The Pittsburgh Steelers have a lot of questions heading into the 2021 regular season, but one looms larger than others. That would be none other than the team’s completely redone offensive line.
When David DeCastro was released prior to training camp, everyone knew the position would be anything but settled, but even through two weeks of training camp the offensive line remains a mystery.
The projected starting offensive line, which consists of the following players/positions is as follows:
LT — Chuks Okorafor
LG — Kevin Dotson
C — Kendrick Green/B.J. Finney
RG — Trai Turner
RT — Zach Banner
Heading into the team’s first preseason game, the Hall of Fame game this Thursday vs. the Dallas Cowboys in Canton, OH, the projected starters have yet to even have a full practice together. Not that many of these players were going to play in this exhibition game, but you certainly want some type of cohesion before the Week 1 road game vs. the Buffalo Bills.
The Steelers organization knew there would be a transitional period along the offensive line, and Kevin Colbert talked about that last week in his media availability.
“We knew it was going to be a transitional period,” said Colbert about the offensive line. “Once Maurkice [Pouncey] decided to retire, OK, that was one spot. We knew we were going to have trouble signing Al [Villanueva] just based on where we were with our cap situation, and we had to make those types of decisions. Of course, David [DeCastro] gave us another situation.”
Talk about turnover at one position group. Replacing Pouncey and DeCastro is one thing, but having your starting right tackle move to left tackle, and a second year player in Dotson left a lot to be desired. However, Colbert is leaning on the team’s scouting as a way to navigate these difficult, and uncertain, times.
“When we scouted Chuks (Okorafor coming out of college), we thought he’d be a better left tackle, and last year he lost a competition to Zach Banner for the starting job at right tackle,” said Colbert. “Had they been competing for left tackle, my guess is Chuks would have beat him out, and that’s not to take anything away from Zach.
“Kevin Dotson, he’s one of those young guys who has to prove he can play 17 games efficiently as a starter, and the center position is wide open. We have two veterans in J.C. Hassenauer and B.J. Finney, and of course with Kendrick Green jumping into the mix, that’ll be an interesting battle. The right guard is Trai Turner, a former Pro Bowl player who’s only 28 years old. Can he perform at that level this year for us? Time will tell. And we’re excited to see Zach Banner return at that right tackle spot, because he earned it last year and then unfortunately had the injury.
“So we knew it was going to be a little bit of a mix and match, but we were comfortable with the group we had.”
It is safe to say you could replace the word comfortable in the previous statement with stuck. The Steelers might be comfortable with the group they have, but they ultimately didn’t have much of a choice. Between players released, players retired, players gone via free agency and a dipping salary cap, it was difficult to manufacture a quality offensive line on paper.
That doesn’t mean this offensive line won’t be able to gel and be a solid group for the Steelers, but it remains the biggest question mark heading into the regular season. While fans won’t see much of these projected starters on Thursday night, they should be seeing them more in the coming weeks as the ramp up period for the regular season heats up.
Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers as they prepare for the 2021 regular season.