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Steelers News: Steelers’ offensive line bonding into the league’s very best

Time to check on the latest news surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers.

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers have now won five straight games and continue to “stack wins.” After their 52-21 thrashing of the Carolina Panthers in Week 10, the team now has a chance to rest and relax and prepare for the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 11.

Today in the Black-and-gold links article, we talk about the Steelers’ offensive line. When someone talks about the team’s offensive resurgence, you can’t talk about skill players like Ben Roethlisberger, James Conner or Antonio Brown without talking about the big men up front doing the dirty work.

A combination of high draft picks and hard-working undrafted free agents and what you have is a Mike Munchak masterpiece.

Let’s get to the news:

Steelers’ offensive line bonding into NFL’s best

By: Joe Rutter, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

The Pittsburgh Steelers just piled up 52 points, their highest total in 34 years. Seven players scored touchdowns, Ben Roethlisberger threw five touchdown passes and compiled the fourth perfect passer rating of his career, and the running game contributed 138 yards.

It was an all-around dominating performance on offense, and the team’s franchise quarterback made sure nobody forgot about the contributions of the five players blocking for him.

“It all starts up front,” Roethlisberger said Thursday after the Steelers dismantled the Carolina Panthers, 52-21, for their fifth consecutive win. “You can say what you want about the skill guys, but we’re nothing without them up front.”

Roethlisberger touting his offensive linemen is hardly new. He customarily credits his blockers when dishing out reasons for the offense’s success. It’s just that now whenever Roethlisberger calls his linemen the best in the NFL, there’s few who can argue with him.

Consider that:

• In the past six games, Roethlisberger has been sacked four times, and one of those came on the last offensive play at Baltimore when he gave himself up to allow the clock to continue running. The Steelers are on pace to allow fewer than 25 sacks for a third consecutive season.

• James Conner, stepping in for the absent Le’Veon Bell, has four 100-yard rushing games, including three in a row during a winning streak that has catapulted the Steelers from last to first in the AFC North with a 6-2-1 record.

• Roethlisberger has completed 66 percent of his passes, his best percentage in three years, he’s on pace to reach 5,000 yards for the first time in his 15-year career and set a career best in touchdown passes. He has thrown one interception in his past four games.

“The offensive line has been playing spectacular,” Roethlisberger said after the Steelers beat the Baltimore Ravens, 23-16, on Nov. 4. “Everything you’re asking them to do, blocking in the pass game and the run game, opening holes against the No. 1 defense in the world, there’s a reason they are that good.

“You can say what you want about James and the running game, but it starts up front. We go as those guys go.”

Tim Benz: Can the Steelers finally exploit Jacksonville’s offensive line?

By: Tim Benz, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Updated 17 hours ago

Heading into the Steelers’ playoff game against Jacksonville last season, Pittsburgh fans and media — and even some in the locker room — seemed to have a pretty clear-cut opinion of the Jaguars.

After seeing the 30-9 beatdown administered by the Jags during the regular season at Heinz Field, most folks around these parts seemed to think:

• The Jags defense is frightening.

Leonard Fournette is a beast.

• Quarterback Blake Bortles can be had.

• The offensive line is pretty good. But not great.

Those predictions resulted in a mixed bag of accuracy during the rematch.

The Jaguars defense allowed 42 points and 545 yards. Yet it also created two turnovers resulting in touchdowns. Bortles wasn’t dynamic, but he was efficient, going 18-for-24 with no interceptions and a touchdown. And Fournette followed a 181-yard performance in the regular-season matchup with another 108 yards and three touchdowns.

But how about that Jags offensive line? It was a constant. For a unit with only moderate acclaim, the blockers looked like the 1995 Cowboys.

Between games, Steelers defenders mostly brushed off Fournette’s success , chalking up the Game 1 yardage to one 90-yard gallop in garbage time.

“If you watch the film, guys weren’t really getting blocked off the ball,” defensive end Stephon Tuitt said before the January rematch. “It’s just holes. Gaps. They exploited our gaps really well.”

Also that week, defensive end Cameron Heyward claimed “it was just three or four plays” that hurt his team in the first game against Jacksonville.

In the playoff game, it was more like 40 plays as the Jaguars offense continually controlled the line of scrimmage and opened creases for Fournette, T.J. Yeldon and even a scrambling Bortles.

“We were able to get a hat on a hat,” Jacksonville offensive lineman A.J. Cann saidafter the win. “We stayed on our blocks. The running backs found holes and got positive yards.”

Throughout the two games, the Jaguars offensive line paved the way for 395 yards rushing and allowed just two sacks.

However, that unit hasn’t been the same this year.

How the Steelers and Le’Veon Bell both win the divorce

By: Jeremy Fowler, ESPN

No one wanted it to come to this.

Not Le’Veon Bell, who, money aside, wanted to retire a Pittsburgh Steeler.

Not the Steelers, who offered Bell a $70 million extension this offseason, though without the guarantees to Bell’s liking.

And certainly not Pittsburgh fans, who cheered on Bell for his prolific play for five seasons.

But Bell’s lost season -- finalized Tuesday when he didn’t show by the 4 p.m. deadline to sign his franchise tag -- was a byproduct of two stubborn sides that weren’t meant to negotiate.

Bell was willing to forfeit $14.5 million to become a standard-bearer for undervalued top players everywhere, banking on a lucrative deal as an unrestricted free agent in March.

The Steelers won’t budge from their traditional -- maybe archaic -- contract structures that in most cases don’t offer full guarantees beyond a signing bonus.

If Bell was with another franchise, he might not be in this situation.

But both sides can still get what they want, and be better off for it.

(More in the link above...)