Let's face it, the Steelers offensive line was one of the weak links on the team this year. Special teams and the defensive backfield were not great either. But you can't blame 50 sacks all on Ben holding the ball too long. Lets take a look at each member of the O-line roster and see how they ranked.
Lets start at the Center position:
Justin Hartwig Grade: D- Since Hartwig was signed as a free agent he has been a big non-factor. Stepping into the hallowed shoes of Mike Webster, Dermontti Dawson and Jeff Hartings, Hartwig can't hold their jocks, lets alone step into their shoes. He is consistently ranked in the bottom rung of starting centers in the league. For good reason too. He gets run over by nose tackles (remember the holding call for a safety in the Super Bowl), doesn't open up holes in the middle of the line and is just not the guy you want to build your line around.
Doug Legursky Grade C+ Sadly the only thing I can remember about big Doug is that he is big. Actually I also remember when we experimented putting him in the backfield on a goal line situation and he buried someone as the fullback. To bad our offensive coordinator doesn't believe in a fullback though. Not really sure what kind of center Doug would be, but how much worse can he do? Lets give him a shot and see what we have there. He can also fill in at guard which is a nice plus.
Next the Left Guards:
Chis Kemoeatu Grade B The big surly Pacific Islander might be the Steelers best offensive line player. He is a better run blocker than he is a pass blocker. Shame that we are a predominantly passing team now. When Chris is on his game he is a load. He blows out the holes and can be a Pro Bowl caliber player. At other times though Chris loses his temper and takes stupid penalties. Other times he just doesn't seem to play inspired. He did play hurt this year. To get to the next level, Kemoeatu needs to be more consistent and do a better job on pass blocking
Ramon Foster Grade B+ The surprise of the rookie class beside Mike Wallace. This undrafted free agent came in and did a great job filling at several positions. Foster really bailed the Steelers out this year by holding down every position he was thrown in. He didn't dominate or anything, but the expectations were not high either. In the coming years, we will expect more from Foster. Lets see if he can continue to develop and live up to the promise he showed this year.
On to the Left Tackles:
Max Starks Grade D Left guard is perhaps the most important position on the line. Big Max let us down this year. What is frustrating about Starks is that with his size and potential he could be one of the best. That is why the Steelers paid him so much money and put the franchise tag on him. But far too often he misses his assignment or gets beat like he is sitting in quicksand. Max has to pick it up if we are going to go anywhere with this line. Otherwise it doesn't make sense paying him all that money.
Tony Hills Grade D Is Hills a player? Who knows? For most games he doesn't even dress. When he does dress you don't see him out there too much. He is now coming into his 3rd season. It is either time for him to do something or get off the pot. The team cannot carry drafted players like this for years, never knowing if they have what it takes or not.
Darnell Stapleton Grade Incomplete The smallest of the right guards, the starter from the season before was out all year with injury. He was not a stand out the year before but was very solid. Hopefully he will return next year and continue to develop. That is why it is so important that the new O-line coach be able to nurture and develop these younger linemen.
Trai Essex Grade C- Trai stepped in at RG this year and played just about every down. He did his best, but it wasn't good enough. He is weak on the run and not great on pass blocking. That is a bad combination for an offensive lineman. Maybe as a fill in for an injured starter he is OK, but if Trai wants a place on this team he needs to bring it up a notch as well.
Kraig Urbik Grade F Kraig who? Oh yeah the guy who was the Steelers 2nd pick in the draft this year. 3rd round draft choices should at least dress for games. The fact that Ramon Foster came on as an undrafted free agent and started games in his rookie season while Urbik didn't dress is a slap in the face to him. We can only assume that the coaches saw something or didn't see something with Kraig. We don't have 3 years to wait. If he can't make the cut to at least dress next year, we should make the move and cut him.
Finally Right Tackle:
Willie Colon Grade D- Willie is a good run blocker on a passing team. He made a lot of mental mistakes this year. From moving before the snap to missing an assignment, it was downright embarrassing at times. When he is on his game, Willie is not bad. Probably an average to slightly better than average right tackle in the league. But he needs less mental mistakes and more consistency. If not the Steelers better find another right tackle.
Well there you have it. Maybe I was too hard on them. Not as hard as some of the defenses in the league this year were on them though. If we want to watch the Steelers go far in the playoffs next year, this squad has to pick up the slack.
So what do you think of the grades? Lets hear it!