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Offensive line has chance to assert itself against Ravens

As the Steelers' offensive line tries to become a strength of the team, they could take an important step Thursday.

Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

It has been seven years.

Seven years since Mike Tomlin took the Steelers head coaching job and seven years since James Harrison first appeared as a full-time starter.

Ultimately, seven years have passed since the Steelers offensive line was widely viewed as a strength of the team.

But that seven-year streak could finally break in 2014.

Week 1 at Heinz Field against the Cleveland Browns, the Steelers front-five didn't impress in pass protection, surrendering three sacks, but they've been much worse in recent years. 

The Steelers did find success in run-blocking, though. From tackle Marcus Gilbert sealing the edge for a seven-yard score to guards David DeCastro and Ramon Foster finding success blocking in space, offensive line coach Mike Munchak looks to have definitely made an impact on the group.

But, against the Baltimore Ravens, the Steelers' offensive line will have the opportunity to show where they truly are at this early stage of the season.

The Ravens defense isn't what it once was, but that doesn't mean they can't get after the quarterback. In his 12th season, linebacker Terrell Suggs returns to try and wreak havoc in the Steelers backfield once again Thursday night.

On the other side of the defense, linebacker Elvis Dumervil looks to do the same. Dumervil is in only his second season as a Raven, but he's no stranger to the Steelers either, having faced them for several years as a Bronco.

Steelers tackles Kelvin Beachum and Marcus Gilbert need to keep both outside linebackers off of their franchise quarterback if the offense is to have success in Baltimore.

In the middle, center Maurkice Pouncey needs to have a strong performance as well. Facing Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, Pouncey's ability to hold his ground will play a big part in preserving a pocket for Roethlisberger to target his receivers. For Foster and DeCastro, the main focus will be helping Pouncey with Ngata and also keeping their eyes on middle linebackers C.J. Mosley and Daryl Smith.

The Steelers' offensive line faces a solid front-seven, but playing in a hostile environment at M&T Bank stadium will only challenge them more.

If the Steelers can find success blocking, it moves their offense to a whole new level. Roethlisberger looked stellar against the Browns. if given time to pass, he could carve up the Ravens similar to how he abused Cleveland's secondary. The Ravens' starting corner Ladarius Webb is listed as questionable to play but, either way and given adequate time, Roethlisberger could give defensive coordinator Dean Pees nightmares.

How the offensive line fares against the Ravens could tell a lot about this group's development and could determine if they might finally be a strength of this team.

After all, seven years is a long time.