Sunday, November 11, 2012
Steelers O-Line Leading the Way
Make no mistake, if the Steelers want to win the division and compete for a seventh Super Bowl, they'll need Ben Roethlisberger to be his best.
And the group responsible for protecting Ben has been equally as good through the first eight games of the season. To me, the offensive line is the team MVP so far. They've been interchanged and they've certainly shown some struggles from time to time, but when the team wins, they're usually a big part of the reason.
Consider this, Ben Roethlisberger is on pace to shatter his single season passing attempts mark with 596. This would also place him 28th all-time in attempts, tied with Jon Kitna in 2006 and yet, he's only been sacked 17 times all season. That number is good enough for 13th in the league and it would mark the lowest totals since 2010 when Ben only played in 12 games. Obviously, the less Roethlisberger gets hit, the harder it is for him to get hurt. From a performance standpoint, it also leads to fewer turnovers as the four interceptions and two lost fumbles suggest.
The season statistics for the Steelers rushing offense look hideous compared to the rest of the league. Through the first six weeks of the season, Pittsburgh didn't have a running back register 100+ yards in a game. Even worse, four of those weeks saw running backs failing to register 30 yards.
In week seven, everything changed.
Jonathan Dwyer rattled off 122 yards against the Cincinnati Bengals and then followed up with 107 yards against the Washington Redskins in week eight. When Dwyer was out in week nine with a leg injury, Isaac Redman returned and put up 146 yards against the defending Super Bowl champs. Redman and Dwyer may have talent, but they're a fair cry from the likes of Arian Foster or Adrian Peterson.
Many believe the offensive line started run blocking when Willie Colon slammed Bengals' linebacker Vontaze Burfict into the turf at Paul Brown Stadium. It reminded people of the old Pittsburgh Steelers offense: tough, mean. It also gave the Steelers an ability to run the clock out and win games, something that's been missing over the last few seasons.
The offensive line has been the most improved group over the first half of the season and, as a result, the team has tremendously improved, going from a 2-3 start to three straight victories. With the Baltimore Ravens on the schedule twice in the next four weeks, it is critical to have a cohesive group of big offensive linemen who can move the pile. It is equally important to have that same group protect the quarterback against a hungry defense.
One thing is for certain, if the offensive line continues to show this kind of improvement, the sky could be the limit for the Steelers' offense.