2023 Pre-Draft Movements – Interior OL

We started this series with a little over two weeks until the draft, knowing that nearly all of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ pertinent personnel decisions will have already been made by then. Over the course of the series, we will be reviewing the team’s roster turnover position by position in an effort to help us project what their plans will be for the 2023 NFL Draft.

The Steelers had a number of notable starters hit free agency this year, and their retention success rate was mixed, re-signing Larry Ogunjobi but losing Cameron Sutton, for example. Largely, however, what they lost they replaced, adding Patrick Peterson in Sutton’s stead.

They also had another active year in outside free agency beyond replacing missing pieces, or voluntary departures, such as Myles Jack. The most notable move was Isaac Seumalo being signed along the offensive line. While Terrell Edmunds is gone, Damontae Kazee was retained and Keanu Neal was added. Likewise, Cole Holcomb and Elandon Roberts come in and replace Devin Bush and Robert Spillane.

The team did not have to make drastic moves in order to get into cap compliance, but they did release two high-salaried players in linebacker Jack and William Jackson III, the latter of whom never dressed for them. As of now, they have restructured only one contract to create cap space, that being Minkah Fitzpatrick, though restructuring T.J. Watt later this offseason is very possible.

Position: Guard/Center

Total Positional Figure: 8

Offseason Additions: 2

Offseason Deletions: 3

Players Retained:

Kevin Dotson: The most vulnerable starter from last season, Dotson is expected to lose his job to Isaac Seumalo. The only real chance he has of staying in the starting lineup, barring injury, is if the team moves James Daniels to center. He struggled through much of the year and was highly penalized, but stabilized late in the season, particularly in pass protection.

Mason Cole: In spite of some speculation about the possibility of moving Daniels to center, as mentioned above, I don’t expect Cole to be moved out of there. He performed admirably a year ago after being brought in via free agency, played through injury, and served as a vocal leader of the group.

James Daniels: The more lauded of last year’s two free agent signings along the interior offensive line, Daniels took time to settle down but started to come into his own as the season progressed. He ended the year as the Steelers’ best offensive lineman, as was expected, and should continue to grow.

Kendrick Green: After spending all of 2022 as a healthy scratch, the Steelers’ moves in free agency all but guarantee Green will not make the cut going into year three. They may still have to address the backup center position, but I think they realize he is not the answer.

Ryan McCollum: Primarily a center, McCollum is a former college free agent out of Texas A&M where he was teammates with left tackle Dan Moore Jr. He spent last season on the practice squad, but the road ahead of him to a roster spot looks to be a long one.

William Dunkle: One I forgot to mention ahead of free agency, Dunkle, like McCollum, spent the 2022 season on the Steelers’ practice squad. A guard-exclusive player out of San Diego State, he went undrafted last year.

Players Added:

Isaac Seumalo: Arguably the most underrated of the Eagles’ offensive linemen, Seumalo looks to bring smarts and toughness to the Steelers’ line as their new left guard. He is now by far their oldest lineman as well as their most experienced and most accomplished.

Nate Herbig: Signed before Seumalo to a much smaller deal, the subsequent move made it clear that Herbig is more likely to be depth, which is a nice change of pace from last season. Herbig does have starting experience, a full-time starter with the Jets a year ago after spending his time in Philadelphia with Seumalo.

Players Deleted:

J.C. Hassenauer: The Steelers’ primary backup center the past few years, Hassenauer was a restricted free agent entering this offseason. Pittsburgh opted not to tender nor re-sign him, and he found a home with the Giants. He’ll still have to make their 53-man roster.

Trent Scott: Scott was the team’s swing tackle last season but is also guard capable. Like Hassenauer, he has already signed elsewhere, the Steelers adding more accomplished interior linemen, as well as journeyman tackle Le’Raven Clark.

Jesse Davis: Like Scott, viewed as tackle-guard capable. Davis was much more experienced with 72 starts, yet he was a virtual non-entity for the Steelers a year ago after being acquired late in the process via trade. He remains unsigned.

Notes And Draft Outlook:

The Steelers have obviously done a lot more to address the interior offensive line in free agency than the tackle position, and shrewdly so, since interior linemen are generally move affordable. Seumalo is a plug-and-play upgrade at one (likely guard, likely on the left side) spot, while Herbig will be greater depth insurance than what they previously experienced.

There are still some questions, most importantly how they will handle the backup center spot. There are no reserves on the roster who are native centers with meaningful NFL experience, so I maintain there’s a good chance the Steelers add a center who will be their backup, and they have done their research on this draft class, including John Michael Schmitz.

The other question is about who stays and who goes. It’s extremely unlikely from our vantage point to imagine Green staying, but what about Dotson, if he’s not starting and can’t play center? His elevated Proven Performance Escalator salary makes him a little more expensive as a limited-position backup, but depth isn’t a bad thing to have if the Steelers can afford it.

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