Thoughts on the O-Line:
Okay... I admit we were thoroughly man-handled against the Texans. But after the initial knee-jerk reaction that "we're doomed, we suck, lets see who is in the 2012 draft class"... I thought I might pose an interesting question and would love to hear other opinions?
Our offensive line is patch worked and made up of spare parts and guys plucked from the scrap heap. With the exception of Pouncey (who last year was a stand out... more on that in a bit), every offensive lineman has been questionable ...at best. With that said... it's ironic that a 6'6 320 pound professional athlete can not be good at going forward (as a road grader) or good at going in reverse, as a pass protector. The sheer physics of this make it mind boggling how a guy that huge can not be above the bar at either one or the other and if they are not good at one or the other... why did the coaches draft and/or play him?
Big Ben is running for his life on virtually every snap. Even in the shotgun, he has just over 1 second before a defender has a hand on him. Granted, we have played against some of the best defensive ends.(Freeney and Williams) and a terrific pass rusher in Terrell Suggs, but these same players (minus Gilbert) were on our team last season.
There will be many fans who say these guys were meant to go forward... more run blockers than pass protectors... and that might indeed be more suitably applied to Colon and Adams (even though Adams is not YET on our team). but the simple fact is... they don't protect will and tend to pick up the wrong guy or they don't stay on the block for any longer than 1 second.
The run blocking is not much better. The only room for Mendenhall to run is on the outside, if he can even make it there without running into a defensive end that has blown by Essex, Scott or Gilbert.
So here is the question that I pose.... "If this is indeed the guys who we have to work with (assuming we spent any excess money on re-signing Troy)... is the problem more the play calling or the offensive line?
Thoughts on the Play calling:
BA has certainly had trouble building any form of a ground attack through 4 games. The Steelers were 23rd in the league in rushing going into the Texans game and that number surely got worse after Mendenhall rushed for 25 yards in game 4.
Granted... many times, we are in a hole early (like Baltimore) and have to alter the who strategy from the first quarter. But the Steelers need to have some form of a rushing attack for two reasons:
1) Ball control- We have to be able to sustain drives in the 4th quarter to hold onto the ball and keep opposing offenses off the field.
2) Defenses will tee off on big ben- If they know we can't run... expect a lot more sacks from raging defensive ends and blitzing linebackers. A QB can't stay healthy when he's getting sacked 5 times a game and being knocked down almost 20. We're probably a few more knee shots away from a serious injury.
If BA can not get any kind of a rushing attack going, it will be a long season. We've seen the Tommy Maddox years that while flashy... never produced playoff bound teams. If the league is going to a passing league that is fine.. we have the weapons to compete with the other teams... but we have to have some "threat" to run ... or the interceptions and the sack fumbles will be in mass quantity every time we take the field.
So who is to blame? Is it the O-line... or the play calling?
I will say.. that while our offensive line is shaky at best... it is 100% the play calling. Here is what shapes my opinion:
The game of football is Chess not Checkers. There are proven defenses to overcome virtually any weakness a team can have. This is a master playbook that every coach knows about but is seldom referenced at halftime. Just a few of these corrections could have given the Steelers momentum and counter-punched the Texans and every other team. I just didn't see them made... so I have to conclude the coaches are just as at fault for not making these changes... than the O-line is for their play "below the bar".
1) Defensive Ends Causing Havoc: We should be countering with blocking Tight-ends. these guys can be doubled. Heath Miller still is one of the best blocking Tight ends in the game. David Johnson and even Saunders can help out... and we should be using the 2 tight end formation on every series. We need to give ben time to throw the ball and also open up holes in the running game. These extra two blockers can help with the running and the passing game... though rarely did I see both Tight-ends playing... .instead we went with 3-4 wideout packages.
2) Weak Interior Offensive Line Play: Screen plays should be one of the cures. Have we ever ran one this year? I know Mendenhall doesn't have the best hands... but Moore is a superb screen guy with great hands and good runs after the catch. If we run enough screen plays, the defense has to start respecting the screen and can't pin their ears back and go after ben with their hair on fire.
3) Tackles getting beat by speed rush ends: How about running some block and release patterns.. where the tight-ends make the initial block then let the defender go by as they slip out to receive a quick pass. this is probably another form of a screen play.. but less traditional since it's from the tight end and not the running back.
I am not saying this is a cure for a sorry offensive line.... but perhaps the questions would be leveled at the coaching staff instead of just the offensive line.
I believe it is the play calling... and lack of counter punching on behalf of BA... than the simple answer that our O-line is awful. These are the exact same guys we won with last year... minus Flozell.... so perhaps it is not all the O-line's fault... and maybe the coaches should shoulder more of the blame.
Just one guy's opinion. Thoughts?