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The Steelers offensive line was not playing to their strength in 2019

The 2019 Pittsburgh Steelers had an O-line built to pass protect regardless of who was the quarterback

Pittsburgh Steelers v Cleveland Browns Photo by: 2019 Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

Now that the Steelers 2019 season has concluded, the long off-season has begun. As we move through the remainder of the NFL postseason and beyond, it’s time to look back at some of the numbers the Steelers put up (or failed to put up) this past season. There are some numbers that are great, while others are definitely short of the mark. Either way, let’s put some context behind a few of the statistics for 2019 Pittsburgh Steelers produced during the season.

We have already looked at some items such as takeaways, sacks, points scored, rushing, and pass defense. This time, it’s a category where the Steelers took a step back in 2019.

Run/Pass Blocking

When it comes to the statistics for the offensive line, it is very difficult to pair numbers with performance. There are a few that can be considered, but not necessarily the sole responsibility of the line. For example, the Steelers surrendered 32 sacks in 2019 which was ninth fewest in the NFL. But was the sack due to the offensive line’s blocking or the quarterback not throwing the ball?

Another statistic which is an indicator of offensive line play was the number of rushing attempts for no gain or a loss. The Steelers had 84 of such attempts which was tied for the sixth most in the NFL in 2019. But were all of these runs a result of the offensive line?

While some people like to rely on them, others completely despise the positional rankings done by Pro Football Focus. But when it comes to the play of the offensive line, it’s the most telling number which can be expressed. For 2019, the Steelers offensive line had an overall rank of ninth in the NFL. Interestingly enough, the Steelers ranked third in pass blocking only behind the Baltimore Ravens and New Orleans Saints.

When it came to individual rankings, every single player who started a game for the Pittsburgh Steelers on the offensive line had a higher pass blocking ranking then run block ranking. The only player on the Steelers offensive line who ranks higher in run blocking was Zach Banner who was used exclusively as an extra blocker at tight end (and technically started one game at the position). Banner had an overall ranking of 78.3 which broke down to a 54.4 pass block score and 74.0 when it came to run blocking.

When it came to the starters, the top overall ranking went to Matt Feiler who was 20th among all tackles in the NFL. His overall ranking of 75.2 was broken down by a score of 80.7 in pass blocking and 64.9 in run blocking. Next to Banner, Feiler had the highest run blocking score on the Steelers.

The only player on the Steelers who had a higher pass blocking score than Feiler was David DeCastro who ranked 15th overall at guard in the NFL and had a pass blocking score of 82.7. DeCastro’s run blocking score was 63.9 for an overall score of 71.0 which placed him three points behind Alejandro Villanueva’s overall score.

The worst scores on the offensive line were by center Maurkice Pouncey who ranked 36th among NFL centers with an overall score of 51.5. His pass blocking score was 57.7 with a run blocking score of 50.3. Even B.J. Finney finished higher than Pouncey as he was ranked 32nd among centers with a 56.9 overall score broken down as a 72.0 in pass blocking and 52.1 in run blocking.

Do these scores mean much to Steelers fans? That is for you all to decide. I am simply passing on the data. But by all indications, it appears the Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line was built for a passing game. Unfortunately, the Steelers had the lowest amount of passing yards in a season (2,981) since 2005. Additionally, it was the first time since 1998 where the Steelers threw more interceptions (19) than touchdowns (18).

Yes, it would be safe to assume that the decrease in passing yards was due to the injury to Ben Roethlisberger. It is, by no way, an indication of the play the offensive line. What the numbers seem to indicate is the Steelers could not rely on their passing game in 2019 and could have benefited from a strong rushing attack. Unfortunately, this is not what the Steelers offensive line was built to do as effectively.

Even though the Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line is getting up there in age category, their perceived woes in 2019 were also highly situational. Yes, individual players need to step up their game. But I think saying the offensive line couldn’t come through is not an accurate narrative. If anything, it shows how much the loss of Ben Roethlisberger in 2019 affected the individual play of the entire offense.