It seems that all eyes of Steelers Nation are on the offensive line for the 2021 NFL season. There are a lot of question marks with new starters, changes in position, and uncertainty as to who will be the center come Week 1.
With all the talk about if the Steelers tackles can get the job done, or who will replace Maurkice Pouncey at center, often times the guard position gets overlooked. After all, the Steelers are returning two-time All-Pro David DeCastro as well as 2020 fourth-round draft pick Kevin Dotson who was arguably the best offensive lineman the Steelers had last season. For many of those involved in the discussion, guard is the strength of the Steelers offensive line this coming season.
But after DeCastro and Dotson, what are the options?
The reason I pose this question is because David DeCastro is entering his 10th season in the NFL following a 2020 where he saw his fewest number of snaps since his rookie season which only consisted of four games. Missing three games in 2020, which did give Kevin Dotson some valuable playing time, the biggest question with DeCastro is if he can stay healthy in 2021 and get back to the production level seen previously to last season.
So if something happens to one of the Steelers starting guards, what’s the next option?
First off, all the Steelers options at center are also players who can play guard. Rookie Kendrick Green played the majority of his college career guard rather than at center. In his previous seasons in Pittsburgh, B.J. Finney filled in at both the center and guard position, and actually played better at guard in my opinion. As for J.C. Hassenauer, one of his four starts in 2020 was at guard. In the Steelers’ Week 15 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, Hassenauer started at guard as both Matt Feiler and Kevin Dotson missed the game.
Another player in the mix guard for the Pittsburgh Steelers who may have been forgotten by many was the signing of Rashaad Coward this offseason. A converted defensive tackle, Coward appeared in 30 games the last two seasons for the Chicago Bears and had 15 starts. In 2020, Coward played 333 offensive snaps and was called for two penalties and allowed three sacks. In some numbers that are more subjective (I’m not going to bother to give my typical disclaimer), Coward was ranked the 75th guard out of a qualifying 80 players by Pro Football Focus last season. Coward had an overall score of 46.2 with grades of 46.1 for pass blocking and 49.4 for run blocking.
With so many Steelers fans locked in with Kevin Dotson and David DeCastro for 2021, the next man up at the guard position has often been overlooked. Without much fanfare, the Steelers do have options at the position if one of the starters should miss some time. Whether or not those options can produce at a level anywhere close to the starters remains to be seen. Hopefully, it’s a question the 2021 Steelers will not have to answer.