Steelers Film Room: Reserve linemen come up short in running game vs. Raiders

Ezra Shaw

Against the Ravens, Pittsburgh relied on unexpected contributions from unlikely contributors on the offensive line. Their play had many questioning their preconceived notions of them. The Steelers would once again rely on unlikely contributors along the O-line against the Radiers. We look at the play of the reserve linemen to determine if they once again played better than many expected.

After a poor performance in the preseason many people questioned the decision the coaching staff made to give Guy Whimper a roster spot and have Kelvin Beachum as the primary backup to all position on the offensive line. Whimper came in for an injured Marcus Gilbert against the Baltimore Ravens. He and Beachum played well against a very good Ravens pass rush.

In Week 8 against the Raiders, Pittsburgh would once again have to rely on their back-up offensive linemen due to injuries. To borrow from a famous rant by former Cardinals coach Denny Green, Whimper, Beachum, and Wallace showed that "they are who we thought they were" in the preseason.

In the first half against Oakland, Whimper came in for Ramon Foster who left the game with a concussion.

The Steelers are in an obvious passing situation at the end of the first half. Whimper enters his pass set. From the start of the play Whimper's pad level was too high. He lets the defensive tackle get into his chest and doesn't protect the inside.

The DT is able to push Whimper backwards until he sees an opening to make his move. This was characteristic of Whimper's play against the Raiders. His pad level was too high in the run game as well and he failed to move his man. Whimper only played 19 plays before leaving with a knee injury. In those plays though he played more like he did in the preseason than how he play against the Ravens.

Not to be outdone by Whimper's poor performance, this play highlights the major concerns with Beachum at left tackle. He had the unenviable task of having to defend Lamarr Houston.

In this play Beachum immediately has to sell out to the outside turn his hips. Houston is able to get his hands into Beachum's chest and because Kelvin Beachum has similar arm length Beachum can not maintain contact with Houston. He is pushed backwards and Houston makes his move. Roethlisberger can't step up because the pressure Whimper has let up the middle.

This kind of thing happened throughout the game. While he wasn't horrible, he did allow pressure on Ben most of the day. This is one reason why many thought he would have to play on the inside in the NFL. However (as we discuss later in the article) he may actually play worse as an interior O-linemen.

When Whimper went down, Cody Wallace came in to play LG. He acquitted himself nicely as a pass blocker but it was his run blocking that was a major concern.

Wallace is late off the snap. By the time he is out of his stance the DT is making his move. Wallace tries to lean to block the defender but that doesn't work. Wallace is out of position, and ends up doing the ol' "lookout block". This play highlights exactly what Wallace is in the run game. He is a leaner and he was beat many times because of it.

Wallace did display some decent athleticism on backside blocks and as I mentioned held up well enough for a third string guard in the pass game. If Wallace has to fill in for DeCastro the Steelers run game will be in a lot of trouble.

He would eventually shift over to right guard when DeCastro went down with an ankle injury, as Beachum moved to left guard, and Mike Adams to left tackle. Wallace played far better at the position than Beachum.

Beachum was having a hard time at LT, at LG he looked overpowered and outmatched.

(Caption should read "Beachum steps up with his left foot")

As the play starts, Steelers out of shotgun, Beachum incorrectly attempts to attack the DT stepping up with his left foot. This causes his momentum to be going forward. The DT execute a Reggie White-like head slap knocking Beachum out of the way. The DT has a shot at the QB and Beachum is left with no other option but to watch.

He was clearly over powered and looked out of place with his footwork while at left guard. This isn't anything new however. He looked overmatched at left guard this preseason (center, as well), but played better when he was switched to left tackle. If the Steelers have to rely on Beachum to along the interior, they will be in serious trouble.

In Week 8 the Steelers needed to rely on their backup O-linemen because of injury. None of them impressed and their poor execution was a major reason for the lack of a running game and offense against the Oakland Raiders.

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