NFL Pittsburgh Steelers: Bad Offensive Line Is Nothing New

Chris GazzeCorrespondent ISeptember 27, 2011

PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 18:   Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers is sacked by  Chris Clemons #91 of the Seattle Seahawks during the game on September 18, 2011 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  The Steelers defeated the Seahawks 24-0.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Another week, another poor performance by the offensive line, yet people still act surprised.

Pittsburgh’s offensive line had pathetic showing Sunday night against Indianapolis. Ben Roethlisberger was sacked three times, fumbling twice, and the ground game managed a putrid 2.4 yards per carry.

It was an exceptionally bad game for an offensive line that has allowed Roethlisberger to get sacked 230 times since 2006.

The Steelers have been to two Super Bowls during that time, winning one of them, so they have proven they can win with a struggling line.

Prior to Super Bowl 40, Roethlisberger discussed the negative attention that the Steelers line gets.

“A lot of people have talked bad about them and made them play the underdog card all year, which is good for them,” said Roethlisberger. “I think it fuels them. They protect me and I think they've done a great job. They've gone against some great defenses and seen some crazy blitzes that would even confuse some coaches on the sidelines, but they take pride in keeping me clean and not getting me hit.”

Roethlisberger only got sacked 46 times that season, down from 47 the year before.

Imagine how he felt prior to Super Bowl 45, he was sacked only 32 times in 12 games. He must have felt as if the line was full of All-Pros.

By comparison to this year’s line, they were.

Maurkice Pouncey was a Pro Bowler and Flozell Adams stepped in at right tackle and did a fine job.

Last year’s line also had Max Starks and Ramon Foster starting for portions of the season as well as a healthy Chris Kemoeatu.

Though decimated with injuries, their backups did a solid job last season.

This year is different and Pittsburgh could take their ineptitude along the offensive line to a new level.

Instead of entering the season as backups, Jonathan Scott was virtually handed the starting job at left tackle while Doug Legursky inexplicably won the right guard job.

Injuries have slowed Kemoeatu and a biceps injury to Willie Colon has put him on the injured reserve for the second straight year.

Sunday night, both Scott and rookie Marcus Gilbert left with injuries further weakening the offensive line.

That leaves Sunday’s starting unit as a mystery.

If healthy, Gilbert will return to start at right tackle. He has fared well and is developing nicely so far.

Trai Essex will step in at left tackle if Scott cannot go.

Legursky suffered injuries on Sunday, but if he cannot play the insertion of Foster into the lineup may actually be an upgrade.

Regardless, an already weak line is getting weaker by the game.

Why? Last year backups replaced starters. This season the backups are the starters meaning that, in some cases, players who are entering the starting lineup are of third string quality.

The problems on the line are nothing new and the results will be more of the same: more sacks and less running lanes. The only problem, with less talent out there, these issues face magnification. 

It will be up to Mike Tomlin and Bruce Arians to scheme around this weakness. Are they up to the task? We will find out when the Steelers travel to Houston this week.


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