With the 2022 new league year, the questions will be plenty for quite a while, even as the Pittsburgh Steelers spend cash and cap space and use draft picks in an effort to find answers. We don’t know who the quarterback is going to be yet—even if we have a good idea. How will the offensive line be formulated? How will the secondary develop amid changes, including to the coaching staff? What does Teryl Austin bring to the table—and Brian Flores? What will Matt Canada’s offense look like absent Ben Roethlisberger?
These sorts of uncertainties are what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
Topic Statement: The Steelers will draft an offensive tackle before they draft an interior offensive lineman.
Explanation: When you have a Pro Bowl running back and still finish last in the league in rushing, the offensive line remains an issue. The Steelers have an issue along the offensive line, but have signed two potential starters so far, both along the interior—yet, arguably, the only open starting jobs are inside.
Here’s the thing. The Steelers already have more interior offensive linemen who either have started for them or for others than they will be able to keep this year. Right now, they only have four tackles who have experience at that position, and one of them was on the practice squad last year, even though he is a veteran.
And neither Dan Moore Jr. nor Chukwuma Okorafor are really established starters. Moore really struggled throughout a lot of his rookie season a year ago, even if the second half of the year saw him fare somewhat better, but still insufficiently.
Inside, you have at least James Daniels and Mason Cole, and then you have some healthy competition. There is no competition at tackle where neither of your starters are players you’re going to brag about.
The Steelers do not have a very lengthy history of drafting tackles early. The last time they took a tackle by the end of Day 2, outside of Okorafor, was Mike Adams in the second round in 2012. They haven’t drafted one in the first round since Jamaine Stephens in 1996.
And let’s be honest, Daniels is the only interior lineman who can reasonably count on definitely starting. Even Cole will be expected to compete for a starting job, and he doesn’t even know if that will be at center or guard.
The bottom line is that the fact that they have an open competition at at least one interior spot, if not two, means that they don’t have a starter there. There are plenty of potential candidates in this draft who could be plug-and-play starters, either at guard or center.