The Pittsburgh Steelers have signed two guards this offseason, the second of which, Isaac Semualo, was unquestionably brought in to be a starter at a reported $8 million per season over three years. Nate Herbig, also primarily a guard, signed a two-year, $8 million deal.
These moves have led to many questions and nearly as much speculation as to what this all means for the rest of the interior offensive line, which includes fourth-year veteran Kevin Dotson, the incumbent starter at left guard.
According to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the recent signings “are not expected to affect the positions of center Mason Cole and right guard James Daniels”, both of whom were signed as free agents a year ago and who started every game at those respective positions.
Both, however, are capable of playing at any interior offensive line position, even if Cole has expressed a preference for center on multiple occasions, and Daniels’ better performances in the NFL have come at guard.
Semualo would seem to make the most sense plugging in at left guard, where he has logged nearly 3,000 snaps during the regular season and postseason over his career. That’s nearly twice as much time as he has spent at right guard, where he played all last season for the Philadelphia Eagles.
To me, the bigger question is what happens behind the starters, whom I fully expect to consist of Seumalo at left guard, Cole at center, and Daniels at right guard, barring developments in the draft. The current interior depth chart behind the starters consists of Herbig, Dotson, Kendrick Green, Ryan McCollum, and William Dunkle.
What will that group look like by the start of the regular season? Green is very unlikely to be on that list by then. Dotson may be gone as well, hindered by his inability to play center and his Proven Performance Escalator pay raise.
I will likely expand on this in the near future. But my expectation is that another reserve lineman will be added whose primary, natural position is center, and he will likely be among the three reserve linemen who dress on Sunday; he will be the one who starts at center if Cole is injured, at least for the short term.
The Steelers, as with most teams, don’t like to juggle more spots than is necessary, so I wouldn’t expect them to move Daniels or Cole to another position unless a draft pick dictates otherwise. If they do draft an interior lineman, it would very likely be a center.
Both Cole and Daniels played well, at least by the end of the year, in their first season with the Steelers in 2022. The whole unit dealt with a learning curve last year, but that should provide them with a more solid foundation to start out with in 2023. And that foundation likely includes leaving as many pieces where they were as they can manage, barring personnel upgrades.