Since right tackle Terence Steele entered the NFL, he has become an elite run blocker for the Dallas Cowboys. It wasn’t always pretty during his first few seasons, but he really turned a corner with his progress in 2022.
Unfortunately, Steele’s third season came to a halt during the win over the Houston Texans, where he suffered a season-ending injury. While he recovers from his torn ACL and MCL, the front office wants to sign Steele to a long-term contract, solidifying their original investment and vision for the player.
The front office placed a second-round tender on their right tackle, but he has yet to sign the deal. Everything seems to be at a standstill.
During the NFL’s annual meeting last week, head coach Mike McCarthy mentioned that the team has talked about Steele getting some work at guard while figuring out their best combination. Before McCarthy spoke, owner Jerry Jones said Steele would not be getting reps at guard but is too valuable as a swing tackle behind Tyron and Tyler Smith. Why would they sit one of their best young tackles?
During a recent Love of the Star Podcast episode, Cowboys insider for 105.3 The Fan, Bobby Belt, mentioned how the front office seems to be using this as a negotiating tactic, publicly saying Steele won’t be a guaranteed starter next season.
I think that this is them getting a little cute with their negotiations again and feeling like ‘hey let’s show them that Terence Steele’s not necessarily a necessity here, it’s a luxury but we’ve got two tackles just fine over here’.
My thought is, yes you have him under control this year, but you’re risking losing a building block on your offensive line playing this game...I don’t think you’re getting a deal done with Trevon Diggs this offseason, so you run into next offseason then what? You’ve got one tag and you’ve got Terence Steele and Trevon Diggs as free agents. I would imagine you would pick Diggs at that point and take your chances...I don’t think Steele’s gonna wanna play ball with you in free agency, and that would look pretty appealing I think to people that ‘oh you got Terence Steele here, [a] young guy disenchanted with the Cowboys. These young, continually progressing offensive tackles don’t just grow on trees, they lucked into one and they’re gonna expose him to the market? Okay, we’ll take him.’
It feels very much like the way they handled the Ron Leary situation...I think they were more committed to just letting Ron Leary go at the end of that deal than they are with Terence Steele. This feels more like a negotiating tactic, but man I think it’s a bad one...this seems like a awfully dangerous game to play with one of your building blocks.”
The front office believes Tyron Smith is a better pass blocker than Steele at right tackle. PFF would back up the line of thinking, but only by a little. They graded Smith at 64.4 in 2022 for pass blocking and Steele at 63.7. Steele separated himself from the 13-year veteran in run blocking last year, having an 82.1 grade versus 52.9.
Taking Steele out of the starting line doesn’t make sense considering all the time the team has invested in him since his rookie season. Even with Joe Philbin no longer a part of the coaching staff, McCarthy is still a big fan of Steele and what he brings to the right tackle position. That’s why it’s confusing for him to say the staff is considering Steele at left guard.
It’s been seven seasons since Smith has been able to play an entire season. Betting on him to do it this late in his career again defies logic. Steele has shown to be the healthier player and is already making progress in his rehab, hoping to work at training camp.
Having three starting offensive tackles in the NFL is a problem every team would love to solve. Smith has been with the team since 2011 and should be considered for the starting o-line combination. However, his health has made him a liability, and he needs to prove to the team he can be a starter.
Steele has earned the right and should be the Cowboys’ starting right tackle.