Who better to ask about the state of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offensive line than a former Steelers’ offensive lineman? Ex-NFL tackle Max Starks chimed in with his thoughts on the Steelers’ front five during a Friday interview with Lance Medow on Sirius’ Radio. And while Starks likes the additions the team made, he knows the success of that group is all about the collective, not the individual.
“I don’t know if I can say that James Daniels or Mason Cole is the answer for that offensive line,” Starks told the show. “It’s gonna come down to continuity. Those two additions this season are in response to what? It’s a response to the fact that you lost Trai Turner in free agency, which we talked about, he’s now with the Commanders. And then also Kendrick Green, taking a step back and getting benched at the end of the year, which led to those two openings.”
Starks is right about those things. But Turner was a one-year stop-gap and a last-second addition to the team once the organization realized David DeCastro’s nagging ankle injury wouldn’t allow him to play this season. Daniels signed a three-year deal this offseason in the hopes of being a long-term fixture at that right guard spot. Cole signed a three-year deal but is far less likely to be that long-term fixture. However, he can bring stability to the center position, something they lacked last year with Green shoehorned into the middle after primarily playing guard at Illinois.
As Starks alludes to, it all comes down to consistency within the group. How they play not just as a man but as a unit. Being able to work combination blocks with rhythm and timing. Being able to identify, communicate, and pass off stunts, twists, and blitzes. Playing along the offensive line is a pass/fail metric. One fails, they all fail. Because one guy screwing up his job is all a defense needs to take advantage and make a play.
Similar to last year, Pittsburgh’s offensive line may need time to gel. The two new additions, Daniels and Cole, all under another new head offensive line coach in Pat Meyer, the team’s third in three years. That’s much more turnover than what the Steelers are used to among their coaching staff, going from Mike Munchak who coached the team for five seasons before departing to Denver. Since, the team has gone through Shaun Sarrett, who lasted just two seasons, Adrian Klemm, who left the team after 15 games, and now Meyer, who hopes to be here for more than just a cup of coffee.
Once again, the Steelers’ offensive line is its X-Factor. As they go, so does the rest of the offense and by extension, this team. Pittsburgh must see much more success than they did a year ago.