Fortress made of Steele

Fortress made of Steele

The Cowboys had had to face a lot of questions at the beginning of this offseason, specifically along the offensive line. You have 2 future Hall of Famers that are getting up there in age, a new rookie Left Guard, a question mark at center and a 3rd year UDFA at the Right Tackle position. But I want to mainly focus on the Right Tackle, Terence Steele. The Cowboys had a Pro-bowler as a Right Tackle at the beginning of 2021 but now he isn’t on the roster (Granted, it’s because of salary reasons) but you don’t cut an above average at worst player if you don’t have faith in the guy behind him. So are the Cowboys making the right decision?

Coming into the League: The Texas Tech product was the first ever freshman to start at Left Tackle for the Red Raiders since 2000 and helped lead a productive offense that was 5th in scoring at the time. In his sophomore year he impressed with, according to the Texas Tech strength staff, strength that was among the best on the team and kept his career going up from there. At the combine he scored an RAS of 8.36 out of 10, which is pretty solid to borderline elite. He isn’t the most agile guy but he does have elite strength (27 reps), speed (5.03 40) and length (35 inch arms and is 6’6 at 315 pounds).

Here's what NFL analyst Lance Zierlein had to say about him:

"Four-year starter and team captain with desired NFL size and length but a lack of functional bend and reactive movement is hard to get past. He's an intelligent, experienced right tackle who works to his abilities on a fairly consistent basis. He struggles when his length can't save him against moving targets in the run game and against sharp rush counters in pass pro. Despite his leg stiffness, he does a nice job of taking on opponents in front of him, but NFL tackles require much better reactive athleticism and recovery ability than he is able to play with."

So when the Cowboys picked him up after the draft they most likely wanted him to develop behind the starters and behind the backups as well, he was never supposed to see the field. But we all know how the song went in 2020, his rookie year, he was thrusted to start due to heavy injuries along the offensive line and struggled mightily. There is no need for film or PFF grades to know that he was struggling with the speed of the NFL and no one should hold that season against him. So how did year 2 go for the Red Raider? Let’s look at the Film.

His first ever pass protection of the season was against Joey Bosa, who’s a technician of the game. They start out the Rep and notice how quick Steele gets out of his stance, he timed the snap perfectly to get depth and both of them are just waiting to see who does the first move. Bosa inevitably decides to plant his foot to try to get Steele to bite and make him think that he wants to go inside and launches off his other foot to try and get the edge on Steele, but Steele shoots his right hand into Bosa’s chest and notice how at first it’s only one hand, he knows Bosa loves swipe and club moves to get rid of Tackles hands. He knows he might need his other hand in case Bosa successfully clears his hand (STEELE, 78).

He was never perfect though…

This play is why I love football, it’s almost the exact same rep as the one shown earlier but this time Bosa wins. It starts out the same as the other one but when Bosa plants his foot, he commits to the inside and Steele tries to get contact again with his right hand before realizing: "Oh crap, he’s going inside this time" and tries to punch with his left hand. Obviously he loses. But can you really blame him? I mean it is a Pro-bowl, border line All-Pro, experienced edge rusher. Bosa beat’s everyone, he set up Steele to get the win and personally I feel like he didn’t "lose", it was just better defense.

They went back and forth all game, Bosa won some but Steele got his shots at him too. Watching this Week 2 matchup showed how much he improved from his rookie year.

Now I’m going to show reps of him against Maxx Crosby who is, in my opinion (Hot take incoming), the same tier of pass rusher as the Bosa brothers, Myles Garrett and T.J Watt. Crosby had 20 more pressures than Bosa who was in second place with 88. That’s insane. He didn’t convert all those pressures into Sacks and that's very unfortunate for him and that’s most likely due to him having no help on that Raiders defense. If you don’t agree about Crosby, let's just agree to disagree. Tangent over lol.

To get back on topic about Terence Steele, Max hit this wicked long arm move on him to get a pressure on Dak:

Notice how Crosby does a Euro step to make Steele open up and when Steele goes in for the punch he doesn’t make good contact because of that initial move and that’s when Crosby gets low to get leverage and strong arms him into the QB. Not going to lie, the first couple of snaps were all kind of like this. Until…

You can see how Crosby tries to do that same move on him, but this time Steele flashes his right hand to get Crosby to bite and make him think that he wanted to engage him. This causes Crosby to lower his pad level thinking that Steele was about to get contact to start his bull rush into his long arm move. However, since Steele hasn’t actually made contact he can just see where his pads are at and engage him from there. You can see how he just flushes him out the back of the pocket. 2 completely different pass protection reps.

Now after that play Crosby had to reach deep into his tool box to get wins against Steele. I mean after the rep just shown, he was using swipe moves, swim moves, ghost moves, he was really trying to get the edge on Steele but what’s interesting is that Steele did lose to those moves but he learned from them. Take these next plays:

Very few pass rushers dream about being able to pull off that move. Notice how he does a Euro step like the one mentioned before but instead of powering through him, he unleashes this beauty of a spin move once he gets Steele to over commit to a power move. Look at Steele’s left foot before they make contact, he really shoots it far back to be able to plant against a bull rush and really leans forward to neutralize him. But as seen Crosby just uses that against him.

So what about the next time he tries to use that move?

Now in this rep Crosby shoots off the line to give the impression to Steele that he wants to go for a speed rush to get the corner on him and Steele respects that and you see him trying to get depth as well. But he realizes something. Crosby is now squared up with him which means that he doesn’t want to get the edge and also isn’t lowering his hips and pads to build up power. He knows he’s about to try something so when he engages him, he doesn’t over commit to a move and when Crosby tries to hit the spin move, he’s in front of him like nothing happened.

He’s not only learning week by week, he’s learning series by series. How does this not excite you? Not only is he improving in pass protection but he’s a mauler in the run game. He will lose here and there but every game I watched he sent at least one defender to Valhalla by throwing them to the ground and pancake blocking him.

Now people will point out that he’s lost pretty badly in training camp and some will say he shouldn’t start, which I’ll call it as it is, it’s Bs. How else do you think players get better? Training camp is where they can use different techniques and see what works for them and what doesn’t with NO consequence. I’ll put it like this: I'd rather him try something in practice where he loses badly and the consequence is that people on the internet bash him, then him try it in game and get Dak or a RB killed.

So while this 2nd year UDFA wasn’t perfect, he sure does make you have hope that he can develop even more with experience and time. His rookie year he should have never started, he was a border line Practice Squad player but in his second year he made a leap to be a below average to average, at times, Tackle. Don’t be surprised if he makes ANOTHER leap to be an average to, dare I say, above average Tackle. I’ll leave you with this quote from the man:

In an article written by Mark Lane (WFAA), Steele was quoted saying: "I just try to outwork everyone," said Steele. "That's my motto. That's my motto since I came out of high school. Outwork everyone and that takes care of itself." You can see his work ethic on the tape and after his 2020 season he went straight to the Offensive line God, Duke Manyweather, to work on technique and his feet. Duke has worked with Lane Johnson, Trent Brown, Mitchell Schwartz, Mekhi Becton and other Elite offensive tackles. So who’s to say that Steele can’t be the next one in line?

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