PITTSBURGH — Nothing about what the Steelers are doing at left tackle makes sense. After Broderick Jones allowed just one pressure against the Ravens front, he likely will return to the bench with Dan Moore Jr. taking the helm instead. Moore confirmed he is the first-team left tackle on Monday, though Mike Tomlin’s answer on Tuesday on whether Moore would start was odd.
That’s a big if. We have some work ahead of us. He’ll be given an opportunity to show his progress over the course of the week,” Tomlin said. “And we’ll make that decision at the appropriate time. It doesn’t behoove us to make hypothetical statements in the early portions of the week. He looked pretty good yesterday; we’ll see what a week leaves us.”
It’s vague. Tomlin does do the business of vagueness. Usually, it’s relatively clear-cut. Moore would either start or not start. This is not some gamesmanship idea, either. The Rams are not quaking in their boots about this situation. So, this answer makes it oddly ambiguous. Tomlin’s later praise of Jones would make it more baffling.
But the question that this all boils down to is simple — why start Moore? Moore has not played at a starter level this year. That’s fine to acknowledge. His schedule of pass rushers was solely elite players, too. But Jones played a better game against the Ravens than any game of Moore’s career. The first-round pick showed tremendous signs of growth and looked to be on the upswing. There is a lot of upside for the future. With Moore, that upside remains oddly capped, and the bottom could fall out just as much as it can with the young player in Jones.
Jones is a better run blocker who can get out in space and create net positives. I remain skeptical of him as a pass protector, but his strides in that area are undeniable. Despite a lack of refinement with his hands, Jones has a level of athleticism that gives him leeway to recover. I was not sure it would translate to the NFL level, but it did. Against elite edge rushers, he might have a tough time still. But man, encouraging performance from him against the Ravens.
Moore’s play is below the line as it stands. Tomlin’s long-standing policy that starters can not lose their starting job due to injuries could be the culprit here. But it’s odd to risk downplaying and backing off the live reps your first-round pick will get. The tape from the Ravenes game is evident in who the better play is now, for the short and long-term of the Steelers.
Even with moves I disagree with from the team, I can rationally argue for it. I have nothing here. The injury argument is too superficial, even in an organization that values loyalty. On tape, Jones played the best game a Steelers offensive tackle has played this year, and he provides more tools for the offense as a whole.
Putting Jones back on the bench is a head-scratcher. For someone who grew as much as he did from Week 4 to Week 5, he earned that starting job, representing a massive part of the team’s future. Moore may start Week 7 against the Rams, but it should not be expected that results will suddenly change. Jones deserves the starting gig, and Pittsburgh will likely find that out quickly on Sunday.