I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for underdog Steelers offensive linemen.
I believe it all started when Pittsburgh selected John Jackson in the 10th round of the 1988 NFL Draft. Jackson ultimately became the Steelers starting left tackle, a position he manned for 130 games over the course of 10 seasons.
In more modern times, I’ve admired guys like Kelvin Beachum (7th round, 2012), Chris Hubbard (UDFA, 2013), Matt Feiler (UDFA, 2014), and, of course, the patron saint of all underdog Steelers offensive linemen, Ramon Foster, a 2009 undrafted free agent out of Tennessee who would go on to start 145 games at guard during a very-underrated 11-year career in Pittsburgh.
Compared to those aforementioned odds-breakers, Dan Moore Jr., a fourth-round pick out of Texas A&M in the 2021 NFL Draft, is practically a stud.
But while his Steelers predecessors would have loved to come into the NFL with Moore’s draft pedigree, it was still quite the shock when he won the starting left tackle job in his rookie training camp and held onto it for the entire 2021 season. Moore started 16 games in 2021 and all 17 in 2022. That’s 33 starts in two seasons at arguably the most important position along the offensive line.
Still, there were cries for Pittsburgh to upgrade the left tackle spot, to draft a stud in order to protect Kenny Pickett’s blind side.
Enter Broderick Jones, the Steelers first-round stud in the 2023 NFL Draft, a player the organization traded up three spots to select.
Jones has it all: Size, athleticism, potential and actual talent to play the position of left tackle. Furthermore, Jones played at Georgia, the two-time defending national champion and the current mecca of the college football world.
Jones seemed to be headed for stardom the moment he became a starter for the Bulldogs.
There is no doubt Jones has the inside track on the starting left tackle spot, if not now, certainly by some point during the 2023 regular season. It would be naive to think that Jones isn’t going to be given every opportunity to quickly get to and then stay at the top of the depth chart.
But it’s nice to see that Moore hasn’t quite conceded the starting job to the rookie. He upped his fitness game in the offseason and packed on some muscle in preparation for a training camp fight.
“This was all a personal goal of mine,” said Moore, courtesy of SteelersNow.com. “I saw my tape and thought I could get stronger and shore up my weaknesses. That’s what I hope to do.”
I don’t know about you, but I think that’s incredibly impressive. It shows initiative. It demonstrates foresight. It’s also a great example of a young player being self-aware and knowing he has shortcomings and weaknesses that need to be fixed in order to continue to make progress as an offensive lineman in the NFL.
As per reports, Moore, who started Day 1 of OTAs as the starting left tackle, is now taking reps on the right side. Speaking of initiative, the fact that Moore said he began practicing at right tackle on his own tells me he’s determined to overcome every obstacle in his way in order to remain in the NFL.
Maybe even as a starting left tackle.
That might sound crazy at the moment, but stranger things have happened. While I’m certainly not trying to wish this into existence, today’s Devin Bush could be tomorrow’s, well, Devin Bush.
In other words, just because Jones is expected to have a great career, that doesn’t mean he will. We are often prone to talk in absolutes about current draft picks we like and are excited about.
We do the same thing in a negative sense when talking about former draft picks we aren’t so excited about after watching them play for a couple of seasons.
Moore did struggle a bit over his first two years, but according to Dave Schofield’s research, he averaged 2.29 pressures per game in 2022, a number that bested the second seasons of Alejandro Villanueva (3.54) and Beachum’s (2.64) at the same position.
The point is, there is no law against Moore, 24, continuing to evolve and improve as a starting left tackle in the NFL.
While Jones has the advantage over Moore in many areas--including talent and draft pedigree--the one thing Moore has on the rookie is more experience.
Are the odds against Moore? Sure, but they're not insurmountable.
I’ll be rooting hard for Jones at training camp this summer, but I’m still going to be cheering for Moore to get better at his craft.
It would be an amazing story if he beat those odds and remained the starting left tackle.
Dan Moore's story may require a few more chapters before it's complete.