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Steelers Guards Land Inside Top 20 Of Pro Football Focus’ Positional Rankings

After struggling in recent years to replace some franchise stalwarts at the left and right guard positions, the Pittsburgh Steelers appear to be set for the foreseeable future at the position.

After signing right guard James Daniels as a free agent in the offseason ahead of the 2022 season and then adding left guard Isaac Seumalo in free agency this offseason, the Steelers have solidified the interior of the offensive line on either side of center Mason Cole, at least on paper.

Pro Football Focus’ Gordon McGuinness seems to agree, ranking Seumalo and Daniels inside the top 20 of his offensive guard positional rankings for Friday. Seumalo landed at No. 14 overall and Daniels at No. 20 overall in the rankings, one of just three duos inside the top 20 along with Cleveland’s Joel Bitonio (No. 3) and Wyatt Teller (No. 10), Dallas’ Zach Martin (No. 1) and Tyler Smith (No. 16) and Kansas City’s Joe Thuney (No. 6) and Trey Smith (No. 13).

Seumalo, who signed a three-year, $24 million deal in the offseason with the Steelers, feels like the missing piece — of sorts — for the offensive line, which has been rebuilt the last two offseasons in free agency and the NFL Draft.

“Seumalo made the switch across Pennsylvania in free agency after a really strong second half of the season as a pass blocker for the Philadelphia Eagles. From Week 11 through the Super Bowl, he allowed three or more pressures in only one game, with five outings where he shut out opposing interior pass rushers,” McGuinness writes regarding Seumalo’s ranking at No. 14 overall. 

While Seumalo played right guard last season for the Eagles and was an essential part of Philadelphia’s offensive attack on a run to the Super Bowl, the seventh-year veteran has more than 2,000 career snaps at left guard. That makes him a seamless fit at the position in the Steel City. Regardless of where he plays though, it’s clear he’s one of the better guards in football at age 29.

The Steelers certainly got better with the signing of Seumalo. He is exactly the type of player this team needed up front. He’s a big, physical offensive lineman who brings some nastiness to the run game, something the Steelers really needed inside as Cole and Daniels — while good players in their own right — don’t really bring that to the table.

As for Daniels, slotting in at No. 20 overall feels like the right spot for the veteran guard, who really settled in nicely at right guard in Pittsburgh, becoming the leader of a young offensive line.

“Daniels set a career high with a 73.2 PFF pass-blocking grade in 2022 and tied for another career high with a 98.4 pass-blocking efficiency rating, allowing 20 pressures from 686 pass-blocking snaps,” McGuinness writes regarding Daniels’ ranking at No. 20 overall. “Like many of the players in this range, he’s not going to be confused for a top-five player at the position, but he’s also unlikely to be a weak link either.”

Make no mistake about it: Daniels was the best player on an offensive line that absolutely exceeded expectations in 2022. Signed to a three-year deal in free agency, Daniels stepped into the starting right guard job and became the offensive line’s quiet leader, one who led by example and was as consistent as they come in the trenches.

The 24-year-old guard stayed healthy all season long, not missing a single snap and playing a key role in the second-half turnaround the offensive line experienced. That led to a step forward in the second half for the offense as a whole and the Steelers went 7-2 down the stretch.

Daniels played 1,160 snaps on the season and allowed just 20 total pressures and zero sacks on 686 pass blocking reps, according to Pro Football Focus, finishing his first season as a Steeler with an overall grade of 67.1. The young guard was a massive upgrade over Trai Turner from the previous season and looks like a huge building block in front of quarterback Kenny Pickett and running back Najee Harris.

Moving forward, the Steelers appear to have two building blocks at left and right guard in Seumalo and Daniels. Even if they might not be top five talents at the position, they’re above-average players at the position and provide a ton of leadership for the group.

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