OG James Daniels Was The Steelers’ Rock Star In 2022

Though 2022 was a year for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense to forget, a strained season full of growing pains with a new quarterback, right guard James Daniels was a stud from start to finish.

Yesterday, I went through my final sack breakdown recap of the season. And the numbers really highlight how good Daniels was. On the season, he allowed just a half-sack and was penalized only three times. Incredible numbers for any lineman, especially one who didn’t miss a snap the entire season.

For some back-of-the-napkin math, here are the total numbers of sacks and penalties allowed by each Steelers’ starter, a rough and crude way to evaluate how many terribly negative plays each player had this year. I’ll list it as they align left to right, just as they did every Sunday this season.

Steelers’ Sacks + Penalties, 2022

Dan Moore: 14.5
Kevin Dotson: 14.5
Mason Cole: 1.5
James Daniels: 3.5
Chukwuma Okorafor: 7.0

Left side is definitely not the best side in Pittsburgh. Daniels had the second-best “score” of the front five, only behind center Mason Cole. Cole also had a tremendous season but centers also typically have lower scores than guards and tackles. Either way, Daniels’ 3.5 is an excellent number.

It was a roller coaster of a year. Initially, his signing looked like a home run. A young, athletic guard with experience and a proven entity in the league. But the summer of 2022 wasn’t kind to him or anyone else along the Steelers’ offensive line. Except for maybe Chukwuma Okorafor, who is no one’s definition of an All-Pro but seems unflappable; the dude could give you a solid pass set in a Sharknado.

But Daniels was a mess in training camp. Whooped repeatedly in 1v1s, things didn’t get better inside stadiums and for a couple of weeks, he looked like a major miss by the organization. His issue was a lack of comfort under o-line coach Pat Meyer, new to him and new to the Steelers, who has an ultra-aggressive way of teaching pass protection, especially for “on-body” sets with a defender aligned over him. Once Daniels got used to it, he flourished, and he easily became the Steelers’ top offensive lineman.

Still just 25, he’s found a home in Pittsburgh and is under contract for the next two seasons. He’s also become a leader in that room. Though on the quieter side, his NFL experience was a steadying presence for a pretty green offensive line room. The best thing is he can take big steps off the field in 2023. No longer is he new to the organization, trying to figure his technique out for himself. Now, he can really and truly help whatever new faces are brought into the room.

It’s hard to tell what changes are coming to the offensive line. Based on their youth and progression, it’s plausible the team runs its starting five back in 2023. It’s possible the team also makes a change to its starting five, likely somewhere on the left side. At the least, depth must be added. But Daniels will be the anchor, the best offensive lineman the team has had in at least a couple of years, and a solid signing in Kevin Colbert’s final offseason.

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