It was a quiet week for the Pittsburgh Steelers during their bye, but chaos soon erupted during Mike Tomlin's Tuesday press conference. While fans were pleased to learn early in the week that Diontae Johnson and Pat Freiermuth would be returning to the field against the Rams in Week 7, nobody was thrilled with the response Tomlin gave regarding the question at left tackle.
Dan Moore Jr. sustained an MCL sprain just 8 snaps into Pittsburgh's Week 4 road contest against the Houston Texans. This injury caused him to miss the Steelers' Week 5 game against the Ravens just before their bye week.
Since the injury, Moore has had time to rest up and he's back practicing with the team. In his absence, rookie Broderick Jones looked like an instant upgrade over Moore against the Texans and he played exceptionally well against Baltimore in his first-ever start.
During the Tuesday presser, the media asked Tomlin about the left tackle position and whether or not Dan Moore would be returning as the starter. The Steelers head coach said 'that's a big if', but noted that he looked pretty good.
Nick Farabaugh of Steelers Now recently reported that Moore was taking first-team reps at left tackle with the Steelers early this week in practice. While we didn't expect Coach Tomlin to come right out and say what the plan was going to be at left tackle, we were hopeful that he would have had more great things to say about Broderick Jones and how he looked in his first start.
Instead, many members of Steelers media are assuming that Moore is going to return to the starting lineup in Week 7 when Pittsburgh travels to Los Angeles to take on the Rams, based on Tomlin's comments. Fans have already taken to social media and are gearing up for the worst possible outcome.
Steelers fans have a right to worry about the decision at left tackle
In most cases, going back to a starter who was removed from the lineup due to an injury is a good thing. Not in this case. In his first three starts prior to suffering the MCL sprain, Moore was arguably the worst starting offensive tackle in the NFL.
In fact, Pro Football Focus has given Moore a disgusting overall grade of 29.3 so far on the season -- good for 74th among 74 qualifying offensive tackles this year. Take it from someone who has watched every Steelers game 2-3 times each: the grade matches the tape. Moore has been terrible in the early going.
Obviously, Moore's difficulty of assignment factors into his ugly PFF grade. He has been tasked with handling some of the best in the business like Nick Bosa, Myles Garrett, and Maxx Crosby early in the season. At the same time, his performance against these All-Pro pass rushers was as bad as we could have imagined these battles going. Moore's 19.9 pass block grade would be one of the lowest in PFF history if this keeps up.
On the other hand, Broderick Jones's play popped on film (in a good way). In his first start against the Ravens, Jones stonewalled veteran Jadeveon Clowney. He effortlessly got to the second level as a run blocker and was uber-consistent in pass protection. This helped him earn the best grade among any Steelers offensive lineman in Week 5.
For fans, the decision is easy: leave Broderick Jones in the starting lineup. So far, he has looked the part, and considering he only has one full game under his belt, we can only expect him to get better.
Going back to Moore seems foolish (if this is indeed what Tomlin intends to do). Moore is a former fourth-round pick in his third NFL season. Though he hasn't been an unrosterable player, he has routinely come up well short of meeting the level of play that matches most starting left tackles in the league.
Like I always say: you get what you pay for. In this case, the Pittsburgh Steelers made a very small initial investment in Dan Moore Jr.; yet, somehow, they are expecting great results. Broderick Jones is the player that Omar Khan traded up to the 14th overall pick to select in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Inexperience or not, it's easy to tell that he's the more talented player. Sadly, it's looking like Steelers fans need to start preparing for the worst when it comes to Tomlin's decision for the team's starting left tackle this week.