Improvement by Offensive Line Necessary for Pittsburgh Steelers' Success

David KlinglerCorrespondent IMay 22, 2009

TAMPA, FL - FEBRUARY 01: Offensive linemen (L-R) Willie Colon #74, Darnell Stapleton #72, Justin Hartwig #62,  Chris Kemoeatu #68 and Max Starks #78 of the Pittsburgh Steelers stand in the huddle against the Arizona Cardinals during Super Bowl XLIII on February 1, 2009 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images) Steelers won 27-23.

Yeah, I know, the Steelers won the Super Bowl last season; I can appreciate that. If they hope to do it again this season, something has to change.

The offensive line needs to get better, fast! If for no other reason than the fact that Ben Roethlisberger can't keep taking those beatings. He is an elite quarterback, he needs to be protected like one.

The Steelers can ill afford to lose Roethlisberger for an extended period of time. Even a couple of games could mean the difference between a division title and staying home for the playoffs.

Last season the Steelers rushed for only 105.6 yards per game at a very mediocre 3.7 yards per carry. They ranked 23rd in rushing and their constant inability to run the ball in short yardage situations near the goal-line helped contribute to their scoring offense ranking a dismal 20th in the league.

I realize Willie Parker was not 100% and they lost Rashard Mendenhall for the year, but there weren't many holes for anybody to run through last season.

The offensive line did improve during the season, but looking at the postseason numbers is a little troubling.

While they allowed almost a half a sack less per game in the playoffs, they averaged 2.6 sacks in the three playoff games. That is still just too many. The running game was even worse, dropping to a pitiful 91.6 yards per game and only 2.9 yards per carry.

In the Cowher era, the Steelers used to take the air out of the ball when leading in the second half of games to secure the win. Last season, the Steelers were unable to do that consistently, and it showed in the Super Bowl when the Steelers could not protect a 20-7 lead in the fourth quarter.

If they could have ground out some yardage against the Cardinals 16th ranked run defense, the outcome might not have been in doubt in the closing seconds.

Let's face it, the Steelers won the Super Bowl in spite of the struggling offensive line. To think they can do the same this season without significant improvement up front is a little unrealistic.

They can't continue to rely so heavily on great defense and clutch fourth quarter comebacks by Big Ben. There is a reason teams don't often win it all with just a dominant defense. The Baltimore Ravens could generate only one Super Bowl title in 2000 out of that elite defense, and they have spent every season since trying to find some offense to go along with it.

Teams need to be balanced in order to be a perennial contender.

The front line needs to get better, or the only repeat the Steelers will see is a repeat of 2006.