The Dallas Cowboys’ undrafted rookie is finally developing
Don’t look now, but Dallas Cowboys‘ rookie tackle Terence Steele just might be showing signs of life. It’s taken a bit of time, but Steele is finally making weekly progress and has quietly improved leaps and bounds from where he was to start the season.
Last Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals, Steele had the best game of his young career, allowing just one pressure and no sacks while playing every offensive snap. A massive improvement from where he was just a few short weeks ago.
It’s true that no one is going to confuse the 2020 Bengals defense with the ’85 Bears. Cincinnati currently ranks 31st in pressure percentage, sacks, quarterback hits, and tackles for a loss. They don’t generate much pressure, and when they do they are rarely able to capitalize on it.
If you are a Cowboys’ fan though, it doesn’t matter how good or bad Cincinnati’s defense is. What does matter is that after an incredibly rough start, Steele has quietly strung together a few quality performances in a row. After allowing seven sacks and 33 pressures in his first nine starts, Steele has been much improved over his last four games.
Terence Steele was never supposed to start this early into his NFL career. He signed with the Dallas Cowboys as an undrafted free agent out of Texas Tech and was a likely candidate to land on the practice squad for his first season. A rash of injuries along the offensive line threw him into the starting lineup much earlier than expected and it’s clearly shown with his play on the field.
One of the things that attracted Dallas to Steele after the draft was his versatility. He’s stepped in at right tackle for the Cowboys, but he played both tackle positions and a bit of guard at Texas Texas.
It’s no secret that All-Pro tackle Tyron Smith hasn’t played a full 16 game season since 2015 and the team has been in dire need of a swing tackle who could start in a pinch for the better part of the last half-decade. In 2018 and 2019 they had former New England Patriot Cameron Fleming behind Smith and he was serviceable, but he left to sign with the New York Giants in free agency.
Even when Steele has been flat out bad, he’s thankfully avoided the dreaded “Chaz Green” type game. The closest he’s come to that was during week eight’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Steele was absolutely bullied by the Eagles front seven and allowed three sacks on seven pressures. He followed that game up with another dreadful performance against the Pittsburgh Steelers that saw him get benched in favor of All-Pro Zack Martin who the team moved over to tackle from guard.
Martin started Dallas’ next game against the Minnesota Vikings and the move paid massive dividends, helping power the Cowboys to a victory and briefly keeping their dreams of winning the NFC East alive. One week later on Thanksgiving, Martin sustained a season-ending injury against the Washington Football Team and Steele was thrown back into the starting lineup. Since his return, he’s looked much better.
There is no sugar coating it though, Steele has been bad for the majority of this season. According to Pro Football Focus, his seven sacks allowed are tied for third-most among tackles. Meanwhile, his 38 pressures are the fifth most. But since that game against the Eagles, Steele has yet to allow another sack. Additionally, since he allowed five pressures against Pittsburgh in week nine, he’s allowed just five total in his last four games combined.
It’s abundantly clear that Steele isn’t the long-term solution at either tackle spot. However, there is no reason why he can’t continue to develop as a serviceable swing tackle in this league. If nothing else, the progress he’s made since returning to the starting lineup has been great to see.
Like it or not, a major theme of the Cowboys 2020 season has been player development. With so many injuries at key positions, the team has been able to get an extended look at the depth on their roster, especially with younger players.
No one is going to confuse Terence Steele with Tyron Smith any time soon, and he has a long way to go before he can be considered a reliable option at swing tackle. However, at least for now, it looks like he’s developing quite nicely for the Dallas Cowboys, which provides some silver lining in an otherwise disastrous season.