My apologies, I can't put this on the front page for some unknown reason. Working on it. Nice analysis though. - nc
This post is my inaugural run at quantifying the offensive line play with a grade. I decided to grade the entire starting offensive line Doug Legursky, Trai Essex, and Kelvin Beachum. I will get into why I decided not to grade the others on the roster. First I will try to explain how I graded their play.
I used a method similar to that of Pro Football Focus. In run blocking grades zero (0) is the average, in other words a 1-2 yard drive block, or backside reach block, it is something that is expected to happen. All positive scores were issued to blocks that went above and beyond and all negative scores to those that were poor. In pass blocking it is a little different. PFF uses the average of the prior years pass blocking score to create positive pass blocking ratings. Since I couldn't do this I rated most solid pass blocks as a zero or +0.5 depending on how long the player had to hold the block, if they had help and how far they got pushed into the back field. All pressure were given a score of -1.5 or below depending on if the QB got hit and how quick it happened and all sacks were graded as a -2 unless they came after four and a half seconds. (Not the case in this game trust me). If the player complete embarrassed the defender then they could earn higher than a +0.5 but that never happened in this game. Blocks on screen were also counted as pass blocks.
Now that the background stuff is out of the way lets start the actual analysis. First up the Steelers 2 time Pro Bowl and All-Pro Center.Maurkice Pouncey, C, #53-
Overall Grade: +3.5
Maurkice Pouncey finally looked healthy in this game. Though he only play in fifteen snaps he had a good day. His snaps broke down into ten pass plays where he earned a +3.0 and five run blocking plays were he was slightly above average at +0.5., Why did I grade him this way. Well against a 4-3 defense a majority of his pass blocking is going to be in tandem with the guard, however he did have a DT over him for a few plays and held his own. His only mistake in pass blocking was a blocking assignment error where he should have helped DeCastro with the one technique DT instead of helping Foster with the three technique. In run blocking he didn't do anything amazing but wasn't pushed back into the back field at all. His lone mistake was a poor cut block on a pull. Pouncey look pretty good out there just wish we could have seen more of him. There is one major concern though. Pouncey is telegraphing his snap. Just before he is about to snap the ball he nods his head. I noticed this last year but just now confirmed it after I saw him do it on all on the fifteen plays in the game. Needless the say I sent him and Baron Batch a tweet about it hopefully to get the message to Pouncey.
Marcus Gilbert, RT #77-
Overall Grade: -4.5
It is safe to say Marcus Gilbert had a poor night. His twenty five snaps broke down into fifteen pass blocking plays where he earned a -3.5 pass blocking grade and ten run plays where he earned a -1.0. Gilbert allowed three pressures on the QB in fifteen plays. He missed his assignment in pass blocking once leaving Heath out to dry, but most of the night he was struggling how to play against Graham, either over playing the outside move of stopping his feet all together. There were however five plays were he did hold his own against Graham look for him to start getting back in to playing form as the preseason continues. In run blocking he actually would have rating a zero if not for two plays. One was a short yardage play where he tried to cut block, put his head down and the DE just swam around it. The other was when he was pulling on a toss play. In open space against a linebacker straight up he tried to cut block him, and fail miserably actually causing the RB to get tackle by the same LB. Gilbert needs to remember he is a 6'6 330lbs OT and should be able to drive block a LB easily there is no need to cut him.
Ramon Foster, OG #73-
Overall Grade: -7.5
It was not a good night for Foster however the area he struggled the most in was not pass blocking as I though initially. His thirty snaps broke down into sixteen pass plays where he earn a -2.0 grade and fourteen run plays where he earned a -5.5 grade. In pass protection he had one pressure that Ben saved from being a sack, he played high and had poor angles against the Eagles slightly wider three technique they use to isolate the weak side DT against the weak side guard. In the run game he couldn't drive anyone off the ball, a criticism I had of him all last year. He also look bad on his two pulls the first he was too slow to get to the block in time. The second pull he completely missed the defender. The combination of getting driven backwards and these poor pulls led to the poor run blocking score.
David DeCastro, OG #66 (R) -
Overall Grade: +0.5
David DeCastro played like an average NFL offensive linemen, for a rookie in his first game action that's is pretty damn good. His thirty snaps were broken down into sixteen pass plays and fourteen run plays. In pass protection he earned a +1.0 mark, he did allow one pressure against Cullen Jenkens though. I also broke down how many times he was isolated one-on-one with the defensive tackle in pas protection. In ten of his sixteen pass plays he went one-on-one with the DT. on his one pressure, he took a bad angle off the line of scrimmage, then took a false step forward, finally his shoulders were turn perpendicular to the line and it was over. The only thing stopping Cullen Jenkins form getting a sack was DeCastro push him into the side of Gilbert. In the run blocking game he was fairly solid. His worst play came when Fletcher Cox had a great jump on the snap, DeCastro again took a bad angle and was beat. His best block was on Johnathan Dwyers big run. He started the hole by sealing off the defensive tackle and pushing him five years into the back field away from the play. However this was not the best block of the night by a Steelers offensive lineman but more on that later.
Mike Adams, LT #76 (R) -
Overall Grade: -7.0
Of the Steelers starting five offensive linemen Adams had the worst day in pass protection. It was his performance in the run game that kept him just slightly above Ramon Foster for worst in the group. Adams night was cut short due to injury he had only nineteen plays. In pass blocking he had thirteen plays where he gave up 3 sacks and 3 more pressures on top of that. In thirteen plays I think I found a couple major issues in his pass protection that can be fix. The first is in 90% of his snaps he was the last linemen off the ball and I mean noticeably very other linemen was already half way out of their stance before Adams even moved. This could really hurt when facing the speed rushers he faced. The second was he took to many false steps. A false step is when in your slide you take a step toward the DE. He also needs to work on his hand usage as the DE disengaged with him too easily. In his six plays run blocking though he did very well. He was not push backwards all night. He had a couple good seal blocks were he drove the defender the right three yards when the play was to the left most notably on a 3rd and short Isaac Redman run. At Ohio State Adams struggled with his pad level in run blocking but I did not see that tonight. (Though six plays is a really small sample size.)
Doug Legursky, C #64-
Overall Grade: -2.5
Doug Legursky had a good night in pass blocking but a poor night in run blocking. His night consisted of twenty plays. Thirteen of those plays were pass run plays where he earned a -4.5 grade. He was slow getting to his blocking assignment along the defensive line and lacks the physical attributes to make up for a late step. Legursky did however own the block of the day. On Dwyer's long run he lined up at center, he had no on over the top of him so went straight to the second level. He engaged with the MLB at 5 yards deep drove him to seven yards deep and then pancaked him into the turf. Without this block Dwyer couldn't of gotten to the outside left hash and ran for the 40 yards. In seven pass plays he earned a +2.0 grade, he excelled against a 4-3 where he could just combo block instead of having to block one-on-one with DT line up right on top of him. It is also interesting to point out that five of his snaps came at RG where he scored at just below average a -1.0 (-1.5 in run blocking and +0.5 in pass protection). Looking at his fifteen snaps at center his scored a slightly worse at a -1.5 (-3.0 in run blocking and +1.5 in pass blocking). His major issues came in the goal line where there was a person constantly over top of him and he struggled to pick up the need blocks in the run game.
Trai Essex, OT #79-
Overall Grade: -9.0
Trai Essex had the worst night of the entire group of second team O-linemen. In his fifteen snaps he had eleven runs and four passes to block. In pass blocking he earned a -3.5 grade. Why? He allowed one pressure where the QB was hit, he also was driven back five yards into the back field on nearly every play. Then top that off with one missed read in pass blocking and you get the grade Essex received. His run blocking was even worst. In even plays he earned a -5.5 grade. He was too slow to get to the second level, and on the goal line cost Baron Batch a good chance at a TD when he missed his assignment on a run play twice in a row. Inexcusable in my book. Especially as I said one of the plays had the block on the right side but Essex couldn't get his DE who made a stuff in the backfield.
Kelvin Beachum, OT/OG #68 (R)-
Overall Grade: -2.5
You want to know what the biggest knee jerk reaction was immediately after the game, the hating on Beachum. Beachum had thirty-two plays against the Eagles. Despite what it thought immediately prior to the game his ten pass blocking snaps had him at a +0.5 grade. Why'd I think he was so bad. Well with the not spectacular resolution on my Internet feed I had to rely on the announcers for who got beat since I could make out the side of the number showing. Brian Baldinger specifically pointed out Vinny Curry beat the tackle on the play caused a pressure and he said it twice. However those "tackles" he beat was Jamie McCoy out TE number #80 and on one of those plays it was on a designed TE screen to David Paulson where the actual left tackle Kelvin Beachum pancaked the LB four yards down field. He actually held his own against Vinny Curry when ask too carrying him up field but nothing special mostly zero grade plays. Beachum struggled in run blocking and his lack of strength showed. In twenty two run plays he earned a grade of -3.0. He could move the DT off the line in his four plays at LG and struggled moving the DE more than a yard. He also took some bad angle to get to the blocks that had him struggling. It is clear to me Beachum needs a year to get stronger before he can be the backup O-linemen I thought he could be.
So who was the worst player of the group? Well this player is the reason I didn't grade any of the other lower depth chart plays. the worst player was...
-Worst Blocker of the Night-
John Malecki, C #62-
Overall Grade: -10.5 (After only six plays)
John Malecki had me screaming at my TV even though I already knew the outcome of each play. I tried to grade his snaps for his first two series or six plays and it was horrible. In four run plays he graded at a -9.0, he could barely get a single hand on Cedric Thorton as Thorton had at least three stuffs in the backfield because of Malecki, In Just two pass plays Malecki had as many pressures as DeCastro did in sixteen plays. In pass protection he earned a -1.5 grade. Malecki didn't get much better as the day went on either. After just these two series I said screw it this is too saddening and stuck with just grading Beachum.
So who was the best player on the O-line against the Eagles? I bet your think it is Pouncey he had the highest score well you'd be wrong.
-Best Blocker of the Night-
Ryan Lee, OG #69-
Ryan Lee had me wishing I had continued to grade the lower depth guys and I just might go back and grade him. He came in on the third series of the second half and played the rest of the game. By some quick notes he only had three plays that wouldn't have been graded positively. He looked to have good strength and leverage moving guys off the ball. He had great pass awareness helping out Malecki a lot and unlike the other third teamers wasn't getting pushed back in the back field. he had a trap play where he pulled and pick up the block nicely. He excelled all night in drive blocking. He got to the open field once but missed his block. his biggest down fall is he is slower than hell. The farthest he would be able to pull is the B gap. I also understand he was going against nobodies but I was impressed and the third team line looked a whole lot better when he went out there moving Beachum from the OG spot to the OT spot. Prior to #69 entrance the team could get a first down after they were able to sustain a drive and almost get into field goal range till Chris Scott blew two blocks in a row losing yards.