After struggling throughout the 2021 season to run the football and protect veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, the Pittsburgh Steelers entered the 2022 offseason needing to upgrade the offensive line overall.
In free agency, the Steelers threw money at center Mason Cole and right guard James Daniels, while bringing in first-year position coach Pat Meyer to try and rebuild a group that got old in a hurry before eventually splitting up with the retirement of Maurkice Pouncey and the surprise release of David DeCastro, as well as the departures of Matt Feiler and Alejandro Villanueva in free agency to the Los Angeles Chargers and Baltimore Ravens two seasons ago, which ultimately led to a patchwork group in 2021.
Though the Steelers believed they made some upgrades to the offensive line ahead of the 2022 season, things got off to a relatively slow start with new pieces and a new position coach, the offensive line gelled down the stretch and played some sound football overall, leading to the Steelers’ run game becoming one of the tops in the league in the second half of the season.
For owner and team President Art Rooney II, who spoke with the media Thursday in his season-ending State of the Steelers address, the improvement by the offensive line in the second half of the season was rather pleasing, but entering a pivotal offseason for the Steelers, Rooney didn’t role out adding another piece or two to the offensive line while adding that he believes there’s still room for improvement from the group overall.
“You know, I think that we did get better as the season went on and that’s encouraging, but we’re not gonna say we can’t improve,” Rooney stated to reporters Thursday, according to audio via 93.7 The Fan. “I mean, we’re gonna look for ways to improve and I think overall, consistency is something we could do better with. Really, we had some guys that were a little inconsistent that we gotta do better in that regard.”
The Steelers offensive line, at least in terms of availability on the field, was a picture of consistency as all five starters in Dan Moore Jr., Kevin Dotson, Mason Cole, James Daniels and Chukwuma Okorafor started all 17 games for the black and gold in 2022. In fact, only Cole missed time during the season, missing just 45 snaps overall.
Consistency, as far as performance on the field, is the next step for the franchise, especially guys like Moore Jr. and Dotson, who had their struggles throughout the 2022 season, but eventually hit their stride in the second half of the season.
Entering the offseason, the group remains intact and the future looks bright, but the Steelers would be wise to add competition to that group, especially on the left side, whether that’s through the 2023 NFL Draft or in free agency.
There’s certainly room for improvement from the group, but it’s hard to not be optimistic about the starting group moving forward in the Steel City.