On the second day off the 2021 NFL Draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers used a third-round draft pick to address the offensive line, and then on the third day, with a fourth-round pick. On the fourth month of the new league year, they brought in a veteran offensive lineman to complete the starting lineup.
The front office created an offensive line in this image, and with it played through the 2021 season. After the year, general manager Kevin Colbert looked upon what he created, and saw that it was not good, so he went back to work—a recreation story.
Rather than waiting for the draft, the Steelers this time around, now with cap space, added two plug-and-play starters in free agency, with James Daniels and Mason Cole. Both of them are impressing early on as leaders of a young room, and with a vision for how offensive line play should look.
“I think the first thing is, schematically, we have to have the right fit”, Cole said yesterday when speaking about how to improve the Steelers’ run game from last season, talking with Wes Uhler and Tom Opferman on Steelers Blitz, part of the Steelers Nation Radio network.
“You can do a lot of things, but you have to find the thing that you’re good at, whether that be inside zone, gap scheme, whatever you’re good at”, he continued. “You’ve got to find what your groups good at, what Najee [Harris]’s good at, even though he’s probably good at everything”.
With two veterans new to the team, and two other second- or third-year players set to make up the bulk of the Steelers’ starting offensive line—and with a new offensive line coach and assistant coming in—it suffices to say that there is going to be a long exploratory phase in trying to figure out what this line’s identity needs to be—to find what they do well.
“You’ve got to find what works for you and what’s gonna be your identity, and once you establish that, then you’ve got to roll with it”, Cole added. “I think running the ball a lot of times is a mindset. In this league, you have to run the ball well to win games. In this new era of the league with all these passing offenses and stuff, when it comes down to it, you still have to run the ball well”.
This is something that we try to discuss a lot around here. it’s not so much about running the ball frequently, but rather, being to run the ball well when you do run the ball. Repetition plays a factor in that, naturally, but one need not be a run-first team to have a running game worthy of a championship-level offense.
“Situationally, running the football is one of the hardest things in the game, but to win games, you have to do that, and you have to be good in those situations”, Cole said. Third downs. Goal line. Generally making smart decisions, and possessing the football. These are the areas that matter most in judging whether or not a team has an effective run game, more so than volume work. And the Steelers have a long way to go to identify how they can get there.