Pro Football Focus has ranked each offensive line unit entering the 2021 season, and have the Pittsburgh Steelers’ pegged as one of the NFL’s worst.
Pittsburgh’s offensive line clocked in at No. 29 in PFF’s rankings, with the outlet citing uncertainty on the edges at tackle and in the middle at center.
Not only do they rank the Steelers as the fourth-worst offensive line in all of football, but they also have them positioned as the bottom unit in the AFC North. The Browns (1), Ravens (12) and Bengals (24) are all ranked higher.
The Steelers will turn to a pair of relatively unproven commodities at left and right tackle in Chukwuma Okorafor and Zach Banner.
Okorafor is switching to the left side for the first time in his career, while Banner is returning from a torn ACL he suffered after just a handful of snaps in 2020.
“Chukwuma Okorafor moves from right to left tackle after grading out at 57.4 overall last season, ranking 74th out of 84 qualifying tackles. It was Okorafor’s first year as a starter, and while we’ve seen linemen make jumps in Years 3 or 4, he needs to take big strides this season,” PFF’s Steve Palazzolo wrote. “Banner has proven to be below average in pass protection during his limited time as a pro.”
Pittsburgh finds itself in a similar spot at center, as the team will either start unseasoned veteran J.C. Hassenauer or rookie Kendrick Green in replacement of the recently retired Maurkice Pouncey.
“Hassenauer graded out at 57.7 overall on 303 snaps last season, while Green ranked near the top of the draft class in both positively and negatively graded run blocks over the past two years,” Palazzolo writes.
PFF believes the strength of Pittsburgh’s offensive line are their guards David DeCastro and Kevin Dotson. Both were solid in pass protection last season, but still have work to do in the run game.
“Right guard David DeCastro is the one stabilizing player up front, though his 66.2 overall grade in 2020 was a career-low mark,” Palazzolo writes. “Like the rest of the Pittsburgh line, DeCastro struggled in the run game, but he’s now posted seven straight years with excellent 80.0-plus grades in pass protection. 2020 fourth-rounder Kevin Dotson had a fine rookie season, posting similar grades as DeCastro, including a much better mark in pass protection (87.2) than the run game (55.1).”
Ultimately, they believe success for Pittsburgh’s offensive line hinges on development this coming season. The Steelers allowed the fewest sacks in football last season, but also boasted the league’s worst rushing attack.