Is Terence Steele perhaps still hampered by his ACL injury from last December? Much of Michael Gallup's struggles in 2022 were attributed to him being less than a year removed from his own ACL injury. Does the same apply to offensive linemen? How do the Cowboys fix their problems at right tackle? – Garrett Porter/Atlanta, GA
Nick Eatman: I'm never one to say there's only two types of scenarios – in this case, it's more than just being healthy and injured. There is an in-between especially when you're dealing with ACL injuries or any surgeries for that matter. Yes, they're healthy enough to play, cleared by the medical team to perform without any restrictions. But that doesn't mean there aren't some limitations involved with these players as they come back – some of it can be mental. I'm not saying any of these are the case with Steele, who is the type of person who won't give a single excuse. But we've seen it with players before – the first year back from the injury is OK. They show some glimpses of their pre-injury self but not on a consistent basis. But it's the next year when they start to fully recover. And I think some of that could be happening with Steele. But I will say, he had a rough game against the Eagles' pass-rush. There have been some other moments this year in which Steele didn't have his best stuff, but he's been pretty good for the most part. And then there's that other thing … every player that gets a new contract is always viewed in a different light. Now, the expectations are much higher so we seem to focus on the negative plays a little more. Add it all up and Steele hasn't been what we've seen in the past but I think he'll be just fine moving forward.
Patrik: I understand why some would point to that being a potential cause, and I'm not saying it isn't, but I'm hard-pressed to view it that way when this is the same player we were rightfully praising in training camp and over the first several games of the season for being back in prime form, and so quickly, with little to no ramp-up period. He was the glaring bright spot on the offensive line early on, in his return from injury, so I'm more inclined to believe it's just been a couple of bad days at the office. Everybody has them, as you well know from the offensive struggles on the whole for the first part of the season, and I believe that's what I'm seeing from Steele. Count me out on any talks of benching him because that will be counterproductive. He needs to work through his recent struggles with game reps, and there's no reason to siphon his confidence (which only makes things worse) by giving him the hook, nor are the Cowboys interested in doing that anyway (in my opinion). I think he's earned some grace here.