Predicting which Steelers OL positions have upgraded and downgraded in 2021

Pittsburgh Steelers center Kendrick Green (53). Mandatory Credit: Caitlyn Epes/Handout Photo via USA TODAY Sports
Pittsburgh Steelers center Kendrick Green (53). Mandatory Credit: Caitlyn Epes/Handout Photo via USA TODAY Sports /
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The Steelers offensive line has had an unbelievable amount of turnover this offseason. Here’s my prediction for whether or not each position upgraded or downgraded.

Every time you have a group of core offensive linemen that are in their early 30s, it’s valid to wonder how much longer they are going to last. The Pittsburgh Steelers had one of the best offensive lines in the NFL from 2014-2017, but this group took a step back over the past few years. However, I don’t think anyone was prepared for what was about to happen in 2021.

Though we thought there would be some regression, I’d be lying if I said that the Steelers would lose for veteran starters from a season ago. Alejandro Villanueva and Matt Feiler signed elsewhere in free agency, while Maurkice Pouncey elected to retire. Recently, David DeCastro was released because of an ankle issue that was worse than we thought, and he may soon join Pouncey in retirement.

However, all of the change this year doesn’t automatically mean that the Steelers offensive line has gotten significantly worse. Recently, I broke down each position across Pittsburgh’s offensive line and predicted whether or not the team upgraded or downgraded entering 2021:

Left tackle: Downgrade

It’s funny how Alejandro Villanueva joins the Baltimore Ravens and all of the sudden becomes a terrible football player. It didn’t help Pittsburgh fans’ opinion of him when he threw shade at their millennial wide receivers. Regardless of your opinion on AV, the mammoth left tackle isn’t nearly as bad as fans try to make him out to be.

As he got older, Villanueva wasn’t anywhere close to dominant as a run blocker, but he was still above average as a pass protector – making him a solid overall player. Chukwuma Okorafor, who is projected to replace Villanueva, was significantly worse in every department last year manning the right tackle position.

Not only did Okorafor have trouble getting a push in the run game, but he was also bullied in pass protection and didn’t have the strength to anchor against even modest edge rushers. Perhaps a switch to left tackle could make him more comfortable, but I would be shocked if he’s better than Alejandro Villanueva from the gate.