PITTSBURGH — The Steelers have dealt with an unexpected array of injuries on the offensive line thus far in training camp. Even with Zach Banner’s gradual return from ACL surgery, Kevin Dotson and Chukwuma Okorafor have still yet to take the field in team portions of the practice.
With those injuries, other guys have been thrown to the fire. In particular, Dan Moore Jr., a fourth-round rookie out of Texas A&M, has been starting in Okorafor’s place.
Given the lack of participation from Okorafor in practice, it would seem to be reasonable that Moore will start on Thursday against the Cowboys in Canton. However, in Steelers versus Steelers practices, he gets to go up against Melvin Ingram and Alex Highsmith. It’s a challenge that he wants to embrace.
“I think it’s a challenge, and it’s a challenge that I’m not afraid of,” Moore said. “Coming in, I knew what awaited me and I think it’s helping me getting better.”
Through the challenges that Moore is getting from Highsmith and Ingram, he feels his improvement is becoming palpable. In other words, the game is starting to slow down for him a little bit.
“Just everything is improving,” Moore said. “The way I punch, not opening the gate all the time, being more physical in the run game, I think it (the matchups) have helped me in all aspects.”
Moore’s big adjustment seems to be schematic. With the Steelers running so much play action, it requires flatter, more vertical sets.
“It’s a different system,” Moore said. “In the run game specifically we are trying to be more physical. We are running at defenders, not around defenders. That is a bit different from what I’ve done in the past. In the passing game, we have a mixture of sets, but it’s all coming together.”
Moore trains with offensive line guru Duke Manyweather. It is in that training where Moore says the mental side of his game has become stronger, along with his experience working with other NFL stars.
“My mental game and being prepared, honestly has improved,” Moore said. “Being around the guys that I train with they’ve also helped me. Terron Armstead, Geoff Schwartz was also there for a little bit when I was training, Lane Johnson, guys like that. They are guys who you can learn from.”
Moore will look to make a strong first impression as he likely gets that start Thursday. While he is unlikely to be the starter right out of the gate, one injury could throw him into that role. As such, Moore’s readiness is still rather important to pay attention to for the team.