The Pittsburgh Steelers had one of the worst offensive lines in football in 2021. They exited the 2022 NFL Draft without taking an offensive lineman. But they make two significant signings in that area during free agency in March, as well as a key re-signing, and that provided the team with a lot of comfort in that regard relative to other spots on the roster.
The Steelers signed James Daniels to a three-year, $26.5 million contract, and Mason Cole to a three-year, $15.5 million contract. Both have experience starting at both guard and center, though Daniels has at this point worked more at guard, and Cole has stated his preference at center. They also re-signed right tackle Chukwuma Okorafor.
“When we went into free agency, we had hoped for that”, general manager Kevin Colbert said after the draft about being able to add some significant pieces to the interior. “Coming away with two guys that are center-guard capable and then having Kendrick Green in that same talent pool is comforting, because you have three guys that can play center and guard, and, collectively, it’s nine years worth of service that we have from that group”.
Green was their third-round draft pick a year ago. He started almost every game before getting injured late in the year, after which point he dressed only as an emergency option with J.C. Hassenauer starting. Like Daniels and Cole, Green is also capable of playing guard or center, and in fact predominantly played guard in college.
“That lessened the desire to add to the interior to that, and there’s only certain things you can do”, Colbert continued, regarding addressing the offensive interior in the draft. “Again, if we had more picks, maybe you add more players, but we felt we wanted to add more players in different spots”.
In addition to Daniels, Cole, Green, and Hassenauer, the Steelers also have Kevin Dotson at guard, who started on the left side last season, but missed nearly half the year due to injury. John Leglue is another holdover from the end of last season. He started down the stretch in Dotson’s spot while he was on the Reserve/Injured List. They likely already have more interior lineman than will make the team.
If they were going to draft the offensive line, it would have been better suited to going to the outside, where they could use a more surefire quality starter, as well as depth. They left go of Zach Banner this offseason, leaving Joe Haeg as their swing tackle and presumably Chaz Green as their number four option. That’s something less than inspiring, coupled with their banking on the growth of Dan Moore Jr. at left tackle.
As Colbert said, though, you’re only given so many pieces to put together your puzzle, and there are a lot of areas that need filling in. They could still find a way to add another tackle over the course of the offseason.