Former NFL offensive lineman Ross Tucker isn’t too keen on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ front five they’ve put together. In a tiered ranking of each team’s offensive line for Fantasy Points, Tucker lists the Steelers’ group in the bottom “poor” category. Explaining why, he writes:
“The Steelers’ offensive line was predictably really bad last year, so they fixed the problem by bringing in Mason Cole and James Daniels. Wait, what? If those guys are the answer, you are likely asking the wrong question.”
Adding Cole and Daniels were the two most substantial moves the Steelers made this offseason, signing both during the first week of free agency. Each received three-year deals with Daniels earning the bigger payday, a $26.5 million total deal. Cole’s deal is worth $15.75 million. Both are expected to be Day One starters with Cole at center and Daniels at right guard. Cole is certainly not a Pro Bowler, he’s average at best, but should provide more stability in the middle than the overwhelmed and overmatched Kendrick Green last year, a lost rookie playing a relatively new position. That in itself will be a boost for Pittsburgh’s front. Daniels is still just 25 and played his best football last year in Chicago so Tucker’s critqiue that Daniels isn’t an answer is a little harsh.
Still, Tucker’s overall view of the Steelers’ offensive line is understandable. Pittsburgh must prove they can be far better than they’ve looked the last two years, needing to take a leap and not a small step forward. 2020 was the last ride of the old Steelers’ offensive line: Maurkice Pouncey, Alejandro Villanueva, and David DeCastro. 2021 was the rebirth, one with plenty of slips and falls and growing pains as Pittsburgh put together a nearly totally new cast of characters. It’s a unit that’s been a work in progress and they’ll have to show they can play well individually and collectively before the national media become believers.
This group does have hope. It’s young and gaining experience. Left tackle Dan Moore Jr. in his second year, left guard Kevin Dotson in his third year (after missing the back-half of last season), and even right tackle Chukwuma Okorafor won’t turn 25 until next month. There’s more talent, experience, and continuity compared to a season ago, though they have their third offensive line coach in three years in Pat Meyer, hired to replaced Adrian Klemm.
Like last year, Pittsburgh’s offensive line will be its X-Factor. How far this offense and this team goes depends on the play of the offensive line. They don’t need to be an elite group but being even average would feel like a big win.
Tucker is far more impressed with the rest of the North. He placed the Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns, and Cincinnati Bengals all in the “above average” tier with Pittsburgh looking way up at all of them. If the Steelers’ season goes south, it’ll be because they were outmatched at quarterback and o-line.