Realistic Expectations For The Pittsburgh Steelers Offensive Line
For several seasons, the Pittsburgh Steelers' offensive line has been listed among the weakest units in the NFL.
In 2021, the team saw veteran All-Pro guard David DeCastro be released, and tackle Alejandro Villanueva leave to join the Baltimore Ravens on a two-year contract. With a rebuilt line consisting of then-rookies Kendrick Green and Dan Moore Jr., along with Pro-Bowl lineman Trai Turner, the offensive line continued to struggle under former offensive line coach Adrian Klemm. Eventually, the Steelers' offensive line would finish on the lower end of the spectrum, sporting the league's worst pass-block win rate while being ranked No. 26 by Pro Football Focus and No. 27 by olinestats.com.
This offseason has seen new additions to an offensive line that is still looking for an identity. Following the departure of Turner, they signed high-rated lineman James Daniels and center Mason Cole. As it stands, the Steelers' offensive line is one of the youngest units in the NFL. Ultimately, their inexperience as a group under new offensive line coach Pat Meyer could mean another year of struggles and growing pains.
One must also consider the other possibility: a younger, more efficient offensive line. Even if they are not technically sound, they could compensate with effective aggression, especially in run-blocking situations. With all this in mind, here are some realistic expectations Steelers fans should have this unit in 2022.
Continued Decrease In QB Pressures
Here is the enigma of the Steelers' offensive line. Last season as a unit, they registered the third-lowest pressure allowed percentage in the league at 18.3%. Mind you, this was with two rookie offensive linemen and reserves that would come in periodically due to injuries. One can assume that someone like Moore Jr., with 1,080 offensive snaps under his belt, should vastly improve from his rookie season. We should also consider that with a younger, mobile quarterback like Mitch Trubisky, the team is likely to see more playaction sequences, further decreasing the rate of pressures allowed.
More Room for Najee Harris
It is amazing to think that Najee Harris was somehow able to rush for over 1200 yards with the offensive line he had in his rookie season. One of the reasons fans should be optimistic about the team's ground offense is the presence of James Daniels. At one point last season with the Chicago Bears, Daniels had the highest run-blocking win rate in the NFL at 83%. In other words, he is better in this domain than a majority of the lineman currently playing. If he is involved, there should be more space for Harris to work with this season.
A More Technically Sound Unit
Two words: Pat Meyer. What the Steelers have is someone who has yielded impressive results almost everywhere he has coached. When he was the offensive line coach with the San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers, his unit surrendered a league-low 17 sacks in 2017. A year later, he helped lead the offense to a rushing total of 1,873 yards. In the process, he developed linemen who would go on to make multiple Pro Bowls, such as Mike Pouncey and Russell Okung. Even with the Carolina Panthers, his offensive line continued to produce positive results despite numerous injuries. If Meyers is true to form, this offensive line is going to have the type of foundation they were missing under Klemm.