Through parts of the six organized team activity (OTA) sessions so far, Jones has worked with the second team behind veteran left tackle Dan Moore Jr. It’s certainly not unusual for a new guy to get fewer reps, especially to start offseason practices. But because of how inconsistently Moore played in 2022 and that Pittsburgh spent a first-round pick on Jones, it’s raised some eyebrows.
But not much can be gleaned from OTAs regarding depth chart — the season is three months out. Training camp is where the true competition begins.
Dotson, Pittsburgh’s fourth-round pick of the 2020 NFL draft, threw his new teammate under the bus as a guest on former teammate Derwin Gray’s podcast, Three Point Stance, on the Steeler Nation Multimedia Network.
“I think this year, most likely, he won’t play,” Dotson said. “I’m thinking they’re just thinking about the future. If he plays this year, I don’t know. He’s going to be at tackle, most likely left, because I don’t think he’s ever played right.”
He praised Moore and Chuks Okorafor for holding their own against some of the best in the league and not getting the “notoriety” they deserve. It’s natural to back the guys you’ve been playing with since you came into the NFL, but throwing a teammate under the bus is unprofessional.
Okorafor is unlikely to be supplanted anytime soon. In 2021, the Steelers signed him to a three-year contract worth $29.25 million, making him one of the most expensive players on the entire offense. According to Over the Cap, the deal comes with cap hits of $13.1 million in 2023 and $11.8 million in 2024.
Offensive tackle is arguably the toughest on the line, making getting up to NFL speed even more challenging. Given his issues with concussions as a rookie, staunch protection of Kenny Pickett’s blind side is critical. Defenses line up their best pass rusher on the left side.
It’s certainly not a talent issue. While he’s raw — as many first-year players are — Jones has that in spades. What he lacks is experience, which requires time and patience. He’s less seasoned than a typical top pick, having only 20 starts in his college career. The first three games on the Steelers’ schedule present a challenge for even the most seasoned veteran. Whoever starts at left tackle will be faced with defending Pickett against Nick Bosa (San Francisco 49ers), Myles Garrett (Cleveland Browns) and Maxx Crosby (Las Vegas Raiders) in Weeks 1, 2 and 3 – tall tasks for a newcomer transitioning from the NCAA to the pros.
That could be why Dotson doesn’t see Jones taking the field this season. For what it’s worth, longtime Steelers insider Jim Wexell and Greg Cosell also believe Jones may be a year away from replacing Moore.
Or, he could just feel a little slighted. Though no one knows how the offensive line will take shape, and the official depth chart won’t be revealed until September, Dotson will be relegated to reserve. He unofficially lost his job to Isaac Seumalo, the former Philadelphia Eagles guard whom the Steelers signed in free agency.
Or, he could just be wrong.
Steelers Rookie Broderick Jones Optimistic on Improving
It’s hard to imagine the Pittsburgh Steelers moving up to grab Broderick Jones (before the New York Jets could) and not starting him Day 1. He has rotated in with the first team on some reps, which could be a good sign of things to come as OTAs wrap up this week, and minicamp commences June 15.
“Everybody’s getting reps all around the board,” Jones told local Pittsburgh media on June 2. “I’m taking it day by day, rep by rep, trying to get better.”
As OTAs are, practices have been a hodgepodge of players and matchups with little consistency. “The defense rotates so much that I’m always going against different people at different times,” he said.
Though it’s been a whirlwind for Jones, he’s confident he’ll improve as days go by. “I’m learning new stuff on a daily basis,” Jones said. “There are a lot of things to be learned, and there is a lot of stuff I don’t know. There is a lot of stuff I have to figure out. At the end of the day, being around older guys, talking to them, taking it in, and soaking in the knowledge will help me. By the end of this camp, it will make me a better player and a better person.”