James Daniels has yet to play his first snap in Pittsburgh, but already the Steelers new offensive guard is earning some impressive recognition.
Of all the moves the Pittsburgh Steelers made during the 2022 free agency period, James Daniels was my favorite. This is a player who I thought has performed quite well over the first four years of his NFL career despite being on a bad franchise with poor coaching.
Daniels still has his work cut out for him in Pittsburgh, as the 24-year-old offensive lineman is projected to be the best offensive lineman on an otherwise unspectacular group. While he isn’t a mauler, Daniels has impressive mobility with a very well-rounded skill set. The young offensive lineman even has the position flexibility to play any interior OL spot in the event of an injury.
After being one of the more underrated offensive linemen in the NFL over the past few years, it seems that James Daniels is finally starting to earn the recognition he deserves. Recently, Jordan Dajani of CBS Sports comprised his 2022 ‘All Under 25 Team.’ Dajani had Daniels listed as the first-team right guard.
Daniels joins some elite, young company along the defensive line. He was recognized alongside players like Rashawn Slater, Alijah Vera-Tucker, Creed Humphrey, and Tristian Wirfs. What’s really impressive is that Daniels made the ‘All Under 25 Team’ over quality guards like Michael Onwenu, Trey Smith, and Landon Dickerson.
What could Daniels do for the Steelers?
If the rest of the offensive line doesn’t take a step forward this season, it’s going to be really hard for James Daniels to look like a great football player. The OL operates as a unit, and if a few guys struggle the entire offensive line is going to suffer as a result.
Fortunately, there’s hope that this unit could be significantly better than the one we saw in 2021, and Daniels is a big reason why. The former Bears guard never graded out worse than the 20th-best guard in football in his first four seasons, according to Pro Football Focus. He should prove to be a massive improvement over Trai Turner from the gate.
Right guard isn’t the only position that should be improved. The Steelers also signed Mason Cole this offseason to play center. In 2021, Kendrick Green was arguably the worst starter on the team and he ended up losing his job by the end of the season. Cole isn’t anything special, but he should offer more consistency in the middle of the OL.
Additionally, Kevin Dotson is returning from a high ankle sprain that cost him most of his 2021 season while the hope is that young offensive tackles Dan Moore and Chukwuma Okorafor could take a step forward with more starting experience under their belt.
If these things happen, Daniels might be able to pick up where David DeCastro left off late in his career — a quality football player flirting with Pro Bowl-level play. While it’s not fair to expect Daniels to be one of the very best interior offensive linemen in the NFL, he could solidify a spot among the top 10 guards in the league if he can take the next step in Pittsburgh.