It was only one game, but the Steelers coaches and executives were quite pleased with the performance of their young, overhauled offensive line, with rookie center Kendrick Green and rookie left tackle Dan Moore Jr both earning strong grades on film review and providing optimism for a better offense in 2021.
Pittsburgh was the worst rushing team in the NFL a year ago and also suffered mightily from a pass protection standpoint, with Ben Roethlisberger getting rid of the ball quicker than any other quarterback, averaging some of the lowest air yards in the league, and passing more frequently than anyone else (almost always out of the shotgun). New offensive coordinator Matt Canada is striving for greater balance in 2021, and while the run game remained very much a work in progress against the Bills in Buffalo, overall the organization felt like the unit was improved on the aging, brittle group that limped through last season.
The signing of veteran guard Trai Turner is being heralded within the team already, with him taking over the leadership lost by the retirement of longtime center Maurkice Pouncey. Turner has emerged as a captain of sorts for a very young and inexperienced line, team sources said, adding a much-needed element to a five-man unit that had never played together before.
Green is tenacious and spirited, exuding physicality in a way that has already drawn some internal comparisons to Pouncey, playing to the whistle and willing to seek blocks all over the field. The Steelers were also very pleased with the development of Moore, who held up well against the Bills pass rush and has inspired more confidence each week through training camp and the preseason.
Zach Banner, Pittsburgh’s projected starting left tackle, has continued to battle injury and still needs more time to return from an ACL injury he suffered in Week 1 of last season. Sources said he is likely at least several weeks away from being ready for a return, but at this point there might not be a need to make a change if the unit continues to trend in this direction.
Roethlisberger has also become more vocal given how young and inexperienced this group is, with several players and coaches noting that increasing dynamic without Pouncey there to help diagnose and call out everything from the center position. The line was undoubtedly a major cause of offseason concern, and there is a lot of football to be played, but so far the decision-makers in Pittsburgh have been impressed by what they have seen.
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