The Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line is starting to get itself together. A team that has had to deal with injuries, struggled to run the football and not done well at protecting the quarterback is starting to dominate the line of scrimmage.
The Steelers have been known for having big, physical offensive lines that could run the football and protect the passer. In the last two seasons, Pittsburgh has done well offensively, but the line struggled from time to time. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been hit as much as any passer in the NFL. Running backs like Rashard Mendenhall, Jonathan Dwyer and Ike Redman have not found much room to maneuver against good defenses.
For years, there was no team better at passing to take the lead and running to hold it than the Steelers. In losses this season to the Oakland Raiders and Tennessee Titans, Pittsburgh was unable to hold leads and put games on ice.
All of this has changed in the last three weeks. Pittsburgh has beaten the Cincinnati Bengals, Washington Redskins and New York Giants, because the offensive line has taken over each game. The Steelers have had a running back go over 100 yards in each. In the first two, it was Dwyer. Sunday against the Giants, it was Redman. When Pittsburgh needed to take the air out of the football and run out the clock they were able to do so.
The Steelers are starting to look like a Pittsburgh team again.
A lot of Pittsburgh’s success in the last two games is due to the return of center Maurkice Pouncey. He missed a couple of games due to a recurring ankle injury. Doug Legursky took his place in the Cincinnati game and did quite well. When Pouncey returned against Washington, the Steelers began to gash people.
In the Redskins game Dwyer ran for 107 yards on 17 carries. Pittsburgh followed that up by running over the Giants for 148. Redman had 147 of those and the winning touchdown.
The Steelers have also gotten it done protecting Roethlisberger. Against the Redskins, he was barely touched. Big Ben threw for 222 yards and three touchdowns. Against the Giants, Roethlisberger was sacked four times, but stayed upright enough to throw for two touchdowns.
Sunday, the starting unit of Pouncey, guards Ramon Foster and Willie Colon, tackles Max Starks and Mike Adams along with tight end Heath Miller wore down one of the best defensive lines in football. The Giants front four could not get off of blocks and make tackles in the fourth quarter.
If Pittsburgh’s offensive line continues to play well the Steelers can make a legitimate run at the AFC title. The passing game will continue to flourish with Roethlisberger protected. The running game will improve when Mendenhall comes back from injury.
For the past three weeks the Pittsburgh offensive line has started to assert itself.
The rest of the NFL had better take notice.