It didn’t take long for the Steelers offensive line plan for 2021 to hit a snag. Yesterday the team put starting right tackle Zach Banner on the reserve/injured list. https://triblive.com/sports/right-tackle-zach-banner-among-3-steelers-players-placed-on-injured-reserve/ He is now out a minimum of three games, and possibly longer depending on the severity of his injury. Pittsburgh will now start two rookie offensive lineman in their season opener versus the Buffalo Bills.
Banner not being ready for week one can not be a surprise to anyone in the Steelers organization. The team’s projected starter at right tackle is coming off major knee surgery which caused him to miss all of last season. A setback had to be a concern for the coaching staff coming into the season. The problem however is Kevin Colbert did not acquire a competent veteran back up in case such a setback occurred. Instead the team will be relying on rookie fourth round pick Dan Moore Jr. to play left tackle, while moving Chuks Okorafor back to right tackle.
The shuffling of tackles is not the only concern heading into week one. Rookie center Kendrick Green has had his struggles in the preseason. It promises to be a bumpy first year for the first year product out of Illinois. The guard spots should be the strength of this line highlighted by second year player Kevin Dotson. He is the lone bright spot in this group heading into the season. Veteran Trai Turner should be adequate at the right guard position. That is if he can remain healthy, something he hasn’t done in over four years now. Concussions are a major concern with this player.
None of these issues are unexpected by the Steelers brass. This is the path they chose when they selected Najee Harris in the first round. Kevin Colbert and company decided to roll the dice on a patchwork offensive line, and instead strengthen the skill positions early in the draft. The second half of this plan is going exceedingly well. Both Harris and tight end Pat Freiemuth look to be excellent selections so far.
As far as the Steelers offensive line plan, well that’s another story. Piecing together a line with mid round draft picks and broken down veterans was a long shot to say the least. Will the Steelers offensive line be their undoing in 2021? With very little depth, this team’s entire season hangs on the health and play of some very suspect characters. The injury to Banner has already put the thirty eight year old Ben Roethlisberger in a vulnerable position to start the season. Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin gambled they could build a successful team with a cobbled together offensive line. So far that gamble isn’t looking so good, and could cost them this season.