Pittsburgh Steelers: The Offensive Line Will Torpedo High Expectations

Are you ButthurtContributor ISeptember 28, 2011

SAN DIEGO -  OCTOBER 10:  Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers is helped off the field by team physicians with an injured left knee during the Steelers' game-winning drive in NFL action against the San Diego Chargers October 10, 2005 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
Donald Miralle/Getty Images

After the first three weeks, the NFL has several intriguing stories developing: stories such as Cam Newton's emerging presence and the wonderful efforts produced so far by both the Buffalo Bills and Detroit Lions.

However, in the Steel City of Pittsburgh, it's just the same old story. 

A story that has been regurgitated for five years straight now.  The tale is getting old, and the fans have to be tiring of it—I know I am. 

Once again, the offensive line being fielded is a brutal liability and will be the reason the Steelers cannot march deep into the playoffs this season.

I'm not blind to the fact that several other teams seem to be in a boat similar to the Steelers.  The Bears, Eagles and Jets are just a few, but their boats aren't as inadequate and inept. 

I'm also not ignorant to the fact that in the past the Steelers have made it to two Super Bowls with a patchwork offensive line.

This year will be different, though. This is the year that the Steelers will have to pay for using the house's money for the last several seasons. 

I believe that their luck has finally run out and that not addressing the issues of the offensive line will catch up to them.  The final payout will be Ben Roethlisberger's health and a lackluster season.  

Before anyone jumps on my back, I'm not trying to stick a fork in the Men of Steel quite yet. 

The fact of the matter is that it is only Week 4, and the Steelers are an acceptable 2-1—essentially tied with the Baltimore Ravens for first place in the AFC North.  

What I am trying to get at, though, is that if the offensive line is not refurbished for the last 13 weeks of the season, it may be a long year for the Steelers, Roethlisberger and the fans.

It's been stated many times before, but it needs to be said again. 

Besides the last two drafts—in which the Steelers selected Maurkice Pouncey in the first round and Marcus Gilbert in the second round—the Steelers have virtually nothing to solidify a once very effective and dominant offensive line.

Aren't the Steelers known for their intimidating defense and running game?

Are either of those constants present this year so far? 

They are not, mainly because of the play of the offensive line.  Their poor play is affecting the entire team, from the poor running game, to turnovers, to the defense having to be on the field for way too long. 

I can still remember the offensive lineman that started in Super Bowl XL, on February 5, 2006.

LT - Marvel Smith

LG - Alan Faneca

PITTSBURGH - JANUARY 11:  (L-R) Heath Miller #83, Willie Colon #74, Darnell Stapleton #72, Justin Hartwig #62, Chris Kemoeatu #68 and Max Starks #78 of the Pittsburgh Steelers stand in the offensive huddle against the San Diego Chargers during their AFC D
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

 C - Jeff Hartings

RG - Kendall Simmons

RT - Max Starks

Could you imagine a now-veteran Ben Roethlisberger standing behind that line in 2011?

You would think that the Steelers would want to protect their $100-million investment.  Instead, they replace the starters they release with backups who aren't even that good. 

Then the coaching staff gambles on Ben saving himself with his feet every other play.

The offensive line they fielded in Week 1 was mediocre at best.  One lynch pin, Maurkice Pouncey, wasn't going to be able to do it himself.  Jonathan Scott has no business even starting in the NFL, and Willie Colon was injured and placed on injured reserve for the second time in two seasons.

With no proven backups, a rookie second-round draft pick and now the second best lineman on the IR, the Steelers go out and sign Jamon Meredith.


Your telling me and the rest of the Steeler Nation that nobody else was available?  Jamon Meredith?  I had never even heard of him until I read the Steelers signed him.

It boggles my mind that Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin keep ignoring the 800-pound gorilla not only in the room, but that is sitting on their lap and smacking them in the face!

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - SEPTEMBER 25:  Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers is checked on by Ramon Foster #73 after being sacked by the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on September 25, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Matthew Stock
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

To give some insight on how poor the offensive line is, the Steelers gave up three sacks and five QB hits to the Indianapolis Colts this past week.  The Colts had only generated two sacks through two games leading into Sunday evening's contest.

Through three games, the Steelers have given up nine sacks and 13 QB hits.  The sack numbers wouldn't be considered that bad if Roethlisberger wasn't being crushed on his blind side and fumbling. 

The QB hits are going to start to add up eventually.  Fifteen QB hits through three games spells a long season for Roethlisberger, and eventually they are going to lead to an injury.   

Just ask Michael Vick how he is feeling this year.

If there is a silver lining, it is that the season is still relatively young.  The Steelers' coaches can still make some quick fixes.

Over the next three games, the Steelers will not be facing the most feared of pass-rushing teams.  The Texans, Titans and Jaguars have all posted mediocre sack numbers up to this point in the season, with 7.0, 6.0 and 3.0 respectively.

The biggest challenge will be this week, though.  Traveling to Houston and having to face Mario Williams and a rejuvenated Texans defense led by Wade Phillips would be a difficult task for any left tackle. 

The Steelers appear to be starting Trai Essex at LT this week.  He was re-signed earlier this month after being released from the roster just weeks before.  It could get ugly—and quick.  The Steelers' brass needs to start planning now, making phone calls, like, yesterday.

HOUSTON - SEPTEMBER 11:  Mario Williams #90 of the Houston Texans gets the crowd hyped up during a football game between the Indianapolis Colts and the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium on September 11, 2011 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty I
Bob Levey/Getty Images

Why the Steelers didn't court veterans like Brian Waters or Bryant McKinnie before they were snatched up by other organizations is another head-scratcher. 

Both players are now producing for their new teams: Waters on the Patriots and McKinnie on the Ravens.  To pour salt into the wound, McKinnie did a tremendous job of shutting down James Harrison Week 1.

The Steelers still have time to rectify the situation, though.  There are numerous capable veteran offensive linemen still available.

Names such as Leonard Davis, Nick Kaczur, Jon Stichcomb and Shaun O'Hara are all (at the time of writing) still available.  Former Steelers Max Starks and Flozell Adams could be called upon, too.

I can't believe that any of these veterans, several former Pro Bowlers, couldn't be ready to start after a week or two and make an immediate impact. 

Any one of these players would be an instant upgrade over what the Steelers are playing now at LT and RG and would allow the rookie Marcus Gilbert to take his normal seat as a backup.

With Willie Colon being placed on the IR, cap room is freed up, and any two of the previous mentioned free agents could be signed and filtered in quickly.

The Steelers cannot drag their feet, though. They can't thump their chests in arrogance and believe that the answers to the their offensive-line woes are third-stringers they are developing.

They must act fast, or the season maybe over before they know it. 


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