Even after watching the offensive line in Pittsburgh come together and gel down the stretch, keying a 7-2 run to finish the season at 9-8 overall, adding to the trenches on the offensive side of the football remains a key need for the Steelers entering the offseason, according to Pro Football Focus.
In a piece detailing one key need for all 32 teams in the NFL Wednesday, PFF’s Ian Hartitz said the black and gold need to continue to add “large and scary humans” to the offensive line.
“This group finished the year as PFF’s 16th-ranked unit and notably started the same five linemen for every game. Still, this front office hasn’t used a first- or second-round pick on the offensive line since 2012,” Hartitz writes regarding the Steelers’ key need. “Honestly, adding any level of luxury to the offensive line or skill-position units can’t hurt, as no team has invested fewer non-QB dollars into their offense than the Steelers over the last five years.”
The lack of investment from a draft capital standpoint in the trenches dating back to 2012 is well-documented. However, context is important. They had one of the best offensive lines in football from 2012 to 2020, which took away the need for heavy investment from a draft standpoint, in the trenches.
That’s obviously changed in recent years though as the Steelers’ offensive line took a major step back in 2021 before rebounding in 2022. Still, there is a need for more investment in the trenches, whether that’s through the draft or in free agency — maybe through both avenues.
While the group played well down the stretch in 2022 thanks to the continuity in the trenches, there are areas for improvement and upgrades, namely at left guard and possibly even left tackle with Kevin Dotson and Dan Moore Jr.
How the Steelers go about doing that is the thing to watch with the offensive line. Based on comments this offseason and the general belief from the organization, it feels as though the Steelers are going to run it back with the same starting five to open up the 2023 season and let that group continue to develop and work together, rewarding them for the work they did down the stretch last season.
However, head coach Mike Tomlin certainly wasn’t playing his cards close to the vest during the week in Mobile at the Senior Bowl, watching the offensive linemen up close and in person throughout the week.
Based on the investments the Steelers have made at the quarterback position, running back and wide receiver, not to mention tight end, the offensive line will be the key in the growth and potential of the offense moving forward under offensive coordinator Matt Canada. Adding big, physical, scary players in the trenches is never the wrong decision.
Getting the evaluation part of the process correct is the key.