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Steelers Interior O-Line Overview: Exciting Battles to Watch at Training Camp

The Pittsburgh Steelers have a new name on the offensive line. Meanwhile, Kevin Dotson is fighting for a spot.

The Pittsburgh Steelers' 90-man roster is set, and with it comes a brand-new offensive line.

The interior line looks like one position of strength along an offensive line that is looking to take a significant step forward in 2023. The starters are set in stone, but there is a good bit of competition for the backup spots amongst experienced veterans and youngsters alike. Which players are worth keeping an eye on throughout the summer?

Starters: Isaac Seumalo, Mason Cole, James Daniels

It's rare to see the Steelers hand out hefty contracts in free agency, but that's exactly what they did in the spring by giving Isaac Seumalo a three-year, $24 million dollar contract. The former Eagles guard has been a mainstay for Philadelphia on what has been one of the strongest offensive lines in the league over the past decade or so. The relationship with Steelers assistant general manager Andy Wiedl certainly didn't hurt Seumalo's reputation speaks for itself.

Seumalo spent the majority of his career at left guard before flipping to the right side last season in Philly. He will more than likely return to his natural position in 2023. Seumalo has always been a strong pass protector who sets a firm pocket for his quarterbacks on the inside. His deal is very reasonable for a solid interior offensive lineman, with the only concern being that he's had some issues staying healthy over the course of his career. With him being over the age of 30 now, that's certainly something to monitor moving forward. 

Last offseason was really the first step towards the Steelers revamping their offensive line, signing both Mason Cole and James Daniels in free agency. Needless to say, Cole was a massive upgrade at the position last season. He only allowed two sacks and committed one penalty on the season, according to PFF, despite battling some nagging injuries throughout the season. 

Pittsburgh flirted with some of the top center-eligible prospects through the draft process, but Cole is a baseline starting caliber player at the pivot spot, so it makes sense that they're running it back for another season. It will be interesting to see how much more comfortable he looks in space next season if he's able to stay healthy. There aren't many elite centers league-wide and the most important thing is that the Steelers no longer have a black hole on the inside of their line for defensive coordinators to exploit, which is good news for everyone involved, especially Kenny Pickett.

Former Chicago Bears offensive lineman James Daniels gave everyone a scare last preseason after struggling mightily in his first few appearances with his new team. Then the regular season came around, and Daniels seemed to adjust, looking much more confident in himself. That confidence led to him looking like Pittsburgh's best offensive lineman throughout the year, allowing just one sack on the season. 

Despite entering his sixth season as a pro, Daniels will turn just 26 years old by the time the 2023 season kicks off against the San Francisco 49ers. After being moved around between three different positions during his tenure with the Bears, Daniels has finally settled in at one spot, and that familiarity should be a good thing for him moving forward. He is easily one of the most consistent players on the offensive side of the ball, and the tandem of both him and Seumalo could give Pittsburgh one of the better guard duos league-wide.

Fighting For a Role: Nate Herbig

The New York Jets offensive line was ravaged with injuries last season and Nate Herbig was able to step in and provide some quality snaps. After three seasons as a backup with the Eagles, Herbig was clearly a priority in free agency because of his experience and familiarity. As a backup lineman, it always helps if you offer positional versatility and that's exactly what Herbig brings to the table. He's played both guard spots and even moonlighted at center during his professional career. He's the team's top backup interior offensive lineman next season, barring injury.

Fighting For a Spot: Kevin Dotson, Kendrick Green, Spencer Anderson, Ryan McCollum

There's no doubt that Kevin Dotson is certainly talented enough to be a quality depth piece on an NFL offensive line. The problem has been that he's extremely inconsistent on a snap-to-snap basis, and that's largely what led the team to sign a starter in free agency. Still, Dotson has two-plus years of starting experience, and there aren't enough quality offensive linemen to go around league-wide. with Herbig slotted in as the team's primary backup, that could lead the Steelers to shop Dotson before the season kicks off, assuming everyone remains healthy.

When Kevin Colbert selected Kendrick Green in the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft, they anticipated him being a core piece of the offensive line moving forward. Green's rookie season was abysmal, as his switch to center proved to be a transition too difficult. The team gave Green an opportunity at guard last summer, but he struggled mightily in the preseason before being inactive for most of the regular season. Green's lack of size and balance means he's on the outside looking in at the moment. 

As previously mentioned, versatility along the offensive lineman is something that every organization looks for. Spencer Anderson, one of the Steelers' two seventh-round picks in 2022, played all five spots in college. There's not a clear-cut backup center option on the roster right now, so there's a chance that he could get an opportunity there. It'll be interesting to see where Anderson lines up throughout the preseason, and his versatility could come in handy down the line as a developmental piece.

An undrafted free agent in 2021, Ryan McCollum has only played sparingly at the NFL level. All of his playing time came during his rookie season with the Detroit Lions, but because he's a primary center, he joins this tier. This is the deepest the Steelers' offensive line has looked in several years, but there are still a lot of questions to answer as it pertains to what the team would do in the event of an injury to Mason Cole. There are quite a few guys that have experience at the pivot, but that spot is very much up for grabs.

Fighting For a Practice Squad Spot: William Dunkle

William Dunkle went undrafted a year ago and spent all of last season on the Steelers practice squad. Clearly, there's something that the coaching staff sees in him, enough to offer him a future's contract at season's end. The one major thing working against Dunkle is that he's only played right guard in college, meaning his positional versatility is a bit in question. The guard spot is the strongest group on the roster at the moment, so he's facing quite the uphill climb toward the 53.

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