Most of new Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman Nat Herbig’s playing experience at the professional level has come at right guard. He does have experience playing at left guard, and even center as well, more so in the preseason than the regular season.
Yet the Steelers return all three of their interior starters along the offensive line from last season, and their right guard, James Daniels, has the most job security. He is the best offensive lineman that they have right now, and though he is also position flexible, I’m sure they would prefer to leave him where he is.
With Mason Cole at center and Kevin Dotson at left guard, where does Herbig fit in? What will his role be? If the Steelers communicated that to him when they signed him, he would not divulge it. But he did make one thing clear: he wants to play football.
“I’ll play punter if they want me to”, he told reporters during his introductory press conference on Thursday, via the team’s website, when asked if he has a preference for the left or right side. “I’ll play whatever. Whatever coach tells me, I’ll play”.
It’s certainly not the first time we’ve heard a free agent come in and offer something like that, of course, and it won’t be the last, either. But ultimately, I think we all know where this is heading. At worst, he should be battling Dotson for the starting left guard job.
Left guard is the most vulnerable position on the line, both in terms of recent performance and even in terms of contract status. Dotson will be an unrestricted free agent after this season, so they may want to be settled on the immediate future before then.
It wouldn’t look good for Dotson to lose his starting job in the final year of his rookie contract, of course, but I would be surprised if the Steelers don’t at least give him the opportunity to compete to retain his post at left guard.
Yet it can’t be ignored that Herbig is the first lineman the Steelers have brought in with their new front office and scouting department, and perhaps with greater emphasis by offensive line coach Pat Meyer, who was in just his first season a year ago.
They brought in a player like Herbig because they felt he offered at least the style of play that they are looking to implement. Perhaps moving away somewhat from Mike Munchak’s more athletic molds that didn’t always pan out, although Dotson is not exactly Maurkice Pouncey.