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A look at the OL

Football Outsiders offers a fresh way to measure the productivity and effectiveness of a team's Offensive Line.  Take a look and let's digest some of the information. The second and third tables relate to the running game and are what intrigued me the most as we begin life w/o Jerome Bettis in the backfield.  Several things to consider:

*The Steelers had more RB carries than any other team in the NFL.

*The Steelers ran the ball up the middle 55% of the time, and were the 9th most successful at doing so according to Football Outsiders Adjusted Line Yards formula. Will this number decrease as Parker replaces Bettis as the primary ball-carrier? Can he take the punishment that comes along with running up-the-gut?

*The Steelers ran the ball to the Left Tackle 13% of the time, the second most of any direction.  However, the Steelers ranked 30th in ALY running that direction.  Why?

*Pittsburgh ran to the Right End only 7% of the time that they ran in 2005 (the least frequent of any direction), yet were the 4th most successful at doing so.  Again, why?  

*Finally, take a look at the Blue highlighted columns in the first table.  According to the authors and statisticians of FO, the Steelers were the 23rd best (or 10th worst, depending on your outlook) in pass protection.  Teams are ranked according to the site's adjusted sack rate, which gives sacks per pass attempt adjusted for opponent, down, and distance. Let's hope we clean that up a bit in 2006, especially in the early weeks when Ben's readjusting.

*Take a look at the top 6 teams in Pass Protection. 1)Indy 2)Denver 3)KC 4)Cincy 5)Washington 6)Seattle.  Notice any patterns?  5 of those 6 teams were in the playoffs, including 2 of the 4 Conference Championship Game teams. Makes our run to the Super Bowl seem all the more amazing. There are many factors that contributed to the Steelers late-season run, but I'm entirely positive that they would not have accomplished what they did without improved pass protection in the playoffs. Conversely, Indy struggled mightily to protect Manning in the playoffs, and a season's worth of excellence was quickly erased.