The Pittsburgh Steelers have always been known as a run-first, run-second, and possibly think-about-passing-third team.
During the 2009 season, however, Ben Roethlisberger had 4,328 passing yards and 26 touchdowns, throwing to Hines Ward (1,248 yards) and Santonio Holmes (1,167 yards) on a regular basis.
Rashard Mendenhall also had 1,108 yards and seven touchdowns, but the Steelers were pretty much always a pass-first team this season, especially in short yardage and goal line situations.
Over the years, the Steelers success was always contingent on them having one of the best offensive lines in the league. If you compare the offensive lines from their Super Bowl win in 2005 to the offensive line today it looks like this.
Marvel Smith—second-round pick
Alan Faneca—first-round pick
Jeff Hartings—first-round pick of Detroit Lions
Kendall Simmons—first-round pick
Max Starks—third-round pick
Max Starks—third-round pick
Chris Kemoeatu—sixth-round pick
Justin Hartwig—sixth-round pick of Tennessee Titans
Trai Essex/Ramon Foster—third-round/undrafted
Willie Colon—fourth-round pick
The first couple of rounds in the draft were where the Steelers used to build their offensive line. However, as I’ve shown above, Max Starks and Trai Essex are the highest drafted guys and they weren't taken until the third round.
That’s not to say that the Steelers offensive line is destined to be bad just because it doesn’t have a bunch of first-round picks on it. However, this does show why Ben Roethlisberger has been one of the most sacked quarterbacks in the league and why the Steelers have had such a hard time in running situations over the past few years.
In fact, the last offensive lineman the Steelers took in the first round was Kendall Simmons in 2002. Every offensive player since has been a skill position player.
2008—Rashard Mendehall, RB
2006—Santonio Holmes, WR
2005—Heath Miller, TE
2004—Ben Roethlisberger, QB
This isn’t to say that these picks were wrong, in fact every one of those players were starters in 2009, it’s just that over the years the Steelers have been drafting players to become the passing team that they were in 2009 and the offensive line suffered because of it.
However, this offseason the Steelers traded away one of Big Ben’s weapons in Santonio Holmes, and there has been an outcry from fans and ownership alike to get back to running the football.
Also, the Steelers will not be able to throw the ball around if Ben Roethlisberger is suspended for the first part of the season.
That is why with the 18th pick in the 2010 NFL draft the Steelers will select C/G Maurkice Pouncey out of Florida. Pouncey is maybe the best interior lineman in the draft and will step in day one as the starting right guard, eventually replacing Justin Hartwig at center.
With Pouncey immediately upgrading the offensive line the Steelers are going to get back to the hard-nosed, black and gold style of football that they used to be known for.
Maurkice Pouncey is the pick that will put them in that direction.
I also have a full first round mock draft here out if anyone wants to check it out.