The Pittsburgh Steelers have two established starters at the tackle positions along their offensive line, with each starting every game for which they were healthy in the past two seasons. Dan Moore Jr. on the left side has started all but one game in his career since being drafted in 2021. Chukwuma Okorafor moved into the starting lineup in 2020 and has also only missed one game since then.
And yet there is so much talk about the Steelers potentially drafting a tackle as early as the first round—maybe even trading up from 17 to get one. I wouldn’t expect them to do that unless they really fall in love with one. I am on board with the many who favor this plan, including Pat Kirwan.
“I think one piece in the draft would make this line maybe on its way back to the way it was”, he said on his Movin’ the Chains program on SiriusXM Radio earlier this month. “That first half of the (2022) season, Najee Harris, he was getting the ball, they’d hand it to him and the tacklers were in his face. His best runs were back to the line of scrimmage. So they really need to get a power side and take advantage of it”.
“The way it was” was an offensive line consisting of, at one time, three Pro Bowlers and another who should have been. The peak era of the offensive line included Maurkice Pouncey at center with David DeCastro at right guard, Alejandro Villanueva at left tackle, Marcus Gilbert at right tackle, and Ramon Foster at left guard. The former three all made at least two Pro Bowls, with Pouncey and DeCastro both many-time All-Pros. Gilbert well should have made the Pro Bowl at least once or twice in his own right, while Foster was just a very solid, very smart presence.
The name that Kirwan brought up with his co-host Jim Miller was Ohio State tackle Dawand Jones, all 6’8”, 374 pounds of him. A first-team All-American in 2022, he isn’t necessarily projected to be an early first-round pick. It’s possible the Steelers could even get him in the second round, but he comes with some drawbacks.
“We saw the big dance and bear that he is and the athletic background and the basketball background and you’re not getting around him. It’s pretty simple”, Kirwan said. “You’re gonna have to fool him to get past him because he just is a giant mass of a man, and his wingspan—if you had that guy at right tackle, and I do believe you could run the ball behind him pretty good, that would make them a very interesting offensive line”.
Drafting Jones would mean taking on a project to get the most out of him, often getting by simply with his size. But if the Steelers end up taking another position in the first round, he could certainly be the best available tackle in the second. And he could still start immediately. And there’s nothing wrong with having upside.
Whether it’s Jones or not, the Steelers could really stand to upgrade at least one of their tackle positions. It’s also worth noting that both Moore and Okorafor are under contract only through 2024, so each will be in a contract year after this season and it’s very unlikely the Steelers would re-sign both. Okorafor is already playing under a second contract that many feel is more than he is worth at nearly $10 million per season.
Okorafor is the last tackle the Steelers have drafted within the first three rounds, in 2018, and the only one since 2012. With three picks in the top 50 this year, the odds are pretty good that that changes later this month.