When the Pittsburgh Steelers signed James Daniels this off-season, it was seen as a move that would significantly help improve the offensive line. A right guard with the ability to play center as well as the other guard spot, Daniels signed a three-year, $26.5 million deal after spending his first four seasons with the Chicago Bears.
As training camp has progressed and we’re through the first preseason, there have been mixed reports on his performance throughout. In Saturday’s opening preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks, Daniels struggled mightily. PFF gave him a rating of just under 55 in limited snaps. While it’s difficult to always revert to the PFF grades, his play corroborated that rating. Those struggles specifically took place in the passing game, as he allowed two pressures and got beat on two other occasions as well.
The offensive line remains the team’s biggest concern, not even quarterback. All three options, Mitch Trubisky, Kenny Pickett, and Mason Rudolph, showed the ability to get the job done in Saturday’s win. If the offensive line doesn’t improve though, it’ll be another long offensive season. It’ll once again severely limit the upside of guys like Najee Harris and the quarterback. There’s still plenty of time for Daniels to improve, and there shouldn’t be too much concern yet, but it wasn’t a positive beginning to this Steelers career.
Kendrick Green has been in a battle all off-season for the left guard starting position with Kevin Dotson. While Dotson remained out with an injury on Saturday, it allowed Green to perhaps take over the starting position. He did the quite opposite of that, as despite not picking up any penalties, Green was just as bad as Daniels. He was second-lowest rated Steeler, with backup OT Chaz Green as the only one with a worse rating. Dotson returned to practice Monday, and he could take over that spot with a good game on Saturday.
Despite these concerns amongst some starters on the line, there were some positives from Saturday’s game. The offensive tackles on the Steelers seem to be the strength of this group heading into the season. Chukwuma Okorafor earned a pricey extension a few weeks ago, and many speculated whether he’s worth that $30 million or not. Well, he impressed in his first game, including this memorable pancake.
Look at the block by Chucks Okorafor on the Steelers first touchdown… pic.twitter.com/A1U1rfPPdb
— Dave Schofield (@STLRSuperFanDad) August 14, 2022
Dan Moore Jr. has been earning rave reviews in camp, as he seems primed for a breakout sophomore season. That continued into the opening preseason game, showing some of his improvements from his rookie year. Elsewhere, John Leglue, an unknown commodity last off-season, continued his emergence as a legitimate NFL offensive lineman. Joe Haeg surprised in his time on the field, which is good news for his prospects on the 53-man roster. While Mason Cole is nothing special, he will still be an upgrade over Kendrick Green at center. Even if he’s just average, that’ll be a step up from last season.
Are you guys more or less confident in the OL after watching Saturday’s preseason opener? Who are you going to keep an eye on in the upcoming game this weekend? What do you want to see from Daniels? Let us know your thoughts and opinions on the offensive line in the comment section below!
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