When La’el Collins failed to make headway in his suspension appeal and swing tackle Ty Nsekhe was ruled out, Dallas Cowboys fans were overcome with a familiar sense of dread. A similar onslaught of absences plagued Dallas only a season ago, and the Cowboys were forced to go to the well at the offensive tackle position. The same well they’d be going back to this season.
Terence Steele, an undrafted free agent out of Texas Tech was the next man up. Again.
Last season, Steele and fellow reserve tackle, Brandon Knight, were forced into service early, forming the worst OT tandem in the NFL and setting the stage for one of the ugliest injury-riddled seasons this franchise has ever had to endure.
Terence Steele was better than most Dallas Cowboys think, and worse.
The biggest difference between Steele’s struggles last year, his struggles this preseason, and his success in Week 2 is how much help he got this time
To say Steele was bad last year is an understatement. He played poorly in just about every area of the game and finished the year as PFF’s 76th rated OT in the NFL (out of 79 candidates). So fans should be forgiven when they expressed despair after the Cowboys proudly declared Steele the starter in Week 2.
Going against Joey Bosa, a legit top-5 defensive end, expectations were low for Terence Steele: He wasn’t going to stop the Chargers’ top pass-rusher, but maybe he could just be enough to keep Bosa from having a career day, many of us thought optimistically.
But then the unthinkable happened…
The Dallas Cowboys held Joey Bosa without a sack for only the ninth time in his career. The All-Pro’s pedestrian play was understandably credited to the man lining up across from him – Terence Steele. And this week has been nothing short of a victory parade around Cowboys Nation. The recognition he’s received is second only to Micah Parsons and everyone is lining up to pat the maligned tackle on the back.
But let’s pump the breaks for a sec.
Just because Joey Bosa was shut down does not mean Steele is the reason why. Something I spoke of immediately after the game was how the coaching staff adjusted heading into the game and how big of an impact that made (see article below). No bigger impact than at RT.
Steele didn’t just take over La’el’s old role, the Dallas Cowboys schemed Steele a brand new role. Dallas routinely sent one or even two players his way to help with his pass protection. They even moved Steele off him completely sometimes and asked their tight ends to take over the monumental task of blocking Bosa.
Steele spoke of the team effort here,
"“Bosa is a helluva player. That was a great team win.”"
That doesn’t mean Steele deserves zero credit either. He fired out of his stance freakishly fast, which certainly builds optimism for his continued development. He also succeeded in some limited one-on-one battles against Bosa. But in no way did he look like a starting-caliber pass-protector. Just because everyone was so down on him before does not mean we need to swing that pendulum all the way to make up for it. Save the extremes for ESPN.
The second year undrafted tackle was nothing short of dominant as a run-blocker, he showed power, movement, and natural instincts.
Watching the film (yes, I’ve still been getting the coaches film) it’s quite apparent Steele struggled as a pass protector. PFF gave him the second lowest pass protection score in the league this week for a reason. He’s better than last year, but not to the extent so many are claiming him to be. The biggest difference between his struggles last year, his struggles this preseason, and his sudden success in Week 2 is how much help he got this time.
The Cowboys didn’t just leave him on an island but constantly schemed with him in mind.
But while we’re overdoing the praise in pass-protection, we’re probably underselling Steele as a run-blocker. The second year undrafted tackle was nothing short of dominant as a run-blocker, he showed power, movement, and natural instincts.
Terence Steele was so good as a run-blocker, he’s easily the most intriguing developmental O-linemen on the roster now. He has a chance to be starter in this league if he can just become an average pass-protector. Which he’s not.
Steele showed improvement as a pass-protector but not as much as many are making it out to be. The Dallas Cowboys schemed brilliantly to help him and they ran a run-heavy offense that played to his strengths. They didn’t fall behind on the scoreboard and force the offense into obvious passing downs. That game played to Terence Steele’s strengths.
We should be optimistic in Steele’s progression as a pro but let’s pump the breaks on some of the accolades. He’s still a project player and the best reserve OT on the roster but this offense is exponentially better with La’el Collins in the line-up.
Terence Steele deserves more credit for his run-blocking but his pass protection deficiencies were solved mostly by the coaching staff.
- Published on 09/23/2021 at 16:01 PM
- Last updated at 09/23/2021 at 17:45 PM