With the 2022 NFL Draft now just weeks away, it is as fitting a time as any for us to now turn our attentions backward to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ draft class of 2021, looking back on their first year in the league and what their futures look like at this point. The team got an inordinate amount of playing time from their rookie class last season, with almost every draft pick contributing significantly.
In all, the Steelers held nine draft selections, including one in the fifth round after they traded a 2022 fourth-round draft pick for one, so they won’t have one this year. They had at least one selection in every round, with two in the fourth and two in the seventh.
Their first four selections were all on offense, the first time in history they used their first four selections on one side of the ball. Their next four draft picks were all defensive players, but they finished their class with one special-teams selection.
Have the Steelers found their left tackle of the future in the fourth round of the 2021 NFL Draft? The team has seemingly given indications that they think they may have. Dan Moore Jr. out of Texas A&M started 17 games at left tackle last season as a rookie, and figures to be penciled in as the starter for 2022, as well.
That was a sudden change, with the lineup originally projected to have Chukwuma Okorafor at left tackle and Zach Banner at right tackle. After Banner had a setback in his recovery from a knee injury, Okorafor kicked over to the right side to allow Moore to play at left tackle, where he was much more comfortable.
The rookie struggled significantly, as one would expect, especially early on, but his overall trajectory over the course of the season was a positive one, showing improved play in the second half of the year. The Steelers seem to be at least cautiously optimistic that he can develop into a quality starter.
It would obviously be a huge win for the Steelers to find a franchise left tackle in the middle rounds, but they don’t have to be locked into that. There is no reason that they couldn’t draft another tackle on day two this year, potentially even in the first round.
As far as Moore goes, it will be interesting to see how he develops. I’m not projecting Pro Bowls in his near future, but I certainly rule out any possibility that he can soften some of his rough edges and become the type of starter that they’re not perennially looking to upgrade.
The reality is that the Steelers do have a history of not prioritizing the tackle position. They have a much richer history of interior linemen rather than tackles, who have mostly been serviceable rather than exceptional. Moore certainly has it in him to develop into a serviceable starter with the right coaching and talent around him.