Now’s the time to panic about Steelers offensive line

Pittsburgh Steelers offensive guard Kevin Dotson (69) . Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Pittsburgh Steelers offensive guard Kevin Dotson (69) . Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports /

The Steelers offensive line suffered some major losses in the offseason, and a lack of rebuilding means it is time to panic about this group.

The NFL offseason is officially over, and now the focus is on winning regular-season games. The Pittsburgh Steelers enter this season as the reigning AFC North champions, but despite a strong record last year, most are expecting a down year for the squad due to the exodus of talented players this offseason. That said, the team got aggressive recently, and the roster is in far better shape now than it was before.

Despite the additions, though, there is still one glaring weakness on the team.

The offensive line had one of the toughest offseason of any positional crew for Pittsburgh. Four of the five starters are no longer on the team, and the only returning starter was arguably the worst player on the line last season, that being Chukwuma Okorafor. This group is unproven and lackluster as the season gets close to opening.

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For starters, Okorafor is set to return as one of the starting tackles. While there was legitimate hope he could flash some as a left tackle, as it better suits his strengths. With Zach Banner injured, though (an equally unproven tackle), Okorafor is now set to play on the right side once again. While that alone is bad, it also means that fourth-round rookie Dan Moore is now starting at left tackle. While Moore had a great camp, going from a developmental rookie tackle to protecting a quarterback’s blindside is a bit of a stretch. Expect quite a few struggles which aren’t uncommon for a rookie lineman.

The guard position is a little brighter at least. Kevin Dotson enters year two with huge expectations, and while he had a slow start to camp, he quickly re-established himself as a potential top lineman. Trai Turner was signed, but his early returns haven’t looked as promising. Frankly put, he looks like a former top guard who has seen the past few years be ravaged by injuries. While, ideally, Turner plays better than he has looked, don’t be surprised if he has a lackluster year with the Steelers.

Finally, we have another rookie starter in Kendrick Green at center. While Green has all the athletic traits to develop into a great center, he looks the part of a mid-round, undersized guard who is attempting to make the transition to center. The Steelers know they will have to take their lumps with him, and his pass pro as a rookie will likely be a huge concern as he struggled heavily with that in the preseason. Unfortunately, there isn’t another center that could start over him right now.

Steelers offensive line is an issue

Like it or not, the Steelers O-line is going to be an issue in 2021.

While they have had issues with their previous line, the continuity and talent, albeit fading talent, was far superior to this group. In time, this group should develop and jell together.

But for now, this is the weakest group on the roster.

All of this combined has to make you think about Pittsburgh’s goals during the offseason. The Steelers had to have known about a couple of the linemen departing, yet the only additions to the group were a pair of mid-round rookies and free-agent Joe Haeg.

This isn’t how you retool a line that requires four new starters.

The struggles will likely be on display this week when the Steelers take on the Buffalo Bills to kick off the regular season. While Buffalo doesn’t have an elite defensive line, it is a veteran one that knows how to get after the quarterback. Rookies like Moore and Green will have their hands full while Okorafor will have to prove that he has developed further past last season. All in all, expect this group to struggle and don’t be surprised if they cause quite a few possessions to stall.

While this group has some long-term potential, as of now, the O-line is easily the worst positional group for Pittsburgh. The combination of raw talent and inexperience will likely cause this group to struggle this season.

The best-case scenario is average right now, and all signs point to the Steelers needing to address this group heavily once the season is over.

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