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Why the Dan Moore Jr. narrative with Steelers fans is unfair

Moore has been asked to do something almost no other Steelers lineman has done.

NFL: NOV 20 Bengals at Steelers Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In the most recent episode of the Steelers Stat Geek podcast, I made the case for Dan Moore Jr. as still being a viable option for the Steelers at tackle in 2023. The main basis of the podcast is that Moore is a very unique case and being judged by the fan base incorrectly.

Much like I did on the podcast, I want to start off by saying what I’m not saying. While many who are in the anti-Dan Moore fan club look at any complement as being a statement towards why he wasn’t awarded the 2023 NFL MVP, this is not simply blindly praising the player. Ultimately, the truth lies in the middle. But what I am not saying is the Steelers should not look to upgrade the left tackle position, let alone any position on the roster. If a franchise is building the best NFL team they can put on the field, no player and no position should be above the ability to be replaced with a better option if one exists. So by making a case for Dan Moore as a viable option at tackle for the Steelers, I am not saying the Steelers should not look to draft a tackle high in the 2023 NFL draft or look to improve the position in any other way.

One thing that too many Steelers fans aren’t looking at when it comes to the left tackle position is that one possible way to improve is the improvement of Moore himself. Because Dan Moore Jr. is such a unique case when it comes to the Steelers offensive line, it seems that this notion has been forgotten.

One reason Dan Moore Jr. is being put in a category where he does not belong is the fact he has played more snaps on the offensive line in his first two seasons in the NFL (2,240) than any other member of the Steelers going back to 2012 when Pro Football Reference began tracking snaps played. The next closest player is Alejandro Villanueva (1,835), whose snaps technically should be much less because he spent his first NFL season on the practice squad. The third player on the list for the Steelers is tackle Kelvin Beachum (1,138) but his total comes in almost exactly half of that of Dan Moore.

Since snap counts only go back to 2012, looking nearly at the games started in the first two years for Steelers offensive lineman going back to 1970 paint another picture:

Dan Moore Jr: 34
Maurkice Pouncy: 30
Kendall Simmons: 30
Alan Fanica: 26
Alejandro Villanueva: 26*
Marvel Smith: 25
Dermontti Dawson: 21
Terry Long: 21

*Spent a season on the practice squad first.

Additionally, Dan Moore Jr. is part of a short list of Steelers offensive lineman who started the first game in Week 1 of their NFL career:

Dan Moore Jr. 2021
Kendrick Green 2021
Chuks Okorafor 2018
Maurkice Pouncy 2010
Marvel Smith 2000
Tom Ricketts 1989
Terry Long 1984

Looking at this list, there are several players that should have their situation explained. Chuks Okorafor only started his first NFL game because the Steelers first offensive play was in their jumbo package where he was the extra tight end. Okorafor did not become a regular starter until his third NFL season. Kendrick Green started the first 15 games of his NFL career but hasn’t had a start since. Additionally, players such as Marvel Smith, Tom Ricketts, and Terry Long started the first few games their rookie season only to go back to the bench until much later in the season, if at all. So when looking at players that started the first game of the NFL career on the offensive line for the Steelers and continued to be the starter throughout the next two seasons consists of only Dan Moore and Maurkice Pouncy.

So the first thing to note is Dan Moore Junior being judged on his second year in the NFL when the majority of Steelers offensive linemen are just starting to get their first significant playing time.

To take things a step further than what I discussed on the podcast, let’s look at the last three starting left tackles for the Pittsburgh Steelers in Dan Moore, Alejandro Villanueva, and Kelvin Beachum. With Villanueva spending his first year on the practice squad and Beachum used as a reserve up and down the line until partway through his second season where he landed at left tackle, let’s just look at the year two numbers for both players when playing left tackle according to Pro Football Focus (PFF):

Dan Moore: 17 games, 62.4 PFF score, 7 sacks surrendered, 39 pressures, 2.29 pressures/game
Alejandro Villanueva: 13 games, 61.4 PFF score, 7 sacks surrendered, 46 pressures, 3.54 pressures/game
Kelvin Beachum: 11 games, 68.7 PFF score, 6 sacks surrendered, 29 pressures, 2.64 pressures/game

I included the players PFF score for that season, but you can utilize or ignore that information.

What I find interesting is that Dan Moore Junior gave up less pressures per game played and sacks per game played than either of the Steelers previous two left tackles during their second season in the NFL. The difference with Moore is his second season in the NFL was the second season starting at the position.

Dan Moore Jr. was able to win the starting job at left tackle for the Pittsburgh Steelers from the very beginning of his rookie season. Usually the Pittsburgh Steelers develop their offensive linemen before inserting them into the starting lineup. The fact of Dan Moore is entering his third season in the NFL, a time when most offensive lineman for the Steelers are ready to battle for a starting position, him having two years experience as a starter under his belt should not be held against him. Dan Moore should be measured and evaluated for 2023 in the same manner that the Steelers evaluated Alejandra Villanueva in 2015 and Kelvin Beachum in 2013.

The Steelers very well may draft an offensive tackle early in the 2023 NFL draft. And if that player shows to be better at the position than Dan Moore and gives the Steelers an upgrade, then such is life in the NFL. But if Dan Moore Jr. is also starting at tackle in 2023, Steelers fan should give give him the benefit of the doubt.

This was the topic of conversation on this week’s Steelers Stat Geek podcast, check it out in the player below: