To say that the offensive line is in transition is to be generous. They have parted with three starters from last season, and added five players via free agency and the draft, all of whom have a legitimate chance to make the team.
Gone are Maurkice Pouncey, Alejandro Villanueva, and Matt Feiler. Ramon Foster and Marcus Gilbert aren’t stepping back through the door. David DeCastro is now the seasoned veteran of the group. How the offensive line emerges as a unit is something that remains to be seen, including who takes the helm.
“I think that’s something that happens organically through the process”, head coach Mike Tomlin said after practice today of the development of the offensive line and emerging leaders. “When guys like me try to create that, it’s not authentic”.
“There’ll be enough adversity and enough challenges and enough opportunities to let natural leadership ability show”, he went on. “That’s one of the interesting subplots that I’m interested in watching develop”.
While DeCastro is by far the most experienced of the offensive line, Zach Banner, who is projected to be the team’s starting right tackle this season, has the sort of personality that lends itself to being vocal and supportive.
Kevin Dotson, a fourth-round pick last year, and Kendrick Green, a rookie third-round pick, may also have the sort of personality that lends itself to taking on a more assertive role in the locker room, provided that they can do what is necessary on the field.
As of now, Dotson is presumed to be the starting left guard, though that’s not written in stone. Green is one of three candidates to take over Pouncey’s spot at center, along with B.J. Finney and J.C. Hassenauer, both of whom have started games in that position for the Steelers in the past.
Losing Foster and Pouncey in consecutive offseasons left a power drain in the offensive line. They were the clear vocal leaders of the group, and really, part of the leadership of the team as a collective body. DeCastro isn’t necessarily that sort of vocal leader, though others will no doubt look to him by example—even if he apparently hasn’t been on the field yet this offseason.
Others are still working themselves into roles, like Chukwuma Okorafor, and rookie tackle Dan Moore Jr. It’s hard to assert yourself before you establish your presence as an authority at your position, after all. That’s why, as Tomlin says, it’s something that has to emerge organically, and can’t be created or purchased.