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Taking the next step

What a difference a year makes.

For tackle Dan Moore Jr. the leap from his rookie season to his second season was one that yes, had its bumps in the road. But the bumps eventually led to a much smoother path as the year progressed.

Moore developed a comfort level in 2022 that wasn't always there his rookie season and it came with one simple factor – experience.

"Things were much better this past year," said Moore. "Just the feel of the game, the speed of the game, and knowing what to expect. Knowing what I need to get better at. The things I need to work on, how people will try to see nuances in my game and try to attack me. Honestly, just not feeling like a rookie anymore."

That feeling, and comfort level came in handy in 2022 with so many changes on the offensive line. There were new coaches with the addition of offensive line coach Pat Meyer and assistant offensive line coach Isaac Williams.

Then there were new additions to the line, with center Mason Cole and guard James Daniels signing in the offseason as unrestricted free agents, giving the line a whole new look. A look that would be scrutinized to the maximum when the preseason began, and things weren't 'perfect.'

"It was tough," said Moore. "The year before, with us knowing that we were the weak link of the offense, we knew we were going to have some backlash in the beginning. We knew it was going to be a process for us getting to know each other.

"With James and Mason coming in, people don't realize how hard it is to build that continuity and that cohesion within five people to work as one. The preseason was tough. But once the season came and we got rolling and we were able to keep guys healthy, we just kept getting better every week."

That health factor is something that can't be ignored. The Steelers starting five offensive linemen, Moore, Daniels, Cole, Chukwuma Okorafor and Kevin Dotson, started every game together. Think about that. Every game. Together.

"That was huge," said Moore. "Coach Pat talks about it all the time. He always says that the offensive line who can stay healthy are the ones who are going to play the best because every single week they're all playing together and learning. That's a big aspect of offensive line play. You see a lot of offensive lines and one or two of their linemen go down and it's tough for them to keep that cohesion throughout the season.

"When all five guys stay healthy and start for 17 games, that's something that's extremely rare."

With that stability of them playing all 17 games came something the offensive line needed last year. Cohesion. It took time as everyone adapted to styles of play, tendencies, and personalities, but it took a turn for the better just in time.

"I would say we developed the cohesion right after the preseason, that last preseason game," said Moore. "We were trying to make an effort to just hang out outside of the locker room, do stuff together, get to know one another, get to know each other's backgrounds and families. It was things from making a commitment to be at the facility every Tuesday, get extra work in on off days, and then every Thursday doing something as a group, going out to eat, having fun, going to Topgolf or something similar.

"Those things go miles when you're talking about what it has been like trying to develop a sense of camaraderie and it makes it easier for you to hold each other accountable when you genuinely care about one another."

That sense of camaraderie, the growth the line went through in 2022, makes Moore excited for what is ahead. The entire starting five is expected to be back in 2023, with nobody in line to hit free agency.

"It's huge when you talk about what we had to go through last year, trying to build that level of continuity," said Moore. "When you take the momentum that we had at the end of last season and bring it into next season, it makes me excited. If we can start hot and how we finished last year, we could really do something special."