Can The Steeler O-Line Protect Big Ben's Blind Side?

Vicki FarriesCorrespondent IAugust 31, 2009

Left tackle over all the offensive linemen has become a pivotal position whose purpose is to protect the QB blind side from dominant pass-rushers.

A left tackle’s responsibility is to block elite pass rushers and if that tackle makes a mistake, it can result in a sack or a fumble if the quarterback is hit from behind.

It is because of these turnovers that not only determine the outcome of any game but has made the position at left tackle an integral part of the line as the blind-side protector.

Most teams in the NFL generally slide their protection to the quarterback's blind side, which is almost always the left.

So much has been given to former Steeler LG Alan Faneca and his abilities to protect the blind side, but my argument has been in the last three years as a Steeler did not do such a good job protecting Roethlisberger’s blind side when he was sacked 140 times from 2005-2007.

Now, this responsibility now belongs to Max Starks.

Starks, drafted in 2004, became a starter in 2005 playing R tackle.

In 2007, Starks lost R tackle to rookie Willie Colon, and played the last 4 games of the season at left tackle in place of the injured Marvel Smith.

Earlier this year, Stark signed a 4-year contact worth $ 26.3 million dollars as the Steelers’ left tackle alongside LG Chris Kemoeatu.

Less we forget, in 2003, there was another R tackle who signed a 6-year $26 million contract to move left and replace released tackle Wayne Gandy - Marvel Smith.

Smith had never played left tackle and it was unknown if he could but the Steelers gave him that contract and I don’t think the Steelers regretted the move.

Starks did play some left before being moved there permanently, so hopefully with the support of Chris Kemoeatu, the Steelers will not regret the $26 million they agreed to give Starks.

One of my co-workers, Todd, brought Starks to mind when he observed how Starks and Kemoeatu work well together.

Kemoeatu, a power run blocker loves to kill people coming around the edge whether its goal line or a trap play.

With one year as a starter under his belt, Kemoeatu has improved on his pass-protection skills to support Starks on passing downs.

At center, Justin Hartwig supports Kemoeatu by isolating the nose tackle or DT, enabling Kemoeatu free to support the blind side with Starks.

Hartwig is able to provide inside help for the Kemoeatu and Kemoeatu is able to protect Starks’ inside.

The three then work together to block the two defensive linemen while eyeing their other responsibility, the weak-side linebacker, which could leave Essex and Colon one-on-one.

Although it’s still pre-season, the left side has allowed one sack on Roethlisberger in 3 games.

The Buffalo game, Starks lined up with Doug Legursky at left, and struggled to keep clean QB Charlie Batch’s blind side as Batch found himself in hurried situations which resulted in incomplete or overthrown passes.

Today, it’s been reported Darnell Stapleton was put on the IR for the rest of the season.

Legursky looks to be on the depth chart and must be able to fit in left or right of the line.

Cohesiveness of the offensive line is paramount for a successful running and passing game if the Steelers expect to make it to the post-season.

The left side has got to continue to improve in keeping Roethlisberger clean by reducing the number of sacks this year.