Steelers Projected to Sign Ex-First-Overall Tackle to Protect Kenny Pickett

Eric Fisher

Getty Free agent Eric Fisher is a solid option for Steelers at tackle.

For the past two seasons, the Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line has been something of a band of misfits. As All-Pro linemen in David DeCastro, Maurkice Pouncey and Alejandro Villanueva aged and future Hall of Famer Ben Roethlisberger became more and more of a statue, the unit suffered.

Pouncey was the first to call it quits. DeCastro was released and the Steelers let Villanueva walk in free agency. Of course, we know Big Ben overstayed his welcome and was the last to hang up his cleats.

In 2020, the Steelers started the long and winding process of rebuilding what was once one of the most revered lines in the NFL. A bandaid was put on the guard position with free agent Trai Turner, now with the Washington Commanders. Pittsburgh drafted Kendrick Green in the third round of the 2021 NFL draft in hopes that he could do the job at center — an experiment that failed miserably.

Zach Banner initially replaced departed right tackle Matt Feiler but sustained what appears to be a career-ending ACL injury in Week 1 of 2020 and is no longer with the team.

So it was back to the drawing board this offseason.

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Rebuilding the Line

Instead of relying on NFL draft picks to reconstruct the offensive line, Pittsburgh wisely chose free agency to address two positions — going with proven veterans seems to be the safest bet. James Daniels was brought over from the Chicago Bears and Mason Cole from the Vikings in nearly simultaneous moves in March.

Training camp will decide who starts off the season where since Daniels and Cole are both capable of playing at center and guard.

Positions the jury is still out on remain at right and left tackle. Dan Moore, Jr., drafted in 2021 to ultimately fill Banner’s void, and Chukwuma Okorafor in Villanueva’s spot, are both works in progress. While Okorafor was (over)paid handsomely this offseason, he’s a below-average tackler, and Moore struggled at various points as a rookie. Depth beyond both sides is questionable.

What are the Pittsburgh Steelers to do?

ESPN’s Bill Barnwell provided an answer of Eric Fisher when listing 10 perfect destinations for some of the top free agents still on the market.

Barnwell wrote, “The Steelers started rookie fourth-rounder Dan Moore for 16 games in 2021 and didn’t get great results; Moore ranked last in the NFL among tackles in pass block win rate and was about league average against the run. The Steelers shouldn’t immediately abandon their hopes of developing Moore into a valuable tackle, but adding Fisher would give them a reliable left tackle to protect first-round pick Kenny Pickett. Pittsburgh already imported Mason Cole and James Daniels this offseason, so we know it is comfortable adding linemen in free agency.”

Protecting the QB

Eric Fisher, 31, was selected first overall by the Kansas City Chiefs in 2013, where he had a stellar eight seasons. But Kansas City could no longer afford to keep him around and released him in a cost-saving measure in the 2021 offseason. The Indianapolis Colts quickly snapped Fisher up and signed him to a one-year contract.

Pittsburgh’s current cap space is estimated at $11.2 million, with Kenny Pickett and wide receiver Calvin Austin III still working on contracts. The Colts paid Fisher $8.4 million for one year, so it goes without saying that the Steelers could get him for less.

Adding Fisher would give Moore more time to develop while creating holes for second-year back Najee Harris. Though Fisher’s pass protection left a lot to be desired in Indy — he allowed seven sacks on Carson Wentz — it was his best asset in Kansas City. It’s presumed that the Steelers will rely heavily on the ground game, and Harris needs all the help he can get.

We’ll see what the Pittsburgh Steelers do. They’re likely to see how their current roster takes shape during training camp before making any more moves.

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