The Steelers’ offensive line units were a jumbled mess during those years. Players like Trai Essex, Sean Mahan, Willie Colon and Chris Keomeatu among others were the ones trying to keep Roethlisberger upright.
The unit now, Alejandro Villanueva, Ramon Foster, Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro and Marcus Gilbert, is far better than those aforementioned groups, and while most see this part of the team as a huge asset, they do have their issues.
Mike Munchak has turned this group around, but when looking at the total pressures allowed by the offensive line, courtesy of Pro Football Focus, you can see where the weaknesses of the line reside:
Villanueva is clearly the one member of the line whose performances have been very inconsistent. There have been games where he locks down the opponent's best pass rusher, and others when he resembles more of a turnstile than a starting left tackle in the NFL. When you think about his road to the NFL, playing tight end in college then converting from the defensive line to the offensive line, you can expect improvement to continue.
Next to Villanueva would be Ramon Foster, who many consider to be expendable with B.J. Finney waiting in the wings, but Foster’s play last season was strong. To be honest, the rest of the offensive line played well, and David DeCastro is on another planet, but Marcus Gilbert’s stats are skewed after being suspended and injured throughout most of the season.
When you ask anyone who watches the line closely what was missing in 2017, they would tell you the ability to dominate the line of scrimmage. The team was very good in pass protection, but when it came to running the ball there is still work to be done.
The Steelers ranked as follows in 2017 running the ball:
Total Yards: 20th
Yards Per Attempt: 28th
Yards Per Game: 20th
Rushing Touchdowns: T-15
All five starting members of the team’s offensive line will be returning in 2018, and they should again be among the best in the league at what they do, but if they want to be the best not only does Villanueva need to improve in pass protection, but running the ball at will would put this unit, and by proxy the offense, over the top.