PITTSBURGH — For the second consecutive offseason, it appears that the Pittsburgh Steelers are looking to make an upgrade at the tackle position.
The Steelers used their first-round draft pick on tackle Broderick Jones in 2023, and traded up to do so. With Jones in the fold, their situation might not be quite so desperate in 2024, but the Steelers still seem very interested in what looks like a very deep tackle class in this year’s NFL Draft.
But the Steelers do have an internal option that showed some promise in 2023 that they could look to turn to as part of the future, as well.
Dylan Cook was an unheralded singing for the Steelers on the eve of OTAs last season. An undrafted free agent out of Montana, he spent his rookie season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but did not appear in a game.
Cook impressed right away with the Steelers. He fits the physical bill for a tackle at 6-foot-6, 305 pounds, but as a former college quarterback (you read that right), he outstrips most offensive linemen in athleticism.
He showed this preseason that his pass-blocking prowess is more developed than his run-blocking, but the Steelers left the preseason feeling pretty good about Cook after his 101 snaps over three games. Cook made the 53-man roster, and even though he came from humble beginnings, by the end of camp, it wasn’t even a surprise. Cook was clearly one of the best nine linemen the Steelers had.
Then came the regular season, and for the second year in a row, the Steelers got through it without a single missed game for an offensive tackle. Cook spent 16 games in the press box for the Steelers as a game-day inactive. Once, when Isaac Seumalo was out, he was able to dress, but did not appear in the game.
Cook didn’t come into the NFL with big aspirations. His humble and basically unheard-of beginnings as an NAIA quarterback-turned FCS lineman assured that stance. But after a promising preseason, he admitted that it was a little bit frustrating to not be able to translate that play into regular season action.
“It’s all part of the journey,” Cook said to Steelers Now. “I feel like I still took a huge step this year, just making active. I’m not gonna lie, it is slightly frustrating not being out there to help this team win, but there’s other ways I can help the team win and that’s going out at practice against T.J. [Watt] and Alex [Highsmith] and those guys and doing what I can to give them a good look and prepare for the week.”
As someone who took to offensive line later in his career, Cook has approached his second year as a full-time scout team player as a learning opportunity, and thinks that even though he didn’t get to show it yet, he’s a better player now than he was at the start of the season.
“I just understand the game better,” Cook said. “I understand the game within the game better, if that makes sense. I can just see things. My eyes are bigger. I’m seeing less and I’m seeing more, as the coaches like to say.”
He’s also been seeing a lot of T.J. Watt. The Steelers’ all-everything outside linebacker and Defensive Player of the Year candidate has spent the entire season torturing Cook and the other tackles on the Steelers’ scout team, and Cook has loved every minute of it.
“He’s such a genius,” Cook said. “He sees things before I see them. He sees things in me before I even know that I’m going to do them. Just his head game, it sets him apart, among many other things that set him apart, but that’s the one thing that stands out to me. He’s just so smart and knows so much about football and o-line play that it helps him be as effective as he is on Sundays and, rightfully so, have the reputation that he does.”
Cook is 26 — four years older than Jones — and with Dan Moore Jr. still on a cheap contract and the Steelers eyeing tackles in the 2024 NFL Draft, it doesn’t look like he’s going to be gifted an opportunity any time soon, either.
But he’s never been given anything throughout his career, so that’s not anything new.