Is the Steelers answer at left guard still sitting in free agency?

Ereck Flowers #79 of the Washington Football Team looks on during mandatory minicamp at Inova Sports Performance Center on June 9, 2021 in Ashburn, Virginia. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
Ereck Flowers #79 of the Washington Football Team looks on during mandatory minicamp at Inova Sports Performance Center on June 9, 2021 in Ashburn, Virginia. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) /

The Pittsburgh Steelers are having a terrible time selecting between Kevin Dotson and Kendrick. Perhaps the answer at left guard is still in free agency.

The Pittsburgh Steelers were in an ugly situation when it came to their offensive line in 2021. After the mass departure of aging players like David DeCastro, Maurkice Pouncey, Alejandro Villanueva, and Matt Feiler, Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin believed they could continue on just fine without pouring resources into the offensive line.

Sadly, this proved to be a mistake. The team entrusted young players like Kendrick Green and Dan Moore Jr. into critical staring roles at rookies that neither of them was truly prepared for. The following offseason, Colbert made a much better effort to fix the holes on the offensive line with some financial investments in free agency.

This year, the outlook is better, but it’s still far from perfect. One position that still has me worried is the starting left guard. This was a job that looked like it was going to belong to Kevin Dotson. However, a high ankle sprain in 2021 forced him to miss the entire second half of the season.

At the beginning of Steelers training camp, Mike Tomlin made it clear that Dotson and Green would compete for the left guard spot. He is so serious about this, in fact, that he has alternated each player with the starting unit every day at training camp.

I’m not a fan of this, personally. I think Dotson is clearly the better player of the two and they shouldn’t be taking away his valuable practice reps. Unfortunately, Dotson has once again shown that they can’t count on him to stay healthy and he has been sidelined with an ankle injury.

If the team isn’t confident in either player, perhaps the answer at left guard is not currently on the team yet.

Steelers could sign Ereck Flowers

With the poor play of Kendrick Green and the sliver of confidence the team has expressed in Kevin Dotson, it seems likely that neither of these players is going to be the long-term solution at left guard for the Steelers. If this is the case, perhaps Pittsburgh could still be open to the idea of bringing in a free agent.

They’ve already done this twice this offseason when they signed Mason Cole and James Daniels. What’s one more? We are closing in on half a year removed from the start of the NFL free agency period and Ereck Flowers is still sitting on the market, ripe for the picking.

Flowers was formerly the 9th overall pick by the New York Giants in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Though he didn’t live up to his billing as an offensive tackle, he became a rock-solid football player after making the switch to guard for Washington in 2019.

Last year, Flowers earned a 72.0 overall grade from his efforts — grading out as the 17th-best guard in the league, according to Pro Football Focus. His pass blocking was his best trait as he earned the 6th-highest grade among NFL guards in this department. Though he’s entering his 8th NFL season, Flowers just recently turned 28 years old and might have his best football ahead of him.

Because of how long he has sat on the market, Pittsburgh might be able to acquire Flowers at a bit of a discount at this point. However, the Steelers have roughly $9.7 million in effective cap space, via Over the Cap, and they usually like to carry that much into the season in the event of injuries. They can get a deal done with a player like Flowers, but it would likely require them to renegotiate the contract of a player like T.J. Watt to free up some salary cap space for the 2022 season.

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I certainly can’t guarantee that Pittsburgh has any interest in going this route, but it would be a shame to have a weak link on the offensive line after trying to patch some holes this offseason. I think Flowers would be an upgrade over what they have, but ideally, I’d like to see Kevin Dotson stay healthy and take that next step forward.