There appears to be a need in the Pittsburgh Steelers fan base to see rookie left tackle Broderick Jones on the field immediately in 2023. After all, the Steelers traded up to make Jones their first offensive tackle selected in the first round of the draft since Jamain Stephens in 1996.
But the Steelers also possess an established starter in Dan Moore at left tackle. While Moore was a fourth-round pick two years ago, he’s steadily improved in his two-year career.
For that reason, along with how the two tackles have performed through the first week and a half at training camp, The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly argued Jones should not start at left tackle to begin the 2023 season.
“Dan Moore Jr. looks good,” Kaboly wrote. “Probably because he has 34 starts (including playoffs) in two years. Meanwhile, Jones’ head looks like it is swimming. Well, at least to me.
“When it comes to what the Steelers should and eventually will do at left tackle when they open the season next month, we tend to look at the big picture way more than the here and now. That’s wrong.”
Dan Moore Outperforming Broderick Jones at Steelers Training Camp
Kaboly wrote that he concentrated his focus on the Steelers’ left tackle competition at practice on August 5.
Prior to that practice, the Steelers insider already considered Moore the superior Week 1 option at left tackle. In May, he argued that head coach Mike Tomlin should “err on the side of caution” when it came to inserting Jones into the starting lineup early in the 2023 season.
Watching practice on August 5 just confirmed those thoughts for Kaboly.
“Moore is head-and-shoulders ahead of Jones right now,” Kaboly wrote. “That was my thought Saturday and my initial thought nearly two weeks ago when the team reported.
“Moore was crisp in his sets; his hands were fast and his feet nimble. But what was most notable, other than maybe his playing with confidence, was his willingness to finish blocks. Moore took almost all the first-team reps Saturday (just like most of camp) and was consistent.”
Kaboly clarified that Jones wasn’t bad. He didn’t come close to calling the No. 14 overall pick a bust.
But he did write that Jones wasn’t as good as Moore.
“Jones appeared hesitant Saturday. He would engage with the defender well enough but wouldn’t finish the block,” Kaboly wrote. “This wasn’t once. This was several times. He seemed like an offensive lineman who wasn’t sure of what he was doing, so he was hesitant, and that’s understandable.”
Steelers fans have grown accustomed to seeing their first-round picks make an impact immediately. But before Jones, the Steelers hadn’t drafted an offensive lineman in the first round since David DeCastro in 2012.
Kaboly argued that unlike running back or wide receiver, offensive line isn’t “a plug-and-play position.” That’s especially true for the quarterback’s blind side.
“You have footwork on scoop blocks, footwork on front-side blocks, passing off defenders inside, picking up blitzes and combo blocks,” Kaboly wrote. “It is not just hitting the guy in front of you and calling it a day. There is much more to it.”
September Schedule Favors Starting Experienced LT in Week 1
There are no cupcakes in the NFL. So there really is not perfect time to ease a rookie into the starting lineup.
But it still may be wise for Tomlin to wait on starting Jones, especially if he’s not completely ready.
In the first three weeks of the 2023 season, the Steelers will face the San Francisco 49ers, Cleveland Browns and Las Vegas Raiders. That means Pittsburgh’s starting left tackle will be responsible for blocking Nick Bosa, Myles Garrett and Maxx Crosby in the first three games.
That’s a gauntlet run of edge rushers. Moore may be better suited for it simply because he has 34 starts of experience in the league.
Moore also improved significantly during the second half of last season. After Week 8 of 2022, Moore was Pittsburgh’s best starting offensive lineman, according to the Pro Football Focus player grades.
All it takes is one bad hit on a starting quarterback to ruin a team’s season. If for nothing else but Kenny Pickett’s safety, Moore appears to be the likely Week 1 starter at left tackle for the Steelers.