Kaboly: Broderick Jones hasn't earned the right to start Week 1; Dan Moore Jr. has (2023)

LATROBE, Pa. — I get it. Everybody wants Broderick Jones to start Week 1 against Nick Bosa and the San Francisco 49ers. Who wouldn’t want a monster of a man who can run like a deer to start the opener?

The Pittsburgh Steelers moved up three spots in April’s NFL Draft to select a tackle in the first round for the first time in 25 years, and from that moment — long before he even showed up at the team facility for rookie minicamp — most had penciled him into the starting lineup.


Jones is the future of the position, and if he isn’t, there are bigger problems facing the Steelers than who will start Week 1. It would immediately bring into question how this regime evaluated talent if Jones isn’t at least a 10-year starter when it is all said and done.

GO DEEPERFriday Night Lights: Calvin Austin shines, Steelers break out trick plays with record crowd

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. That’s in a perfect world. We aren’t talking about wide receivers or running backs. We are talking about the most unnatural of the positions on a football field. It takes time, and that’s what we’ve seen at Saint Vincent College over the past 10 days.

Dan Moore Jr. looks good. 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.

And with Mike Tomlin as the coach, it has always been about the here and now. You know, always being contenders and no losing records and such.

GO DEEPERWhat makes Mike Tomlin tick: In Year 17, Steelers coach still pursuing that 'rare air'

Let’s not fool ourselves about what we want to see versus what we have seen at Chuck Noll Field in the past nine practices. What we want to see is Jones dominating. With every little positive rep and win during one-on-one lineman drills, we have projected that into more than it has been.

I spent the majority of practice Saturday locked on Moore and Jones to try to determine what’s going on. If you are ever at practice at Saint Vincent College, and especially on the field, the sightlines for the sideline to the left tackle position aren’t clear as day.

But I found angle after angle to see what I could deduce based on one specific practice, and what I found is …

Moore is head-and-shoulders ahead of Jones right now. 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.

Moore has been good all camp. But we don’t want to hear that.

We (as in you) already made up our minds that Jones should be the starter regardless.

To me, and if everything remains consistent, that’s not going to happen.

Jones appeared hesitant Saturday. He would engage with the defender well enough but wouldn’t finish the block. 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.

Jones is a rookie, and regardless of when you are picked, the offensive line isn’t conducive to being a plug-and-play position. You have footwork on scoop blocks, footwork on front-side blocks, passing off defenders inside, picking up blitzes and combo blocks. It is not just hitting the guy in front of you and calling it a day. There is much more to it.

“People don’t realize how hard of a position this is,” Moore said. “It takes a lot of hard work and dedication. It is not all physical. It is mental. You are going to get beat. It is also a game of confidence. If you get beat, can you keep your confidence or are you losing it? There is a mental aspect — not to mention, you are going against the best.”

I don’t want to make it sound like Jones hasn’t done anything well. But to glean anything tangible off one-on-one lineman drills is fool’s gold. Drills like that aren’t real offensive line play, even though he was able to stalemate his share earlier in the week during the period.

“Coach always talks about getting 1 percent better each day, and that’s the mindset I am going in with every day,” Moore said.


There is no closing the gap, in my eyes, between Moore and Jones. It is Moore’s job to lose, and surely that can happen with a couple of terrible performances in the next few weeks. Even then, though, it might be tough for Tomlin to make that call.

Tomlin spoke glowingly of Moore in March, and he typically doesn’t blow smoke just to do it. He likes how Moore plays and has improved over the years.

But it will ultimately come down to what’s best for the team.

Where Moore can lose the job is in the preseason games. And Jones would have to take a major step forward if Moore struggles.

The preseason will be the ultimate test to see whether Moore has continued his growth from the second half of last year, when he produced the highest PFF grade of the Steelers’ offensive linemen over the final nine weeks. During that time, the Steelers averaged 147 rushing yards per game and were limited to fewer than 100 yards on the ground just once, going 7-2.

Moore has started 34 of the Steelers’ 35 games (including playoffs) since he was drafted in the fourth round out of Texas A&M in 2021. Aside from missing the 2021 season finale in Baltimore because of an ankle injury, Moore has missed just 16 offensive snaps since he entered the league. That includes every offensive snap last season.

But his mistakes have to be cut down.

Moore has allowed 14 sacks and 21 quarterback hits in two seasons to go along with 14 penalties called against him (two were declined).

“Lower the QB hits — I know I lowered the pressures for the year before,” Moore said. “I definitely want to lower some of those hits on the quarterback, for sure, and just improve my overall game. Offensive line is a game of repetition. You build confidence when you get reps. The game is really slowing down for me. Late last year I caught a rhythm after the bye week, and things started rolling after that. I just want to pick up where I left off last year.”


Moore will start in the preseason opener against the Buccaneers on Friday. It is unknown if he will start the following week against the Bills at home. That could be when Jones steps in and gets his chance. But maybe not. Putting a rookie tackle in the game where Kenny Pickett will take most of his snaps might not be the best of ideas.

GO DEEPERThe experts say Kenny Pickett's 'talent is limited.' Does that mean he has a low ceiling?

At this point, unless Moore totally collapses and Jones develops rapidly, I cannot see Moore not starting early in the season against pass rushers like Bosa, Myles Garrett and Maxx Crosby.

“Anytime you step on the field, it is an opportunity to prove yourself,” Moore said. “Any snaps I take in the preseason, I want to take them full speed, and I want to approach it like a regular-season game. People elevate when there is pressure. You find out who you really are in situations like that.”

Eventually, Jones will get his chance. But to say he is better than Moore right now, well, that’s just not true.

(Photo of Dan Moore Jr.: Andy Lewis / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

“The Football 100,” the definitive ranking of theNFL’s best 100 players of all time, goes on sale this fall. Pre-order ithere.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Jonah Leffler

Last Updated: 24/07/2023

Views: 6526

Rating: 4.4 / 5 (65 voted)

Reviews: 80% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Jonah Leffler

Birthday: 1997-10-27

Address: 8987 Kieth Ports, Luettgenland, CT 54657-9808

Phone: +2611128251586

Job: Mining Supervisor

Hobby: Worldbuilding, Electronics, Amateur radio, Skiing, Cycling, Jogging, Taxidermy

Introduction: My name is Jonah Leffler, I am a determined, faithful, outstanding, inexpensive, cheerful, determined, smiling person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.