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Offensive line playing the long game

The further review wasn't as critical this time, as it had been the previous week, but nor is head coach Mike Tomlin harboring any illusions regarding how far the Steelers' offensive line has progressed through three preseason games.

Or about how much work is yet to be done up front.

"I'm not gonna come in here in the next day or two saying we've solved our offensive line developmental issues," Tomlin emphasized this week in the media work room at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. "It is a process, individual and collective development.

"We got young people playing at that position. We have people that are new to us playing at that position. And it is the ultimate cohesion position, much like the secondary.

"We're not looking for fast fixes. We're not searching for comfort. We're just simply rolling our sleeves up daily and working and we understand that every time we step in a stadium we get a chance to measure progress. And while we do that we better win football games."

The Steelers won three of those in three tries in August.

The first was a 32-25 victory over Seattle on Aug. 13, after which Tomlin said he'd "like to see our quarterbacks cleaner than they were tonight."

The second was a 16-15 triumph on Aug. 20 at Jacksonville, a game in which quarterback Mitch Trubisky couldn't be properly critiqued, Tomlin maintained, given how things had transpired in the trenches.

"We've got to do a better job in protecting him and having some semblance of a running game if you want a fair evaluation, and I'm just being bluntly honest," he said.

"'Coach T' kinda put us up on the board, me specifically, in front of the team meeting," left guard Kendrick Green reported regarding the in-house fallout after Jacksonville. "That never feels good.

"He's not even cussing you out or anything like that. He's just like, 'This is what you are. This is what you put on film,' and it's fair. It's not like it's uncalled for, it's completely fair."

Kevin Dotson started at left guard in the preseason finale on Aug. 28.

And the group earned a more positive review, relatively speaking, after a 19-9 victory over the Lions.

"It definitely wasn't as harsh," Dotson said. "But he's gonna call you out, regardless. It doesn't matter if we had a great game, he'll be able to find that negative.

"And it's not really a bad thing. You want to be able to know what you did wrong, and he's gonna call that every time."

Tomlin confirmed the perceived positive steps taken against Detroit, and the need to continue heading in that direction.

"It was better in some areas but there are some things that continually need to be addressed," he said.

The stretch of games the Steelers will need to win while continuing to get better commences on Sept. 11 at Cincinnati.

Dotson thinks he'll be starting at left guard in that one, but he isn't certain.

"I believe I will be," he said. "I haven't been told anything. I can't really give you a full, 100-percent answer, but I'm pretty sure."

The offensive line room emerged from the mandatory roster cut to 53 on Tuesday having deleted William Dunkle, Adrian Ealy, Chaz Green, John Leglue, Ryan McCollum, Joe Haeg and Trent Scott, and having added veteran Jesse Davis in a trade with Minnesota.

Davis reported for duty with his new team on Wednesday unaware of what the Steelers envisioned for him initially in terms of a new role.

"No, I just got in, got a practice under my belt and kinda just rollin' with it," said Davis, who started games at every offensive line position except center during a five-year run in Miami (2017-21).

He has a plan in mind while that's being determined.

"Just gotta get better each day and try to grind it out in the classroom," he added.

Offensive coordinator Matt Canada is on board with that, for all concerned.

"We're gonna continue to get better and continue to work to put them in a good position to make plays, that falls on me," Canada said.

"There's always going to be things that are gonna happen that we're not gonna like that everyone's gonna talk about. But I'm never gonna talk about those things in here, it's gonna be getting better and working better. We're progressing along. We do have a new group. There's good plays and bad plays. We just gotta keep jelling together, keep getting better."

That work resumes on Monday.

The offensive line won't be alone in such an undertaking.

"Not only that group, but all of us," Tomlin stressed. "We'll continually be a group in development."

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