Here is the next in a position-by-position series on the Steelers at the conclusion of the 2022 season as they head into the start of the NFL free agent period, which opens March 15.
OFFENSIVE LINE (9)
Chuks Okorafor, Dan Moore Jr., Kevin Dotson, James Daniels, Mason Cole, J.C. Hassenauer, Trent Scott, Jesse Davis, Kendrick Green
(free agent scorecard: 2 unrestricted, Trent Scott, Jesse Davis; 1 restricted, J.C. Hassenauer)
A LAST LOOK AT 2022
The Steelers went into last offseason looking to retool their offensive line and made some under-the-radar signings, bringing back right tackle Chuks Okorafor, while picking up right guard James Daniels and center Mason Cole in free agency.
As to be expected, it took some time for the unit to come together with two new starters joining holdovers Okorafor, second-year left tackle Dan Moore Jr. and left guard Kevin Dotson.
It also didn't help that running back Najee Harris was dealing with a foot injury and the Steelers making a switch at quarterback from Mitch Trubisky to rookie Kenny Pickett a little over a month into the season.
After a 2-6 start to the season in which the Steelers failed to break 100 rushing yards in five of eight games and scored more than 20 points just once, things completely turned during the team's Week 9 bye.
The offensive line was challenged to become more physical and generate more space in the running game, while Harris also got more healthy.
In the second half of the season, the Steelers averaged 147 rushing yards per game and were held under 100 yards on the ground just once, going 7-2.
Continuity up from was a major factor. The five starters missed a combined 47 snaps all season, with Cole having 46 of those. Daniels, Moore and Dotson played all 1,160 offensive snaps.
Of the backups, J.C. Hassenauer played 46 snaps in place of Cole, while Trent Scott played 31 snaps as a sixth blocker when the Steelers chose to use that formation.
As a result, the line continually got better as the season wore on. The line was 28th in Football Outsiders' blocking metrics early in the season. By season's end, the unit was 10th overall, continually climbing the ranks.
Included in that ranking was the fact they were No. 1 in power rushing success, 4th in the number of runs on which the backs were stuffed – a run for no gain or a loss.
The line also was 10th in adjusted sack rate. Daniels didn't allow a sack all season according to Pro Football Focus.
With all five starters under the age of 26, it's still a young unit with a chance to continue to get better.
ONE STAT THAT STOOD OUT
The Steelers offensive linemen committed 27 penalties in 2022, down from 33 penalties in 2021. Cole, at center, was not assessed a penalty all season, having the only one called against him declined. Daniels and Okorafor were assessed three penalties each. Dotson led the Steelers with 11 penalties, while Moore was assessed nine. Hassenauer had one. The line was better in terms of penalties in 2022. It can still be even better still.
- Dale Lolley is co-host of "SNR Drive" on Steelers Nation Radio. Subscribe to the podcast here: Apple Podcast | iHeart Podcast
LOOK AHEAD TO 2023
With all five starters under contract for 2023, the Steelers could bring back the same unit for the first time since the 2019 season, when the starting unit of Alejandro Villanueva, Ramon Foster, Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro and Matt Feiler finished the 2018 season and returned intact the next year.
But with three of the four backups heading toward potential free agency, there's bound to be some change, even if it's not necessarily in the starting lineup. The Steelers could bring in some competition, particularly on the left side, where Dotson and Moore combined to commit 20 penalties.
After all, last season Dotson competed with Kendrick Green in training camp before winning the job.
The continuity of this group was lauded throughout the course of the season and was pointed to as a reason for the line -- and the team's -- improvement.
Allowing that continuity to roll over into 2023 would certainly be understandable.
This is a group that certainly had a strong finish to the 2022 season to build upon for 2023. Expecting them to stay as healthy as they did over the course of last season, however, might be unrealistic, so continuing to at least build the depth is a necessity.
Overall, however, this group is in pretty good shape with all five starters returning.