INDIANAPOLIS — The Pittsburgh Steelers’ offensive line situation was a mess in the 2021 season.
Maurkice Pouncey and David DeCastro retired, Alejandro Villanueva and Matt Feiler left in free agency, Zach Banner never fully recovered from his knee injury and the team ended up with five different starters for the 2021 opener compared to the 2020 opener.
Last season, Kevin Dotson dealt with injuries, Kendrick Green and Dan Moore Jr. struggled as rookies and Tre Turner didn’t seem like the player he once was.
The struggled with the line hampered the entire offense in 2021, and part of the problem was not just the players that replaced the previous starters, but that the entire unit had no cohesion. Youngsters like Green and Moore did not have seasons veterans alongside them to help them along.
“I think we can go back and look at the offensive line last year,” general manager Kevin Colbert said Tuesday. “We didn’t plan on that. In August, we weren’t thinking about that. Then all of a sudden, Maurkice [Pouncey] decides to retire. David [DeCastro] decides that it’s time for him to step back. We kind of knew we couldn’t sign Al [Villanueva] back because of anticipate cap shortages and his demands or his market.”
The team might be in a place where that process repeats itself in 2022 at a different position group. The Steelers are entering the 2022 offseason with three of their top five defensive backs as free agents, as strong safety Terrell Edmunds and outside cornerbacks Joe Haden and Ahkello Witherspoon have all reached unrestricted free agency.
The team will need to make a decision about which — and how many — of those players they try to retain before free agency begins on March 14. But the disaster of the 2021 offensive line is certainly going to play a factor into Colbert’s decision making.
“You can look at it and say we have a certain number of players at a given position, how do we put that back together?” Colbert said. “I wish I could say it’s going to be ‘this, this and this’ but I’m sure it’s going to be a combination of trade, unrestricted free agent and draft, and I can’t tell you which one it’ll be in which order.”
The Steelers met with multiple cornerbacks and safeties that could be options to take with the No. 20 overall pick at the 2022 NFL Combine in Indianapolis. But they’ll have to decide what to do in free agency before they know who will be available to them to pick.