Almost everything about the Dallas Cowboys felt reversed from their awful season-opening loss to Tampa Bay to their gutsy win last Sunday over Cincinnati. Perhaps no single player had a more dramatic turnaround than OT Terence Steele; one of the biggest goats of Week 1 to a standout performer in Week 2.
Steele was called for three false starts and one holding in the loss to the Bucs. While he was hardly the only poor performer on offense that week, those penalties contributed greatly to Dallas’ lack of offensive rhythm and made an already bad day worse.
It was quite a different story against the Bengals. Steele had zero penalties called against him and wasn’t cited for any pass-protection breakdowns. At a position where having your name called is rarely a good thing, Steele went delightfully unnoticed during the game.
Steele’s name was finally put in lights in postgame analysis, being noted as the Cowboys’ top-rated offensive player in Week 2.
5 highest-graded #Cowboys on offense against CIN:— John Owning (@JohnOwning) September 19, 2022
1. Terence Steele (84.4)
2. Noah Brown (79.1)
3. CeeDee Lamb (78.7)
4. Zack Martin (74.0)
5. Tyler Smith (73.2)
The Cowboys made a significant decision back in March in releasing veteran La’el Collins for “cap space” and entrusting the right tackle job to Steele. In retrospect, the move seems more about the organization’s displeasure or distrust in Collins and that Steele had become a coach’s favorite.
Last Sunday must have been quite validating for Dallas’ decision-makers. In the same game that Steele was shining, Collins was getting dog-walked by Micah Parsons in a very inhospitable homecoming.
Steele’s rough outing the week before was doubly worrisome given the issues on the other side of the offensive line. After Tyron Smith went down, the hope was that Steele and Zack Martin would at least keep their end of things secure so that the Cowboys could provide whatever assistance was needed on the left.
Even as rookie Tyler Smith shows signs of being another first-round stud, but he’s still raw and has uncertainty next to him at left guard. Jason Peters may be helping that situation soon, but who knows just how effective the 40-year-old will be?
In the final year of his current contract, Steele will be a restricted free agent in 2023. Making less than $1 million now and likely only earning about $4 million next year, his low cost gives some cushion for his performance. “You get what you pay for” certainly applies in this situation.
With just two games to go by, one good and one bad, which version of Terence Steele will be prevalent in 2022? If it’s who we saw in Week 1, the Cowboys may have too many weak spots along the line to consistently compete. If it’s last Sunday’s iteration, Steele can go a long way to making Cooper Rush and Dak Prescott’s jobs easier, and being one of the best bargains on the roster.