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Progress Report: Steele Endured Rare Rookie Year


(Editor's Note: In the coming weeks, the staff of will evaluate those players who are already under contract, examining their past performance and future outlook. Today, we'll continue the series with offensive tackle Terence Steele.)

The Good: Steele is just the fourth offensive tackle in the Super Bowl era, and the ninth in NFL history, to start at least 14 games as an undrafted rookie. If we're grading on expectations alone, Steele gets an A+ and it's not even debatable. Think about how challenging it was for rookies to make any roster in 2020 because of the pandemic. Steele not only goes from an undrafted hopeful that might land a spot on the practice squad, to making the team and then starting 14 games. Of course, his starts were out of necessity as the Cowboys lost their two regular starters, and then two others throughout the year.

The Bad: There were more than a handful of occasions when Steele looked very much like an undrafted rookie that didn't get a single preseason snap. In the 2020 season opener against the Rams, Steele held his own for the most part, but gave up a crucial sack on the final drive as the Cowboys were trying to tie the game. A few weeks later, he also gave up a sack that forced a fumble in what proved to be a game-changing play in a loss to the Browns. Throughout the year, Steele had his struggles but he continued to play, not only because the Cowboys had no other options, but he did manage to improve his game.

Best of 2020: Without a doubt, Steele's best performances occurred in the final month of the season. After Zack Martin and Cam Erving both went down in the Thanksgiving Day game against Washington, Steele re-entered the starting lineup and played his best games down the stretch. In a road win at Cincinnati, Steele allowed just one pressure and no sacks. Against the 49ers and Eagles, Steele also held his own as the Cowboys offense outscored its opponent in a pair of home wins.

Contract Consideration: Heading into his second season, Steele is scheduled to make a salary of $765,000. According to the website, Steele is listed as a left tackle and ranked 59th in salary among left tackles for 2020. Whether or not he starts, Steele certainly has an inexpensive contract, especially for someone with that many starts under his belt.

What's Next: This should fall into the "less is more" category. The Cowboys are hoping Steele can play less snaps, but be more of the player he was in 2020. That can happen if the NFL resumes preseason games, giving Steele plenty of action. Even if Tyron Smith and La'el Collins return to action, it's unlikely the won't play much in the preseason. Steele needs to take advantage of that playing time and provide the Cowboys with a young, versatile tackle who can play both sides of the line. The team will probably add some more depth at the position, but it's not out of the question that Steele can continue to develop and even contend for the swing-tackle role.

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