The Pittsburgh Steelers are getting better play than many fans expected from their offensive line. Here’s my evaluation of each player through three games.
I was not the biggest fan of the patchwork job the Pittsburgh Steelers did on their offensive line during the 2022 offseason. I really felt that after losing players like David DeCastro, Maurkice Pouncey, Alejandro Villanueva, and Matt Feiler, much greater investments needed to be made. I still think that’s the case.
However, this Steelers offensive line is definitely playing better than I expected them to at this point (I was very worried after watching them in the preseason). I have gone back and watched the tape on each of their five starting offensive linemen. Here is my evaluation of each player through the first three games of the 2022 season:
LT Dan Moore Jr.: Flashes upside, but needs a lot of work
Of the five starters, Dan Moore is clearly the worst of the group at the moment. His play hasn’t been downright dismal. In fact, he flashes plenty of upside at times with his movement skills in pass protection and his ability to get out and block in space. However, Moore is still very inconsistent at this point.
Moore doesn’t offer much as a run blocker and the Steelers have often offered help with a running back or tight end on his side — knowing that he needs it the most. Based on what I’ve seen from Moore in his first three games this year, I still don’t view him as a long-term option. I think he would be best as a swing tackle coming off the bench if Pittsburgh chooses to invest high in a left tackle during the 2023 NFL Draft.
LG Kevin Dotson: Most high variance
Kevin Dotson has been a respectable player so far, but he can be very high variance. At times he will blow up his defender on the ground or stonewall a defensive tackle in pass protection. A few plays later, he can be late off the snap or miss an assignment. This is the part of his game he really needs to clean up.
Physically, Dotson has the skill set and demeanor to be an imposing NFL guard, but he’s not quite there yet. If he can clean things up and refine his game (as well as stay healthy), I still think he could be a quality guard who could stick around. He just needs to be more consistent.
C Mason Cole: Better than expected
Based on Mason Cole’s film with the Cardinals and Vikings, I really thought the Steelers would just be getting a low-level stop-gap starter at the center position. While I’m not convinced Cole is the future for Pittsburgh, he has been much better than I would have expected.
Next to only Chukwuma Okorafor, Cole is the most well-rounded player of the group in terms of his consistency in run-blocking and pass-blocking. There isn’t anything particularly impressive about his traits or skill set, but he is technically sound and is far from a detriment on offense. Cole is a massive step up from Kendrick Green at center last year.
RG James Daniels: Pass-block specialist
The James Daniels signing was my favorite free agent move the Steelers made during the 2022 offseason. I really liked Daniels as both a guard and center prospect coming out of Iowa in 2018, and I think he was a bright spot on an otherwise bad Bears offense early in his career.
Daniels isn’t physically dominant at the point of attack — which makes him just a very average run-blocker. However, he has terrific feet and athleticism which shows up often in pass protection. For my money, he has been one of the better pass-protecting guards in the NFL in the first three weeks of the season. Pro Football Focus would agree, as he has earned an 86.2 pass-block grade so far.
RT Chukwuma Okorafor: Most well-rounded on Steelers OL
I wasn’t so sure about the Chukwuma Okorafor extension at the time, as Pittsburgh gave him a lot of money this past offseason, but now I’m certainly glad they did. Okorafor is one player who has really never shown up in a negative light during the first three games offensively for the Steelers.
After being a below-average offensive tackle in 2021, Okorafor really stepped up his game in his fifth NFL season. He has been rock-solid as both a pass-protector and when it comes to clearing running lanes on the ground. Okorafor turned just 25 years old at the start of the season, and he’s the most valuable asset this team has on the offensive line.