The Pittsburgh Steelers‘ offensive line recently achieved a feat they haven’t for over 170 games and nearly a decade. That feat was the Steelers’ patchwork offensive line went two consecutive games without rendering a sack on quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The key word in the previous sentence is patchwork, because nothing else would describe the injury woes that have been bestowed on the Steelers’ offensive line throughout this season that still hasn’t concluded.
The issues started early for the Steelers as Pro Bowl center Marukice Pouncey had his ACL torn by guard David DeCastro. From there, it seemed to go downhill at a rapid rate. Tackles Marcus Gilbert and Mike Adams have not only been in and out of the lineup with injuries, but also with inconsistent play.
There have been some bright spots on the offensive line. When Pouncey went down with his knee injury the Steelers went out and signed former Tennessee Titans center Fernando Velasco. Velasco stepped in and didn’t miss a beat or a snap until tearing his Achilles tendon in the waning moments of the fourth quarter against the Baltimore Ravens on Thanksgiving night.
Velasco wasn’t the only injury during the Ravens game. The most versatile linemen on the Steelers’ roster, Kelvin Beachum, also left the game with a knee injury that isn’t thought to be serious but could limit him throughout the most important stretch of the season for the Steelers. When Beachum left the game, Mike Adams stepped in for about a series before leaving with his own ankle injury. Enter Guy Whimper to complete the game at left tackle.
Starting guard Ramon Foster has been dealing with a nagging ankle injury along with the other Steelers’ guard David DeCastro dealing with his own ankle injury.
Plain and simple it is a sad state of affairs for the Steelers’ offensive line, but throughout this tumultuous season, the offensive line has gone from a weakness to one of the offense’s strengths. Mike Tomlin‘s next man up approach has certainly paid dividends on the offensive line, and at a time when his “standard is the standard” saying has become old and faded, it rings true along the offensive line.
The question remains, however, can the line withstand the most recent rash of injuries?
Can it continue to protect Big Ben at the most crucial part of the season?
Will it be able to hold blocks long enough to let budding superstar running back Le’Veon Bell run free?
Those are questions that will only be answered on the field of play, but if the Steelers hope to somehow win their final four games and insert themselves into the playoff discussion they will need the patchwork offensive line to rise up and prove their worth.
The Steelers win and lose by the way of their offensive line, and with these last four games being the most important for a team that is still clinging to a glimmer of postseason hope, they will need the line to do their job.
After all, the “Standard is the Standard”.
Jeff Hartman covers the Pittsburgh Steelers for RantSports.com and also contributes for the Penguins and Pirates. Follow him on Twitter @BnGBlitz