LATROBE, PA (93.7 The Fan) – He’s ok with the pressure on his group. First-year Steelers Offensive Line Coach Pat Meyer grew up a Steelers fan in Girard, Ohio, a demographic much like Western PA. He understands that in this part of the world, offensive line play will be scrutinized to a level rarely seen in many areas.
“I grew up 50 miles from Pittsburgh, I get the tradition,” Meyer said. “I get it and it’s good. You want it that way. You want to be talked about, good and bad. That’s professional football, that’s NFL football, that’s Pittsburgh Steelers football. We are not going to backdown or shy away from it. We are going to continue to push forward and get better.”
As to how they get better, Meyer looked back at last year to evaluate what they had coming back. He added that with the new faces and then went to work. He used a couple of offensive line clichés-‘stacking chips’ and ‘chopping wood’ to describe their improvement. They’ve worked on the fundamentals, everything from feet to hands to eyes to communication. All aspects of the game, over and over and over again.
“These guys are young, they are a young line,” Meyer said. “They need to learn and build trust. I need to trust them, they need to trust me. They do, they listen, they try. That’s all I can ask for right now. Working to get better.”
He’s also working on a mentality of being more aggressive at the point of attack, even in passing situations. Often in those second-and-third and longs, offensive linemen will take a first step back or at least not a step forward. Meyer wants them to initiate contact, admitting there will be times where they will have to be a little more passive, but the mentality is to drive these guys away from the quarterback.
He wants to set the line as forward as possible. They do that with aggressive hands and running different combinations at the defense.
While not saying definitely the starting line is set for everywhere but left guard, he did say that was the only active competition. Which means Dan Moore and Chukwuma Okorafor at the tackles.
“They work,” Meyer said of his two outside linemen. “They’re professionals in terms of how they come to work every day. They are into football. They are trying to do the things I asked them to do. They’re progressing, those two have to be the guys outside and not let defenses set the edges on us.”
Free agent Mason Cole will start at center. Meyer said he likes his body type and his mentality at the position. Cole has shown fire at center, including being involved in an early camp fight. He also has a much bigger frame than Kendrick Green, who started 16 games last year.
There is also the other factor, he believes the other players, Green and Daniels primarily, who could play the position are better equipped at guard.
James Daniels will play right guard after getting a three-year contract to come over from the Bears. Only 24, Meyer says he brings experience starting four years in the NFL and he’s making strides and building off his early successes and failures.
Left guard is intriguing with the bigger Kevin Dotson (currently sidelined with an ankle injury) and Green, who said guard is his natural position and he feels much more comfortable there.
“I’m seeing competition, day-in and day-out between those two young men,” Meyer said Tuesday. “That’s what they are, they are two young guys. Young in their careers in the NFL, two dogs and one bone. They are chewing on it every day.”
“Whoever wins the job will be penciled in as the guy, the other will continue to push him.”
It’s closely coming the time where, to Meyer’s earlier point, ‘working on it’ is not good enough. The season is roughly a month away and they need to turn practice into play. Their first opportunity is Saturday against the Seahawks.
“Do what we have been asking you to do,” Meyer said. “Go out there against someone we haven’t now. You are going against a different color jersey now. Go out there and do what we’ve been doing in the Spring and what we’ve been doing in Fall camp. Prove to us that you are worthy of either being starters, back-ups or making the squad for the younger guys.”
All eyes will likely be on the quarterbacks, but the improvement of the offensive line as much as anything, will determine how many games the Steelers win in 2022.