Steelers Signing Former Bears Second-Round Pick: Report

James Daniels

Getty Images James Daniels (No. 68) blocking for Chicago Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky.

According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, the Pittsburgh Steelers have come to an agreement on a three-year contract with former Chicago Bears offensive lineman James Daniels. Per Fowler, the 24-year-old Warren, Ohio native is signing a deal worth $26.5 million.

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James Daniels Blocked for Mitchell Trubisky in Chicago

Daniels—6-foot-4 and 327 pounds—is a former second-round draft pick of the Bears, who selected him No. 39 overall in 2018 out of Iowa. Since then, Daniels has played in 54 career games with 48 starts, including 17 starts in 2021. During his time in Chicago, he played mostly left and right guard, but also spent time at center in 2019, the position he manned during his final two seasons at Iowa, where he also worked at both guard and tackle.

Daniels was limited to five starts in 2020, owing to the torn pectoral that landed him on injured reserve on October 14 of that year. But he came back in 2021 to earn to the highest Pro Football Focus (PFF) grade of his career (71.0), the product of a 68.3 pass blocking grade and 71.8 run blocking grade. PFF lists Daniels as having allowed three sacks and committing 11 penalties over the course of 1,121 offensive snaps in 2021.

It’s also worth noting that NFL football runs in the Daniels family, which seems to be attractive to the Steelers, perhaps increasing the odds that the team tries to acquire either Cam Heyward’s brother or Carnell Lake’s son, both of whom are available in the 2022 NFL Draft.

Daniels’ father, LeShun Darnell Daniels, appeared in one game for the Minnesota Vikings in 1997 following a college career at Ohio State. His older brother, Leshun Darnell Daniels Jr., played running back for Washington in 2017 after coming to the NFL out of Iowa.

Daniels also has experience blocking for former Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky, who is coming to Pittsburgh on a two-year contract, in line to take over from Ben Roethlisberger as the team’s starter, assuming he can beat out Mason Rudolph and former Washington first-round pick Dwayne Haskins.

The Steelers Reward Position Flexibility, Again

The agreement with Daniels means that the Steelers have added an offensive lineman with position flexibility for the second day in a row. On Monday March 14, Adam Schefter of ESPN reported that former Minnesota Vikings and Arizona Cardinals offensive lineman Mason Cole “intends to sign” with the Steelers.

Much like Daniels, Cole is entering the prime of his career, as he’s still just 25 years old, despite being a product of the 2018 draft. Another similarity is that Cole has the aforementioned position flexibility, having played center and guard in the pros after a college career at Michigan where he played the unlikely combination of center and left tackle.

Even offensive Chukwuma Okorafor—who is expected to sign a new three-year contract after free agency officially begins on March 16—can be said to have some positional flexibility. Last offseason Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin indicated Okorafor was on track to be the starter at left tackle, but with Zach Banner struggling to recover from the torn ACL he suffered in September 2020, Okorafor ended up starting at right tackle while rookie Dan Moore Jr. started on the left side.

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