The Pittsburgh Steelers find themselves staring down the hole of their first losing season under HC Mike Tomlin after losing in embarrassing fashion to the hands of their in-state rival Philadelphia Eagles Sunday afternoon, getting run out of town by a score of 35-13. The offense continued to look lost after failing to protect Kenny Pickett in the pocket as well as once again abandoning the running game due to its ineffectiveness.
The offensive line especially struggled against the Philadelphia defensive front as that gave up six sacks, 11 QB hits, and 23 pressures on rookie QB Kenny Pickett. That isn’t any recipe for success for a rookie quarterback to be under duress that much in a game with the odds of winning on the road against one of the best teams in the NFL slim as it is.
After a bad showing in the preseason, it appeared that LT #65 Dan Moore Jr. had been stabilizing his play, becoming more consistent in pass protection while contributing more as a run blocker. However, Moore struggled against the Philly pass rush, surrendering a team-high nine pressures Sunday per Steelers Depot’s Josh Carney.
When going through the tape, you defensively see the problems Moore has struggled with since being drafted in the fourth-round out of Texas A&M. You saw inconsistent usage of his hands and feet in pass protection, often not having both his upper and lower half synced up leading to the defense quickly shedding the block and making the play. Here’s one rep where Moore gets #97 Javon Hargrave passed off to him by Kevin Dotson but is slow to adjust to Hargrave’s counter inside as Moore is straight up in his stance with his feet stalled. Hargrave crosses Moore’s face and gets a hand on a scrambling Pickett to trip him up from behind.
You see Moore’s lack of anchor in pass protection pop up on several occasions from this past Sunday, giving ground as he would get walked back into the pocket for the defense to get pressure on Pickett. Here are a couple of plays where Moore cedes ground in pass protection forcing Pickett to flee and throw the ball away in the first clip and step up right into the sack by the defensive lineman in the second clip.
Moore’s aggressiveness in terms of his punch as a run blocker and pass protector can be hit-and-miss as there are instances where the defense will go right through him into the ballcarrier. Here’s one example against Hargrave where Moore draws the difficult assignment of trying to reach block him but can’t punch his right arm through Hargrave’s shoulder as the defender works across his face and tackles Jaylen Warren at the LOS.
Here’s another example where Moore can’t get the block on Hargrave as the defender crashes inside, but also fails to run Hargrave out of the play after #22 Najee Harris bounces the run back to the left side. Moore slips off the block as Hargrave spins back toward Harris and wraps him up for the tackle as Moore falls off the block into open space.
Even in moments where Moore is in great position and has the defender squared up, he will allow the defender to fight off the block without much resistance. Here’s one example on a successful run by Warren up the middle where Moore climbs to the second level and gets a body on the linebacker, but patty cakes the defender with one shove as his feet stop moving, allowing the linebacker to get off the initial block and make that tackle.
While Moore has shown the ability to move out in space and climb to the second level, his ability to pick up blocks in space hasn’t matched the athleticism we see on tape. On this screen pass to Diontae Johnson, Moore gets on his horse and B-lines it toward the defensive back he has in his sights. However, Moore completely overruns the block, leaving Johnson to have to jump out of the tackle attempt by the defender. Moore proceeds to continue to run up field, not getting a body on any defender as he looks back to see Johnson tackled from behind.
This isn’t to say that Moore was without his positive moments Sunday in Philadelphia. There were several occasions where Moore showed that ability to put it all together in terms of having his hands and feet synced up in pass protection like on these clips below where he stalled the rush on #94 Josh Sweat, executing a good initial punch to keep the pass rusher at bey while staying in a mirror with his footwork to keep Sweat from getting around the edge.
While he never really showed impressive displacement of defenders off the LOS in the run game, there were a couple instances where Moore was in good position to spring the runner into the second level. Take a look on this rep where Moore benefits from #98 Robert Quinn attempting to crash inside but utilizes that to his advantage by walling off the defender, creating a running lane that Warren take right off Moore’s backside for first down yardage.
Still, while there were encouraging signs from Dan Moore’s play Sunday afternoon, there were far too many negative plays that outweighed the positive. Moore continued to struggle at keeping the pressure from getting the corner due to his often lethargic footwork in pass protection. Watch this rep where Sweat lines up in a wide 9 stance and comes off the ball hard on the snap, challenging Moore who doesn’t move his feet to seal him off on the edge. Sweat gets the corner as he bends around Moore at the top of the arc, getting to Pickett’s legs as #7 Haasan Reddick loops around for the sack.
The communication upfront with Moore and the rest of the offensive line also was particularly poor in this game, especially on twists and stunts by the Philly front. Here is one example where Dotson attempts to pass of Hargrave to Moore as Sweat loops around but is slow to recognize the switch as Hargrave gets pushed into him with Moore’s eyes still on Sweat. Hargrave splits the two blockers as Dotson attempts to pick up the defender again but can’t make the adjustment as Hargrave takes down Pickett for the sack.
Overall, it was a roller coaster of a game for Moore who had moments where he represented himself well in pass protection against Philadelphia’s defensive front, but also moments where he underwhelmed drastically and got beat badly due to the same issues he’s been dealing with since his playing days at Texas A&M. To his credit, Moore is still only 24-years old and is only in his second NFL season after being a mid-round draft pick. He has shown signs of improvement, particularly in his long arm punch in pass protection to take control of the rep early like OL Coach Pat Meyer teaches, being able to neutralize the rush on several occasions.
However, Moore has an evident lack of anchor in pass protection as well as poor footwork which often lead to him getting beat inside or around the corner. He struggles to recognize and pick up stunts. Combine this with the fact that he has yet to show that he can be better than a below-average run blocker, and Moore leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to being Pittsburgh’s potential future franchise left tackle.
Plenty of mock drafts, draft analysts, and fans have been clamoring for the Steelers to take a tackle in the first round for years now. In a sense, it would feel as if Moore’s role on the team would be diminished as their hope to become a starting-caliber player and utilize draft capital elsewhere. However, as we saw in the game against the Eagles Sunday, plenty of good NFL team don’t mail it in when it comes to fortifying the trenches, and Moore likely will never be much more than a serviceable player at left tackle even if he reaches his ceiling.
Former Steelers LT Alejandro Villanueva wasn’t a dominant run blocker either, but he was one of the best pass-blocking OTs in the game during the prime of his career, keeping Ben Roethlisberger upright and providing enough with the rest of Pittsburgh’s OL to pave running lanes for Le’Veon Bell. While Pittsburgh could opt to address other positions and stick with Moore going forward, the potential of the offensive line is capped with him as their solution at the blindside based on what we’ve seen thus far, and possibly becoming the team’s OT3/swing tackle would better fit his skill set while allowing Pittsburgh to build this offensive line back to what it used to be a half decade ago.
What are your thoughts on Dan Moore Jr’s performance against the Eagles? Did you see positive moments from his play? Do you think that Pittsburgh needs to find a better long-term answer at LT, and do you think they will opt to do so this offseason or stick with Moore? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below and thanks again for reading!