Share & Comment:

The Steelers offensive line construction, Part Three: Onward and Upward

On Friday, I began a series looking at how the Steelers have redone their offensive line over the last five seasons. In part one, I looked at how the 2020 season ended a specific era of the Steelers offensive line which saw 2021 have no season starters on the offensive line who started in Week 1 of 2020. Yesterday saw part two which looked at the start of the rebuild which began in 2022 and continued into 2023. In the third and final installment, it’s time to look at how else the Steelers have shaped their offensive line this offseason and look back at how much it has changed.

The free agent period of 2024 saw the Steelers offensive line experience some significant changes through subtraction, not addition. It was not where the Steelers had free agents that they could not retain on the offensive line, it was that they chose to release two players who started a total of 24 games last season. Mason Cole, who was brought in for the 2022 season to be an upgrade at center, was deemed to be a position on the line where the Steelers needed significant improvement. Additionally, the Steelers released Chuks Okorafor with one year left to go in his contract. Just like that, the Steelers no longer had any starters from the 2020 season.

The Steelers choosing to move on from Okorafor was not surprising as Broderick Jones was their future at tackle and Dan Moore Jr. gave them roughly equivalent play for much less cost. Also, it was believed that the Steelers would still look to bring in an upgrade at the position. But the release of Mason Cole was very interesting with the Steelers not adding a center during free agency. Many Steelers fans were nervous to see if things would work out in the draft or what the Steelers would do at center moving forward.

Although there was a nervous six-week period to see if the Steelers would have things work out for them on the offensive line, the way the draft fell and the commitment of the front office to the offensive line shows the dedication to completing the task. The Steelers spent their first two draft picks on offensive line in tackle Troy Fautanu and center Zach Frazier. The Steelers also added guard Mason McCormick in the fourth round. In all, the Steelers have drafted five offensive lineman in the last two drafts with three of those choices coming in the first two rounds. This commitment in the first two rounds is something the Steelers have not seen since they used four picks in the first two rounds from 2010 through 2012.

Who ends up being the starters for the 2024 season on the Steelers offensive line is not something that can be accurately predicted. While injury is always a factor, there are a few players on the Steelers who can’t take a starting position for granted. Veteran guard Isaac Seumalo may be the player locked in the most as a starter. Broderick Jones is up there as well, but which side of the line he ends up starting is not certain because it likely comes down to the readiness of Fautanu versus Dan Moore. Depending on who ultimately plays more this season between those two players will determine which side Jones will see more action. James Daniels is likely figured to be a starter at guard, but with the drafting of Mason McCormick it could put some pressure at the position eventually in 2024. As for center, I assume Zach Fraser will be the starter for the season but the only question is if Nate Herbig begins the season or if Frazier grabs it from the start.

To look back over the course of this entire series, the player who has the most experience on the Steelers offensive line as a starter is Dan Moore. But even though he is that guy, he is closer to on his way out then growing into more of a solidified role. the Steelers would not draft offensive tackles and back-to-back years if the plan was not to have them take over. Additionally, the beginning of the rebuild appeared to be in 2022 when the Steelers brought in James Daniels who was their best player that season on the line, but he may be facing his final season in Pittsburgh. If Daniels does return for more time in Pittsburgh, it’s not that Isaac Seumalo has many years left in the NFL.

The best way to summarize the Steelers offensive line construction would be in this way:

The Steelers have been focused on rebuilding their rebuild.

Players the Steelers utilized and brought in to revamp their offensive line are on the verge of being completely replaced themselves in a matter of a few seasons. The Steelers identified how they needed to improve and did so temporarily, but now significant improvement are continuing.

So are the Steelers done prioritizing offensive line in free agency and the NFL draft? As much work if they have done, and as content as they could be, I’m not ready to say that they won’t continue to prioritize the position. But seeing how much the Steelers have poured into this group, these appear to be the players who will be driving the offensive success in the coming years.


Sign up below for the latest news, stories and podcasts from our affiliates

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.