The Dallas Cowboys depth chart has been decimated at the tackle position. There isn’t a football team that could have sustained success at the rate the Cowboys have suffered injuries at the position. They lost La’el Collins before the season even started and Tyron Smith shortly after. First-line back up tackles Cam Erving and Brandon Knight dealt with injuries in the first half of the season. Then came the big blow to Zack Martin. The one tackle that’s remained unscathed through it all and has a chance to play in all 16 games this season is Terence Steele.
Though he’s struggled mightily through most of his rookie campaign, Terence Steele came off the bench in the Dallas Cowboys loss to the Washington Football Team and played better than we’ve seen him play all season.
A few weeks ago, things hit their climax against the Philadelphia Eagles when he allowed seven total pressures and three sacks in the Cowboys’ loss. It wasn’t much better against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Though he wasn’t credited for allowing a sack, he allowed five total pressures and was obviously severely outmatched by TJ Watt.
Against the Minnesota Vikings, Steele sat on the bench and only logged one snap. The Cowboys made adjustments to the offensive line to get Zack Martin at right tackle for their Thanksgiving Day game against the Washington Football Team. But on the first series, the Cowboys lost both Cam Erving and Zack Martin, and once again, Terence Steele found his way into the game, but this time he played fairly well.
Pro Football Focus credited Steele with just two pressures allowed against the vaunted Washington pass rush, and he didn’t allow a sack. Per PFF, he was the Dallas Cowboys’ highest-graded pass blocker and third-highest graded run blocker.
After struggling in both areas for a lot of the season, it was nice to see him hold up fairly well against a really good Washington pass rush. Sometimes taking a step back to reflect on where you’ve been and what you need to work on can be incredibly valuable.
Much like it was for Connor Williams in 2018, Steele and the coaches had an opportunity to take a game off plus the bye week to evaluate what he’s done well and what he’s not done well in 2020. He’s still a long way from being a viable long-term starter in the NFL, but all of the experience he’s seen this year and some signs of improved play provide a solid foundation for which to build upon.
When the Cowboys brought in Terence Steele, it was expected that he would be a project player. He had some tools that the Cowboys staff thought they could build upon with some seasoning. Instead of marinating on the bench or practice squad this year, he was thrown into the fire, and the seasoning came as he was cooked week in and week out.
Experience is often the best teacher, especially in the NFL, which provides few opportunities for backup or practice squad players to see any snaps during the regular season. Terence Steele is getting an incredible amount of on the job training.
Though it’s likely that the Cowboys will get back Tyron Smith and La’el Collins for 2021 and may potentially draft a tackle with a premium pick, they’re finding out a lot about their undrafted free agent. He may not be a viable long-term option to start for your team, but he may be a long-term backup option for the Dallas Cowboys as he continues to grow.
With injuries further crippling the depth chart at tackle this season, there aren’t many options remaining for the Cowboys but to play Steele. If he can continue to improve, even slightly, then the final five games of the season will pay dividends for him and the Dallas Cowboys down the road.