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Heitritter: Why Dan Moore Jr. Will Be Pittsburgh’s Starting LT In 2023

Many Pittsburgh Steelers fans aren’t going to like this, but I am pretty confident that Dan Moore Jr. will be this team’s starting left tackle to open the 2023 season. Now, this isn’t me suggesting that I personally would like to see Moore man Pickett’s blindside next season as I have made my thoughts known on Moore and his less-than-stellar play since he got drafted in the fourth-round back in 2021. However, here at Steelers Depot, we try to be as objective as possible, and after looking at the situation from a wider lens, there are several reasons why you should expect Moore to be this team’s starting LT for a third-straight season.

He Has Slowly Improved

Dan Moore struggled at times this season, giving Steelers’ fans flashbacks of 2021 when he was thrust into the starting lineup, starting 16 games while experiencing the growing pains you would expect from a rookie fourth-round draft pick protecting Ben Roethlisberger’s blindside. Pittsburgh opted to not address OT in the draft this past offseason, giving Moore the nod at the LT spot for another season. He started 17 games in 2022, playing 1,160 offensive snaps while getting penalized ten times and allowing seven sacks according to Pro Football Focus. He appeared to be on a similar trajectory to last season at the beginning of 2022, struggling mightily in pass protection while having inconsistency on a down-to-down basis frustrating Steelers Nation.

However, as the entire offensive line appears to find their groove in the second half of the year, so did Moore who managed to string together several admirable performances down the stretch. He has shown flashes as a run blocker, Moving defenders off their spot while generating a surge upfront. He also has been more consistent as a pass protector down the stretch of the 2022 season, showing better sync of his hands and feet and being patient to shoot his hands while keeping defenders away from the QB.

In a recent film room I conducted on Dan Moore following the regular season finale against the Cleveland Browns, it was easy to point out Moore’s continued issues in his play regarding his lack of anchor, inconsistent punch, and inconsistency in getting on and driving defenders in space. However, he has shown improved consistency and a higher floor both as a pass protector and run blocker in the last several games of the year compared to the beginning of 2022 and all of 2021.

 

He’s Cost-Effective

Dan Moore Jr. is a former fourth-round pick that has just completed his second NFL season. He still has two years left on his four-year rookie contract with cap hits of $1.114 Million in 2023 and $1.229 million in 2024, respectively per OverTheCap. For comparison’s sake, Chiefs LT Orlando Brown Jr. is scheduled to become a FA this spring and command around $20 million in yearly salary, costing a pretty penny for a potential upgrade.

Likewise, Pittsburgh could invest a premium draft pick to try and improve the LT spot, but the likelihood of a franchise-caliber LT falling to #17 overall is slim, let alone finding one in the second-round. They could still draft a tackle at either pick, but the likelihood of that draft pick starting over Moore who has started 33 games the last two season and is still developing himself may be a poor use of resources to address other positions like defensive line or linebacker that clearly need starters to fill those spots.

Pittsburgh Hasn’t Prioritized The Position In The Past

Many will come to the comments saying, “But Jonathan, Kevin Colbert is no longer here, so Omar Khan and Andy Weidl could completely change up how this team values certain positions.”

This can be a very true statement. However, in the meantime until we see the combo of Khan and Weidl go off the rails of what we have team “Colbert’s Blue’s Clues”, it only makes sense to continue to follow that model as Khan is currently the man in the chair and has worked under Colbert since 2001, learning from him for over 20 seasons. When looking at Pittsburgh’s past history at left tackle, they haven’t invested a lot when it comes to draft capital. They haven’t drafted a LT in the first round since 1996 when they took Jamain Stephens out of North Carolina A&T.

Before Moore started at LT in 2021, the spot was held by Alejandro Villanueva who rose from obscurity as a former UDFA from Army and went through a position change entering the NFL to become one of Pittsburgh’s best blindside protectors in team history. Before Villanueva, Kelvin Beachum held down the starting job as a former seventh-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. Prior to Beachum, Max Starks held down the starting job as a former third-round pick, moving from the right side to the left side after Marvel Smith, a former second-round pick back in 2000, decided to retire.

Moore Isn’t Pittsburgh’s Only Weak Link On The OL

Dan Moore Jr. isn’t going to get voted into the Pro Bowl anytime soon, but he should expect to play out his rookie contract with the team and likely as the team’s starter at LT at least for one more season. The same can be said for fellow OL LG Kevin Dotson, but given the fact that Dotson is slated to hit free agency after this upcoming season and has dealt with his fair share of inconsistencies and frustrations during his tenure as a starter, we could see Pittsburgh opt to improve the guard spot this spring over offensive tackle.

Alex Kozora named Dotson the team’s most frustrating player a month back due to the fact that he flashes the talent to be a quality starter but frustrates you just as much with some of his mental lapses and inconsistencies. Given the fact that it is normally easier to find a quality starting guard in the draft over a tackle as well as the fact that Dotson is slated to his free agency before Moore, it makes sense why Pittsburgh would prioritize upgrading at LG this offseason and hold off addressing LT till 2024 with more tape on Moore and when he is in a contract year.

Many fans will want to see Pittsburgh upgrade at the LT spot over Dan Moore Jr. this offseason but given the young tackle’s maturation over the course of his first two seasons, it’s very plausible that Pittsburgh could decide to run it back yet again with Moore at the blindside in 2023 expecting him to take another step forward. While Moore still has a lot to improve on, he has slowly made himself a serviceable starting offensive tackle in the NFL and should only continue to see improvement with more time and experience. While anything can happen over the next several months, I’d be willing to wager that Moore will be this team’s starting LT when the team opens 2023 training camp.

What are your thoughts on Dan Moore Jr.? Do you think that is becoming a serviceable starting LT in the league? Do you want to see Pittsburgh upgrade over him this offseason, or do you think that he can be the guy? Do you think Pittsburgh will stick with him as the starter in 2023? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section and thanks again for reading!

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