Talking to the media before practice today (via Steelers.com), Steelers guard James Daniels talked about the continued improvement from the offensive line since offseason workouts started.
“Well, one, we are close. We know each other. I mean, I can only speak for myself, but when I got here, I didn’t know anyone. I knew of KG just because, I mean, he took a couple visits to Iowa and I knew him through other people, but I mean at first we know each other a lot better. And then what our coaches teach, what coach Meyer is teaching, we’re understanding their technique a lot better and we’re all doing it now,” Daniels said. “There’s been big leaps since the offseason.”
With a rebuilt offensive line, having everyone on the same page chemistry-wise and with different blocking techniques is obviously important. Besides the player changes, Adrian Klemm was replaced by Pat Meyer this offseason, so even the guys who were with the team last year are experiencing changes.
On the chemistry side, Daniels came in only knowing of Kendrick Green, so building the chemistry along the line is key. While there’s some built-in chemistry from the holdovers from last year, getting Daniels and guys like Mason Cole into the fold was always going to be important, and it seems as if that’s the case so far.
Pittsburgh’s offensive line will be one of its most-watched and most scrutinized units. It’s been a weakness over the last few years, but the team made moves to address it by bringing in Cole and Daniels and ending the Kendrick Green experiment at center that was doomed from the start. With Green or Kevin Dotson alongside Daniels at guard with Cole at center and two returning starters in Chukwuma Okorafor and Dan Moore Jr. at the tackle positions, this line should be improved. The question will be how much they improve, though.
The success of Najee Harris is going to be key for this offense, and his success depends a lot on the offensive line. If they can get push and create holes for him to gain four, five, or six yards, the Steelers will be fine. However, if run plays result in two-yard gains, Pittsburgh’s going to have a hard time this year. Keeping the starting quarterback upright and holding blocks on passing downs longer than guys were asked to do last year will also be important, especially early on as whoever the new starter is acclimates and gets comfortable with the offense.
As a whole, the offensive line is going to have to stay connected as a unit and improve throughout the year. By the sound of it, they’ve already taken strides and hopefully, they continue to do so throughout the year.