The Pittsburgh Steelers do not have a bigger question mark going into the 2022 season than the offensive line. There is, I think more contentment even with the future of the quarterback position than there is with the group assigned to block for whoever happens to be back there on a given week.
NFL Network analyst Brian Baldinger certainly is alarmed with what he has seen from the Steelers’ offensive line thus far heading into the regular season, and he literally and figuratively hit the panic button on the group during an NFL Total Access segment last week.
“All you have to do it go to practice, go to Latrobe, and watch them. Go watch them in any preseason game—the last game against Detroit. It was not pretty, and they’re playing their guys a lot”, he said during the segment. “All I see is penalties, guys getting beat. I don’t see depth. I’m worried. I’m worried regardless of who plays quarterback right now with what I see in Pittsburgh. I’m not calling out any names, but I’m worried as a group”.
The Steelers retain three starters from last season with Dan Moorer Jr. at left tackle, Kevin Dotson at left guard, and Chukwuma Okorafor at right tackle. March signings in free agency brought new starters at center and right guard, respectively, with Mason Cole and James Daniels.
Reviews of their performance throughout training camp never rose above the level of lukewarm at best, with perhaps Cole and Okorafor being regarded as the most consistent players. Daniels, their highly-prized free agent, struggled to get acclimated, but there is optimism growing after his final preseason appearance showed much better play.
The biggest red flag has been Moore at left tackle, who started 17 games there as a rookie last year. Though he generally got better as the season went along, he hasn’t even picked up where he left off, and has really struggled at times, leading one to wonder if he might eventually get benched, even if the team’s options are limited.
Fellow analyst Bucky Brooks was less concerned about the line than was Baldinger, but that was largely due to his confidence in the team’s offensive weaponry, citing the Cincinnati Bengals’ success last year behind a bad line, and in head coach Mike Tomlin, who “has always figured it out”.
Still, even he knows it will be tough sledding. When Baldinger raised the rhetorical question of what running back Najee Harris must think of the group of blockers he has in front of him, Brooks said, “I hope he’s got plenty of ice at the house. Ice up”.
While it’s reasonable to expect that the offensive line will show some improvement as a collective unit as they play together, there are very legitimate questions about what the ceiling is for the 2022 season, and few think it is particularly high. And as Baldinger pointed out, the depth isn’t very encouraging.