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Farabaugh: James Daniels to the Bench? What Are We Doing Here?



James Daniels warms up ahead of Steelers vs. Ravens on Jan. 1, 2023 in Baltimore. (Mitchell Northam / Steelers Now)

When Isaac Seumalo signed with the Steelers, it became pretty clear that Pittsburgh wanted to make a strong impression that they meant business when it came to the interior of their offensive line, but the candidates it could affect were obvious. However, just days after the signing, there is some speculation about what Seumalo’s signing means for James Daniels.

Wait, hold on a second! James Daniels, like the best offensive lineman on the entire team last year? Yes, that was a thought thrown out there by Brian Baldinger on 93.7 the Fan. Daniels could head to the bench with Seumalo and Nate Herbig coming on board as some splashy signings this free agency period.

I love Baldy’s analysis and his enthusiasm for the game. However, let’s understand a few things about Daniels and what he brings to the table. For one, he is one of the most intelligent players on the team and what I would argue is the de facto leader of the team. No, he is no an outspoken leader like Maurkice Pouncey, but he is a silent, interpersonal leader similar to that of David DeCastro, Then, there is the simple fact that Daniels was consistently good a year ago and has been consistently above the line in his NFL career.

No disrespect to ‘Nasty’ Nate Herbig. I like Herbig’s game and what he brings to the table. However, he has not been as consistent as Daniels. If the argument is money, well, Daniels will make far more than Herbig. On top of that, if all emergency cases fail, Daniels was drafted out of Iowa to be a center. Let’s just state the obvious — if Pittsburgh badly wants Herbig and Seumalo to start, the one out of a job will be Mason Cole, not Daniels.

Baldinger did mention Cole in his statement as well. Cole played well while nursing a foot injury that had him in and out of a boot each week as he prepared to play game after game. For that, he fought admirably and played above the line while doing so. Of course, Cole is not some elite player and could be upgraded upon. However, I still think Cole has even done enough to remain in the lineup.

Looking at the moves, I think the idea is clear. Herbig is a pinch-in starter at any spot on the interior of the line. Meanwhile, Seumalo switches back to his native position, which is left guard, and takes over for Kevin Dotson, who is legitimately out of a starting spot. Meanwhile, Daniels doesn’t sweat for a second and stays at right guard. This seems to be their best lineup and Daniels has earned the right to be the unquestioned starter at that spot.

In addition, that simply causes the least amount of movement on the offensive line. If you ever talk to me about offensive line play, you’ll understand that I think switching around the offensive line and disrupting what works is a bad idea. Daniels at right guard works. I’d keep him there and let it go. The idea of him not starting? It’s not going to come to fruition.

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