One was a fourth-round draft pick selected with an eye toward replacing a franchise legend. The other was passed over by 32 teams for seven entire rounds, added after the fact for emergency offensive line depth.
Now entering their second year, both Tyler Biadasz and Terence Steele have arrived at the same place: more confident in their abilities and more comfortable in an offense that they both contributed heavily to after being thrown to the proverbial wolves as rookies.
Biadasz, the center from Wisconsin, was drafted by Dallas just one month after the retirement of five-time Pro Bowler Travis Frederick. He stepped in for the injured Joe Looney during Week 4’s loss to Cleveland and was starting by Week 5. After four consecutive and impressive starts, Biadasz was sidelined with a hamstring injury suffered during pregame warmups in Week 9. He returned to play just a handful of snaps over the Cowboys’ final four games.
Looney wasn’t re-signed in the offseason, all but handing the center job to the 23-year-old Biadasz, who says his fellow Badger alum helped him navigate that first year of ups and downs.
“He reached out to me prior to the draft and then after the draft, too,” Biadasz told reporters of the retired Frederick. “I got to meet him, and we talked on the phone a couple times, just about recovery or about position work or whatever. He gave great tips and everything from that perspective.”
Now going through a face-to-face offseason and training camp for the first time, the 2019 All-American and Rimington Trophy winner for the nation’s best collegiate center is getting an ever better feel for the Cowboys offense.
“It definitely would have been helpful for last year, prior to the season, to have OTAs and everything like that,” Biadasz says. He says he’s feeling “a lot more comfortable” heading into 2021: “More certain, more confident, definitely know the system a lot more.”
By contrast, Steele had to claw his way onto the 2020 roster after coming out of Texas Tech. The 6-foot-6-inch tackle proved invaluable, though, as injuries decimated the Cowboys offensive line before the season even started. Starting in place of La’el Collins, the undrafted rookie played 100% of the offensive snaps in the season opener and went on to log over 84% of the team’s snaps over the course of the season, the fourth-most of any Cowboys offensive player.
“You can’t really think too much about it,” Steele said Sunday of his sudden introduction to NFL action that included 14 starts. “You’ve just got to go out there and do what you’re supposed to do.”
It was a season-long baptism by fire, and the 24-year-old seemed in over his head a few times; guard Zack Martin slid over to replace him on more than one occasion.
But now with the benefit of a full offseason of work, Steele also feels far more prepared for whatever workload comes his way this year.
“The game’s slowing down mentally,” he explained. “And then physically, I shed about 10, 15 pounds since last season. Been working on my core, been working on my lower body, my legs, my feet. The feet are a big part of everything, so I’ve been working on that.”
Now with veterans Collins, Martin, and Tyron Smith expected to be fully healthy, Steele is expected to return to a fill-in role. But he’ll no doubt be ready if and when he’s pressed into service again.
“I just try to outwork everyone. That’s my motto,” Steele said. “That’s [been] my motto since I came out of high school. Outwork everyone, and it takes care of itself.”
Between blocking for running back Ezekiel Elliott and protecting quarterback Dak Prescott, the Cowboys offensive line figures to be key to the team’s success in 2021. With Biadasz returning to his starting center spot and Steele now a seasoned depth player with 16 games of NFL experience, the team has to feel better about its youngsters up front after getting more than they expected out of them as the new kids.
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