG opened up the spot at LG for Dotson.
Banner’s spot on the team is a bit up in the air. Multiple acquisitions will likely occur in the offseason and Banner has a cap hit of $6.6 million in 2022. In other words, releasing him wouldn’t come as a shock to any. Moore Jr. seems to have one side locked down for the future, while Okorafor is an unrestricted free agent.
It’s clear Colbert is sending a message to these guys for 2022. It’s a huge offseason for the futures of both Dotson and Banner. Only time will tell, as the offseason continues.