While the Pittsburgh Steelers acquired two new starting offensive linemen in free agency who offer both experience and youth, the homegrown offensive line talent that they return from last season—since they didn’t draft any linemen—still have a lot of maturing to do.
The only player with more than one year of starting experience is right tackle Chukwuma Okorafor, going into year five, and the 2021 season was the only year in which he was intended to be a starter, after losing out in training camp competitions the two previous seasons.
But the linemen they do have, such as second-year tackle Dan Moore Jr., do have experience, at least. Moore, a fourth-round pick out of Texas A&M, started 17 games last year, missing only one due to injury, and he feels he is ready to take a big step, “not feeling like a rookie anymore”, as he told reporters during minicamp. That goes for the whole offensive line.
“I guess you could say we are not young anymore”, he said of the entire starting group, via Andrew Limberg for93.7 The Fan. “We got a few starts. When you talk about leadership, you get James [Daniels], you get Mason [Cole], Chuks coming back that can really help this offensive line. It’s huge”.
Daniels and Cole are the two offensive linemen that they signed as unrestricted free agents. Cole is working as their new starting center, where 2021 rookie Kendrick Green started most of the season before getting injured. Daniels is their new right guard, replacing Trai Turner, who was a fill-in after David DeCastro’s injury prompted the team to release and replace him last June after nine years with the club.
Cole arrived in Pittsburgh with 39 career starts, Daniels 48. Okorafor has 33 starts as an offensive lineman in the regular season, including 31 over the past two years, all at right tackle. Moore has 16 regular-season starts, while Kevin Dotson, should he retain the left guard job, has 13 career starts, including 11 at left guard and two at right guard. Should Green with the left guard job, he brings 15 starts to the table, though all at center.
But at least the Steelers aren’t projecting to start any rookies with no experience. The opportunity to bring in two veterans who have started a lot of games was important this offseason, but the internal growth is just as crucial, especially for players like Moore and Dotson (and potentially Green), who are entering their second or third seasons and being given the responsibilities any veteran would wield.
Will that translate into better offensive line play? That’s largely up to new coach Pat Meyer, taking over the room and hopefully stabilizing it, as the Steelers have had a carousel at that position since Mike Munchak left.