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Analyzing Steelers 2024 First-Round Pick Troy Fautanu - Physicality And Finesse

Updated: May 4





When it comes to culture, Pittsburgh Steelers rookie Troy Fautanu wears his Polynesian ancestry with pride. Both his parents hail from American Samoa, and his favorite football player growing up was Hall of Fame safety Troy Polamalu, whose No. 43 he wore his entire playing career until he switched to offensive line.


During his time at Liberty High School in Henderson, Nevada, Fautanu excelled as both an offensive and defensive lineman with the Patriots. After his senior year, he was named to the Las Vegas Review-Journal's all-state first team and was rated as the 59th offensive tackle in the country. With a slew of offers, Fautanu chose Washington over offers from other big-time programs such as Notre Dame and USC.


After seeing no action his true freshman year in 2019, Fautanu would play all four games during the COVID year of 2020. The following year, he would make his first career start at left tackle against the Arizona Wildcats in October 2021. In total, he would play nine games that season, with two starts at left tackle and one at left guard. 


His breakout season came in the 2022 season. That year, Fautanu started all 13 games and played 949 offensive snaps. Balancing his time between left tackle and left guard, Fautanu surrendered no sacks and just two quarterback hits on 608 pass-blocking snaps. For his performance, he would earn All-Pac-12 Second Team honors. In his final year, Fautanu would earn All-Pac-12 First Team honors and be selected for the American Press' All-America Third Team for his performance. In his last two seasons, Fautanu surrendered only two sacks on 1,231 pass-blocking snaps. 


Although Fautanu's versatility and athleticism have been his key defining characteristics, his physicality is what really shines out on camera. Fautanu has outstanding basics and a tough tone when blocking, as he mentioned in his interview at the NFL Combine this year. Because zone concepts are a big part of Steelers coach Arthur Smith's playbook, his mobility in open space combined with his physical edge make him the perfect tackle to help elevate the offense.

 

Fundamentally Sound In Pass Protection


What Fautanu lacks in size, he greatly compensates for with an excellent command of fundamentals. This is particularly seen in his pass blocking, where he is able to use his hands, footwork, and physicality to stymie pass rushers.


Fautanu is positioned as a left tackle in this throw set versus Michigan State. Fautanu's first kick step out of his stance is what you see right away when the ball is snapped. He not only keeps his pad level low, but he also does an excellent job of making it crisp. Fautanu wins the advantage as the play progresses by going between the defender's pads and using his feet and lateral movement to leave him with no room to move up the arc. In order to counter the Spartan defender's bullsrush, Fautanu anchors effectively. All of this is textbook pass blocking, something he excelled at when playing for the Washington Huskies.



 

Elite-level Athleticism


What we saw in this year's NFL Combine was a sample of Fautanu's exceptional athleticism. As impressive as his speed and quickness may be in short areas, his mobility in a wider area is equally, if not more impressive. His type of mobility is ideal for offensive coordinator Arthur Smith, who is known to use perimeter zone concepts. 


In this tunnel screen sequence against Michigan, watch how quickly Fautanu displaces from his spot and to the perimeter. Even before the Huskies receiver stars upfield, Fautanu has already reached the second level and sealed Wolverine's defender inside. Yet, what defines this clip is the manner in which he finishes the defender with a pancake block, showing his physicality, which is his trademark. From watching this clip, one can see why he is the perfect lineman for Smith's outside zone concepts.



 

High Football IQ


What doesn't get talked about enough is Fautanu's overall football acumen. Fautanu consistently shows good instincts and awareness, especially when picking up stunts, which he is masterful at doing.


Take note of how Fautanu displays awareness in this example versus Oregon by keeping his head up and observing the safety. As you can see, he hardly makes contact with the Oregon edge rusher since he was already expecting the defensive tackle to approach. The stunt is expertly picked up by Fautanu and the Huskies' left guard, denying both defenders a route to the quarterback.




 

The question with Fautanu is not if he will start or not, but rather which offensive line position best suits his skillset. Though he will probably start at right tackle for the squad, his versatility as a player makes him invaluable. One thing is for sure, the Steelers selected a plug-and-play tackle who will likely be a key component of the offense for many years to come.


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