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The Steelers can’t continue to build a young roster if they sign a bunch of aging players

The Steelers need to continue to develop youngsters like Dan Moore, a fourth-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft who started 16 games at left tackle last season.

Baltimore Ravens v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Back in the old days, before social media, countless Tweeters giving you their thoughts on everything, and millions of podcasters asking you to “like and subscribe,” a Steelers fan could spend an offseason being mildly excited about a second-year player and fourth-round pick who started 16 games at left tackle the year before.

That was the reality—at least the starting 16 games part—in 2021 for Dan Moore Jr., a rookie fourth-round draft pick out of Texas A&M. Did Moore spend the majority of his starts making you forget about Anthony Munoz? No, but he acquitted himself quite well for a player who wasn’t even expected to contribute much going into training camp before spending that entire time turning heads and winning the starting job.

Was Moore’s quick ascension up the Steelers depth chart helped along by the team’s uncertainty along the entire offensive line—including the health of Zach Banner?

Yes, but who cares now? Point is, Moore did okay for himself as a rookie. He was put in a tough spot and didn’t wither. He may have struggled at times, and he may have needed help while blocking some of the more prolific defenders he went up against, but to quote Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, “The moment wasn’t too big for him.” Despite the issues the young offensive line had in 2021—these were mostly the same issues the old offensive line had in 2020—Moore never felt like a liability.

While Kendrick Green, who may have been playing out of position as an undersized center, struggled mightily as a rookie third-round pick and was eventually replaced in the starting lineup—Kevin Colbert, the Steelers' now-former general manager, claimed this was because of an injury—Moore kept his starting job all year.

Moore gained valuable experience as a rookie. It was baptism by fire. It was a year that he can use to grow as a player. It was a rookie season fans should be excited about (relatively speaking—we are talking about a left tackle, after all).

Is there uncertainty with Moore? Yes, but that doesn’t mean I want to run out and replace him with the nearest 31-year-old still sitting on his couch in June. I don’t want Eric Fisher. I didn’t even want the Steelers to select an offensive tackle in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft.

I want to see more from Moore. I want to see him continue to grow as a left tackle in the National Football League. The Steelers are a young team—one of the youngest in the NFL at the moment. They are in a transition period. They are trying to build something special. In most cases, building something special means building with youth.

As hard as this is to believe, not every young player has to come with a high pedigree.

If Ramon Foster, an undrafted free agent out of Tennessee in 2009, wasn’t allowed to mature and grow as a young guard in the NFL, he never would have turned into a model of durability and consistency in the 2010s for a highly-decorated Steelers offensive line full of first and second-round draft picks.

If Levi Wallace, an undrafted free agent out of Alabama in 2018, wasn’t given the opportunity to battle through his early struggles in Buffalo, he never would have grown into a starting corner by his second season. Wallace became such a valuable member of the Bills’ defensive backfield by 2021 that they barely missed a beat after Tre White was lost late in the year with a knee injury. Finally, if Wallace wasn’t allowed to blossom into a valuable NFL starter in Buffalo, he never would have been in a position to sign a two-year deal with the Steelers last spring.

If Rocky Bleier, a 16th-round pick out of Notre Dame in the 1968 NFL Draft, wasn’t given ample time to heal after being seriously wounded in Vietnam, he never would have become a valuable member of the Steelers' offensive backfield in the 1970s and a four-time starter in the Super Bowl. Bleier’s underdog story was so inspiring that ABC produced a Made for TV movie about it in 1980, titled, Fighting Back: The Rocky Bleier Story. Sadly, if a social media influencer produced a YouTube video about a modern-day Bleier, there's a good chance it would be titled, Hot Garbage: The Rocky Bleier Story.

We seem to be in a new world now where everyone wants a sure thing at the top of the depth chart and even an ironclad insurance policy as a backup.

Backups can’t look like Benny Snell Jr. any longer. They must look like David Johnson.

Newsflash, most backups, regardless of position, look like Benny Snell.

As for those starters who began their football careers as mid-round picks or lower? They’re the life-blood of the NFL. When you find one who can contribute right away—even if he has his ups and downs during his rookie campaign—you see if you can build on it. It’s like found money. It’s like an unexpected windfall.

There may be a time when the Steelers have to address the left tackle spot, but not now, not when they have such a promising youngster in Dan Moore Jr. heading into his second training camp as the incumbent starter.

Finally, it’s a good thing free agency didn’t exist in 1989. If so, the Steelers may have felt the need to go out and sign some veteran to play left tackle. This may have prevented John Jackson, a 10th-round pick out of Eastern Kentucky in the 1988 NFL Draft, from starting 130 games for them over the next nine seasons.