Both the running game and passing game are among the beneficiaries of the Pittsburgh Steelers' efforts to rebuild the team's long-beleaguered offensive line. The additions of David DeCastro and Mike Adams in the draft have a chance to really push the Steelers offense back toward the top of the league in many ways.
Here's a look at the ripple effects of their offensive line improvements.
Isaac Redman has done very well in his opportunities with the Steelers. One of the things that puts him ahead of the team's other backs so far in his career is that he's shown the ability to get through small cracks opened in the offensive line.
The Steelers haven't been able to open holes regularly for their backs since Alan Faneca and Jeff Hartings left town. The running game has survived almost solely on the talents of the backs lining up.
With Rashard Mendenhall expected to miss a large portion of the season, this will be Redman's show. Behind David DeCastro's stronger blocking, he could have quite the successful season and set himself up for a nice payday either in Pittsburgh or somewhere else.
Since arriving in Pittsburgh in 2004, Ben Roethlisberger has almost never played a full season and has almost always suffered some kind of injury during the course of the year. Sometimes, he's suffered multiple injuries in the same season.
A perfect example of the effect this could have on Pittsburgh's chances came last season. With Roethlisberger hobbled by an ankle injury after several punishing hits during the year, the Steelers struggled to move the ball and wasted a chance to get the top seed in the playoffs.
The Steelers and Roethlisberger should breathe easier this season. He figures to have a chance to stay upright more often this year. That's a truly scary thought for the team's opponents. Roethlisberger has performed admirably regardless of his line.
One of the constant problems that has plagued the Steelers in recent seasons is a lack of punch near the goal line. They have not been good at punching the ball in with their rushing attack and have shown a lot of cracks in the red zone.
That should change now. With the addition of David DeCastro, the Steelers should be able to run the pulling guard play they were great at using with Jerome Bettis and Alan Faneca in the backfield.
The Steelers finished 21st in scoring last season. That cannot continue for a contending team. I feel that the changes along the line should improve that by allowing more holes in the running game and also giving Roethlisberger more chances to throw the ball from the pocket and quickly.
Pittsburgh's defense has been leaned on a lot to kill off rallies when the offense was unable to kill the clock regularly. While they have frequently gotten away with it, it certainly couldn't hurt for the Steelers to give their defense some more rest.
A bigger, tougher offensive line gives you that rest. Why? Quite simply, it allows the Steelers to run the ball more and with greater success. That extends a drive and runs the clock more efficiently than passing the ball can do. The longer a drive lasts, the less time a defense must be on the field.
The best offense is a good defense. The best way to help the league's top defense is to keep them off the field more and more often.
There has always been a lot of talk about how the Steelers offense passed too often under Bruce Arians and that he had virtually abandoned the team's smash-mouth heritage. That might be accurate, but I can't blame Arians completely for that change.
In some ways, it had to come out of necessity. The Steelers didn't have success when they attempted to run the ball regularly in 2009 and 2010. By 2011 Arians had moved to a system that was built on the strengths of his players: a quick passing attack.
Now, the Steelers can return to at least a balanced system. Todd Haley will throw the ball often, but it won't be because the team cannot generate yards on the ground. The run will be able to be used regularly, and the team's backs might get a great chance to show what they can all do.
Maurkice Pouncey has been a Pro Bowl center his first two seasons in Pittsburgh, but he's been asked to do a ton of work every game. The weakness at both guard spots has left him to handle a lot of double-teams and a lot of rushers.
While he's done very well at maintaining the integrity of the interior of the offensive line, Pouncey will be able to drive back rushers and rip holes in a defensive line now that he won't be trying to hold back multiple people.
Of the previous members of the line, Pouncey has to be the most excited. He now will get a future Pro Bowler in David DeCastro to play right next to him. That had to bring a sigh of relief.