Why the Loss of Maurkice Pouncey Means Pittsburgh Steelers' Season Is Done
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Less than four minutes into the 2013 season, All-Pro center Maurkice Pouncey's right knee was hit by his own teammate on a missed cut block, and he suffered a torn ACL and MCL. Not only was Pouncey's season over, but the Pittsburgh Steelers' season was over.
As the Steelers have come to know the hard way, a subpar offensive line makes just about everything harder in the game of football.
Pittsburgh has gotten away with patchwork blocking the past few years, mixing and matching players like Max Starks, Flozell Adams, Doug Legursky and Trai Essex, just to name a few.
And it's not like the front office hasn't at least tried to address the O-line. From 2009 to 2012, the Steelers spent nine draft picks on offensive linemen. That list includes five first- or second-round picks.
The only one who has really panned out so far is Pouncey, who has been the best offensive lineman on the roster ever since he was drafted. Luckily for the Steelers, Pouncey has also been one of the best in the whole league.
That is, until now.
With Pouncey out for all of 2013, an already struggling unit will have even more holes exposed. Pittsburgh's line was rated No. 23 by Fantasy Pros and No. 24 by NBC Sports' Rotoworld website before the injury. And the only saving grace was that Pouncey was good enough to make up for the flaws of his teammates.
For now, the starting line is listed on the Pittsburgh's team site to be Mike Adams at left tackle (seven career starts), Ramon Foster at left guard (43), Kelvin Beachum at center (six), David DeCastro at right guard (four) and Marcus Gilbert at right tackle (19).
Seventh-year tackle Guy Whimper (22 career starts), fifth-year lineman Cody Wallace (zero career starts) and fourth-year guard/center Fernando Velasco are also on the roster. Velasco, who was released by Tennessee at the end of the preseason, is the Steelers' other option at center.
In several years, this young offensive line could develop into a strong position group for the Steelers, but it hasn't proved to be so far.
In Week 1 against the Tennessee Titans, Pittsburgh struggled to move the ball for nearly the entire game. Roethlisberger was under pressure and was sacked five times while throwing for under 200 yards. The run game was completely helpless as backs couldn't find gaps to run through and finished with 32 yards on 15 carries.
Pittsburgh's coaches did not adjust and the skill players did not perform well, but much of the blame has to be placed on the shoulders of the offensive line. And without Pouncey in the middle, it could be 2014 before the line gets any better.
The Steelers will likely have trouble moving the ball and putting points on the board for the rest of the year. Unless the defense makes a habit of totally shutting down opposing offenses, it could be a long season in Pittsburgh.
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