PITTSBURGH — Throughout the offseason, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ first-team offense line has basically never stopped changing the way it looks.
Zach Banner has been in and out recovering from his knee surgery. Both Chukwuma Okorafor and Kevin Dotson dealt with minor injuries. David DeCastro dealt with a major one. Rashaad Coward and J.C. Hassenauer were passed on the depth chart by Dotson and Kendrick Green. Trai Turner was signed.
So while the team will certainly miss Banner, who was placed on the injured reserve list on Wednesday, it’s also become fairly used to shifting bodies along the five-man front. This time, Okorafor is moving to right tackle while rookie Dan Moore Jr. steps in at left tackle.
Moore played primarily left tackle at Texas A&M, and he started out there with the Steelers, before being asked to play some right tackle when it became clear that he’d passed veteran Joe Haeg to be the team’s top backup at the spot.
Moore admitted that the process of moving from his left to his right had been difficult for him, and so with Banner out, the team will keep the fourth-round draft pick at the spot he’s more comfortable and let Okorafor resume manning the position where he made 15 starts last season.
“I believe this is the way it’ll be, because Dan is definitely more comfortable at left tackle,” Dotson said this week after practice. “He played there in college, but I feel like he’ll be ready wherever he’s asked.”
Okorafor didn’t play any right tackle at all until the final week of preseason practices, so the five-man unit that is currently projected to take the field in Buffalo on Sept. 12 won’t have spent very much time together, but Dotson said that doesn’t matter as much as all of the players being familiar with one another.
“We’ve trained both of them on either side, so I’ll be ready,” Dotson said. “I feel like we’re all gelling. We can communicate better. We’re not asking each other every time now. We can just kinda nudge that this is what’s happening, so do this.”
Dotson said he feels especially good about run-blocking next to Moore, and that the rookie has picked things up quickly, as Dotson did when thrust into the same scenario a year ago.
“I feel comfortable with Dan,” Dotson said. “He’s a quick learner. So you tell him what to do and he’ll adapt. … I feel like we both have a mindset of we don’t wanna get beat. We don’t wanna get blown back or lose our one-on-one rep. I feel good about our mentality.”