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Minicamp, not OTAs, will be the first measuring stick for the Steelers new line

The Pittsburgh Steelers will be sporting an almost entirely new offensive line, and their first test will come during mandatory minicamp next week.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers Training Camp handout photo

The Pittsburgh Steelers are a team in transition on the offensive side of the ball. Whether you look at new offensive coordinator Matt Canada, new offensive line coach Adrian Klemm or new players in new position along the line, there is a lot of unknowns surrounding the offense entering the 2021 season.

Looking specifically at the line, gone are Alejandro Villanueva, Matt Feiler and Maurkice Pouncey. Who takes over is anything but certain, but on paper you would have Chukwuma Okorafor at left tackle, Kevin Dotson at left guard, Kendrick Green or B.J. Finney at center, David DeCastro at right guard and Zach Banner at right tackle.

Outside of DeCastro it will be a brand new offensive line in 2021, and the new group is starting to lay the foundation for what is hopefully a very successful season.

“Right now it’s more just having to learn the offense, the techniques, ‘Indy’ (individual drills) and all that stuff,” offensive tackle Chukwuma Okorafor observed after Thursday’s Organized Team Activities (OTAs) workout. “We haven’t really gone against the defense so there isn’t really much you can tell. Everyone can go punch a bag or can go block a coach, so you don’t really know how good or how much work someone might need yet.”

Okorafor provides a healthy reminder to fans to keep reports coming from OTAs in perspective. Football in shorts is better than no football at all, but it still isn’t anything remotely close to the game which will be played this fall at Heinz Field and other venues.

So, when will the Steelers’ offensive line, and the entire team for that matter, get their first test? A chance to see how they are progressing as a unit? How about next week during mandatory minicamp?

“Next week when we actually play against a defense, against Cameron Heyward, T.J. Watt, Alex Highsmith, [Stephon] Tuitt, all of them, that’s gonna really tell how much we need to improve on or what we need to do better.

“We’ll see next week. It’s kinda hard to tell now.”

Okorafor is spot on in his assessment, and even after minicamp this offensive line will be an unfinished product. If there has been one consistency throughout OTAs and player interviews, it has been the fact they all admit only David DeCastro’s job is secure. Everything else is up for grabs.

“Honestly, I feel like I still have to come in every day and kind of show the team, show the guys, show everyone what you can do,” he said. “I don’t really see it as, ‘Oh, we didn’t draft a tackle in the first round so my job is somewhat safe.’

“It’s not safe; everything is open.”

One of the biggest questions surrounding the offensive line is what it will look like under Canada and Klemm. What will be the difference between assignments and style? Okorafor echoed what Banner said earlier in the week, it is about aggression and attacking the defender.

“This year we have to kind of go downfield,” Okorafor said. “Last year we’d shuffle and we’d kind of hold people. Now, it’s like ‘attack, attack, attack.’ If it’s inside zone, outside zone, gap scheme; it doesn’t really matter what the play is, we have to go.

“We’ll see how it plays out. It’s gonna be a good year, for sure.”

The Steelers will host mandatory minicamp at Heinz Field next week, and it will be the last time the team as a whole is together before training camp. The team hasn’t announced their plans for training camp yet, but the hope is a return to Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA with fans in attendance.

In the meantime, be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the 2021 regular season.