Heading into the season, the Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line was seen as a major area of concern. Just two weeks into the season, and that verdict has completely flipped. The offensive line has been the best part of the team’s offense against the Cincinnati Bengals and New England Patriots.
James Daniels and Mason Cole were signed in free agency in the off-season. Dan Moore Jr. was showing some signs of promise in training camp, while Chukwuma Okorafor was expected to take a leap forward after his three-year, $29.25 million contract extension. After a concerning three-game stretch in the preseason, the mood revolving the offensive line shifted from optimistic to worried.
Looking back, a lot of those struggles likely had to do with adjusting to Pat Meyer as the new offensive line coach. He had some noticeably different ways of going about things than former OL coach Adrian Klemm did. Meyer’s philosophy features a much more aggressive blocking scheme, something Daniels talked about a few months ago. Add in the fact that there were two new pieces, and it simply took time.
Daniels has eliminated a lot of the mental errors that he made in the preseason. His concerns went beyond just the mental aspect of the game though, as NFL Network analyst, Brian Baldinger thought Daniels wasn’t playing with the same kind of power in his game. After signing his three-year, $26.5 million contract, he’s now showing signs of why he received that kind of money. The team made the right decision in who to start at left guard, as Kevin Dotson seems to be a much better option than second-year lineman, Kendrick Green. Green’s future with the team is completely up in the air at this point.
There are still times in which the blocking in the run game can improve. Najee Harris still doesn’t have nearly enough holes to establish a consistent threat on the ground. At the same time, he has missed a few holes, specifically in the Week 2 loss to the Patriots. Through two weeks, he has just 72 rushing yards on 25 carries, while not having a rushing touchdown. He has been decent in the pass game, racking up seven catches for 43 yards, including a touchdown in Week 1.
As far as pass protection goes, quarterback Mitch Trubisky admitted after Sunday’s game that the two sacks were on him, not the offensive line. Essentially, the offensive line is continuing to improve and mature. That should hopefully bode well for the offense moving forward, hoping offensive coordinator, Matt Canada gets out of his own way in the process.
Pro Football Focus has been surprisingly kind to the Steelers’ offensive line play so far as well. Their ratings have reflected the solid play from the unit, most specifically, Okorafor. The fifth-year tackle has a 81.2 grade according to PFF, which actually ranks top-five amongst OT’s in the NFL. He’s yet to commit a penalty after committing a career-high eight of them in 2021. Props to the black and gold’s offensive line so far, as they are proving all of the doubters wrong.
What are your thoughts on the offensive line’s play thus far? Who has impressed/surprised you the most through two games? Share your thoughts on the offensive line in the comment section below, as well as on our social media sites!
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