After a rather trying 2021 season that saw the play along the offensive line reaches lows rarely seen in the black and gold, the Pittsburgh Steelers and former General Manager Kevin Colbert went to work in the offseason attempting to rebuild the offensive line.
Quickly, names like Mason Cole and James Daniels came in via free agency, while the Steelers also moved swiftly to re-sign promising right tackle Chukwuma Okorafor, who has improved each season while still being just 24 years old. The moves look rather promising on paper overall, but according to Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox, the Steelers didn’t do enough to address the offensive line.
Knox highlights the Steelers “failing to add more” to the offensive line as the franchise’s biggest regret from this offseason in his piece for Bleacher Report identifying one big regret for all 32 teams.
“While Pittsburgh’s roster is strong enough for a playoff push this season, its offensive line isn’t good enough to ensure success for whichever quarterback wins the starting job,” Knox writes. “The Steelers did little to upgrade a unit that was among the NFL’s worst a year ago. In 2021, the Steelers allowed 38 sacks while ranking only 29th in yards per carry despite having a Pro Bowler in rookie running back Najee Harris.
“Guard James Daniels and center Mason Cole were Pittsburgh’s only notable additions to the line this offseason,” Knox added. “Daniels was a mostly reliable and versatile piece for the Bears, while Cole was in and out of the starting lineup with Arizona and Minnesota over the past few seasons. Neither should be viewed as a quick fix for the Steelers’ problematic line. Pittsburgh completely ignored its line during the draft, too.”
Daniels is much more of an upgrade than Knox wants to give him credit for. After moving around a bunch in Chicago, settling in at right guard and playing in a power rushing attack should lead to a sizable jump in Daniels’ game. I truly believe there’s Pro Bowl potential there with Daniels in 2022 and beyond in his time in the black and gold.
As for Cole, while he was in and out of the starting lineup during his time in Arizona and Minnesota, when he was on the field he was a solid player overall, which is what the Steelers are aiming for. Not every move is going to bring in a high-level player; the Steelers know that. They were searching for dependability in free agency along the offensive line, and that’s what Cole and Daniels bring.
While they are the lone two new pieces on the offensive line, a second season for Dan Moore Jr. at left tackle should bring improvements, while health for left guard Kevin Dotson should solidify the left side of the line moving forward. As for Okorafor, he’s not a flashy name or even a big one at right tackle, but he’s improved each and every season, is a good athlete at the position, and is still relatively young. The Steelers couldn’t afford to let that type of talent out the door.
It might not be flashy, in terms of name value, on paper but the Steelers’ offensive line is improved from 2021. That might not be saying much, but it’s a fact. They did what they could in the offseason with the players available, and they didn’t reach at the position in the draft. With new assistant GM Andy Weidl in the fold with the Steelers, trench play will certainly be a priority moving forward, most likely in the 2023 NFL Draft.