Steelers Urged to Sign Ex-Bills, Panthers Tackle: A ‘Plug-and-Play’ Lineman

Daryl Williams

Getty Spencer Brown #79 and Daryl Williams #75 of the Buffalo Bills react during the fourth quarter against the New England Patriots at Highmark Stadium.

On Tuesday Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin confirmed that Mitch Trubisky will be the team’s starting QB this Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals. That said, he’ll be going up against the defending AFC champions behind an offensive line that is widely viewed as among the weakest in the league.

During a recent appearance on NFL Total Access, Brian Baldigner of NFL Network said he’s hitting the panic button over Pittsburgh’s offensive line.

“All I see is penalties, guys getting beat. I don’t see depth,” said Baldinger. “I’m worried. I’m worried regardless of who plays quarterback right now with what I see in Pittsburgh. I’m not calling out any names, but I’m worried as a group.”

Kristopher Knox of Bleacher Report agrees that “it’s clear that the line could use additional help” and suggests former Bills and Panthers offensive lineman Daryl Williams. Knox calls Williams “the perfect player for Pittsburgh,” one who has primarily been a right tackle but has also played left tackle and both guard spots during the course of a career that has spanned seven seasons.

Knox isn’t the only NFL observer who likes Williams. Luis Tirado Jr. recently said he’d be an ideal fit for the Bengals, calling him a “perfect plug-and-play offensive lineman.”

Williams, 30, is coming off a season in which he started 17 games for the Bills at right tackle and right guard, earning a 67.5 overall grade from Pro Football Focus, but a 72.4 pass blocking grade.

The former fourth-round pick (2015) spent the first five years of his career with the Carolina Panthers before signing with the Bills in 2020. All together he has appeared in 89 regular-season games (with 74 starts), as per Pro Football Reference.

The Bills released him on March 14, 2022, in an effort to realize salary cap savings. He was scheduled to earn $10 million in salary this season under the terms of a three-year extension he signed in March 2021.

Ex-Steelers CB Joe Haden the Best Free-Agent Option for the Bengals?

Meanwhile, the names of two other Steelers came up as part of Knox’s discussion, including cornerback Joe Haden, who is seen as the “best free-agent option available” to the Cincinnati Bengals, who ranked 26th in yards allowed last year.

“While he was hampered by a foot injury last season, Haden was a high-end starter in 2020 — he allowed an opposing passer rating of just 75.9 in coverage,” writes Knox, before noting how surprising it is that Haden remains unsigned.

Perhaps Haden doesn’t want to return in a backup role — or play for backup cornerback wages. On August 29 he disputed a report that the Steelers recently reached out to him, but that he had no interest in coming back to Pittsburgh.

Ex-Steelers LB T.J. Fort to the New York Giants?

As for the other ex-Steeler in question, that would be linebacker T.J. Fort, 32, who missed all of last season after suffering a torn ACL during an August 2021 preseason game against the Carolina Panthers. Fort has been with the Ravens since 2019, but the two-year, $5.5 million contract extension he signed that year expired at the end of last season.

Fort would presumably assimilate quickly in Don Martindale’s Giants defense, as Martindale was defensive coordinator during the entirety of Fort’s tenure in Baltimore. Fort played for the Steelers from 2015 to 2018.

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