2023 Steelers Training Camp Preview: The Offensive Line

It’s hard to believe but the Pittsburgh Steelers 2023 Training Camp is right around the corner. As we countdown the days until camp begins, SCU will highlight each position group detailing the players who will be competing for a spot on the Steelers’ final 53-man roster at the end of this Summer.

It’s not going to be easy. Mike Tomlin and the Pittsburgh Steelers staff are going to have to make a decision that could alter the Steelers’ effectiveness on offense and, for better or worse, change their whole 2023 NFL season. That’s how crucial the left tackle position is, especially with a sophomore quarterback and a young offense needing to take a leap to have any shot at making the playoffs. 

One of the few legitimate “camp battles” the Steelers will have entering their July 26 start date is for the left tackle spot. Dan Moore Jr., the incumbent, will have to fend off rookie Broderick Jones. There was no indication in either direction during OTAs and minicamp, and I expect it to be a true fight all the way through the last playoff game.

Generally, in today’s NFL, you can’t give first-round picks a chance to “warm up” to the pros; they need to be able to impact the team right away. Well, the Steelers will have a real shot to do it with their 14th overall pick who Tomlin called a “diaper dandy”.

Let’s analyze the advantages and disadvantages to both players starting at a cornerstone position on the offensive line.

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Left tackle competition

Moore Jr. was a fourth-round selection in 2021, and has started at the left-tackle position in 34-of-35 games since. Honestly, Moore has been much better than his draft position would project, and he’s been available a ton.

However, the Steelers offensive line woes haven’t been helped by Moore’s suspect pass protection, especially against rushers with speed. At times, he is undisciplined in the pass and run game. Moore had nine penalties, and many came at frustrating times and in big situations. Despite this, given his experience and ability to people-move in an improving run game, Moore is the safe option this upcoming season.

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Jones, who turned 22 in May, is quite raw. He is freakishly athletic, and has a monster build. However, it’s tough to project immediate success, especially in pass protection.

An NFL comparison for Jones, that I really liked originally, was Andrew Thomas of the New York Giants. Thomas has blossomed into one of the best offensive linemen in football, but gave up a ton of pressure and was penalized a lot in his rookie season. I think one can expect a similar rookie year from Jones, if he were to play.

My overall take is pretty simple: make a decision at left tackle, and stick to it.

The Steelers got themselves into a bunch of trouble in 2022 by starting the season with Mitch Trubisky at the helm, and switching to their rookie quarterback halfway through the fourth game. Kenny Pickett had gotten limited reps in camp and preseason, but was thrust into a murderer’s row of opponents, nonetheless, and struggled early on.

The key to this camp battle is to pick a starting left tackle by September 10th, and don’t waver.

Jones is the long-term guy, no question, but he needs to be developed; it won’t help if he’s thrown into the fire during the regular season, and vice versa.

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Other offensive line observations

Chukwuma Okorafor was a solid starter at right tackle last season, but if Jones beats out Moore in camp, I would expect Moore to compete for Chuks’ spot on the line. Moore played a lot on the right side in high school and college, and was projected there in the pros. If Moore is the starting left tackle, Jones won’t compete for RT though.

The Steelers currently have just Ryan McCollum listed at center. With the way Mason Cole played that position last season, though, training camp should indicate whether he remains entrenched at that position.

At guard, Nate Herbig and Issac Seumalo look like nice upgrades with William Dunkle in the wings.

Other offensive linemen to watch at camp: Spencer Anderson, James Daniels, Kevin Dotson, Kendrick Green, Jarrid Williams, De’Raven Clark, Dylan Cook.

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