There comes a point in everyone’s life when they were once the youngest in a group, then one day they look around and they are the oldest. The lone wolf from a pack which is long gone.
You have to think his is what Ben Roethlisberger is feeling after almost his entire offensive line is gone from just last season.
David DeCastro — Released
Matt Feiler — Los Angeles Chargers
Alejandro Villanueva — Baltimore Ravens
Maurkice Pouncey — Retirement
Only Chuks Okorafor, Zach Banner and Kevin Dotson return from last season’s unit, and Roethlisberger knows what kind of challenge this will be for a 39 year old quarterback entering his 18th year in the league.
“Tough,” Roethlisberger told media about losing those veteran players. “All those guys, (offensive tackle) Al (Villanueva), Dave, ‘Pounce,’ (guard) Matt (Feiler), it’s not easy but you know what? We have guys that are willing, capable, excited to fill the roles and do everything they can to be the best that they can be. We’re all excited for what they can do.
“We added, obviously, some veteran guys, in (guard) Trai (Turner) and some other guys in the offseason but it’s going to be different. I’ve been blessed to have a lot of kind of older guys and guys who have been here for a numerous amount of years. To not have that is going to be different.”
Maybe the one player who Roethlisberger will miss the most, and he was closest with, is Maurkice Pouncey. The quarterback-center battery had been together since Pouncey was drafted in 2010, and now Roethlisberger is looking to build a new rapport with another No. 53, and that is Kendrick Green. But it won’t be easy for Green to fill that spot.
“You’ll never fill the shoes of Maurkice Pouncey and I don’t think Kendrick’s trying to do that, which is good,” Roethlisberger said. “Pouncey’s in a class of his own and that’s what made ‘Pounce’ so special. The relationship we had will never be duplicated.
“But what happened today was Kendrick made calls, we didn’t fumble any snaps, so I’d say that’s a good first day.”
The Steelers’ 2021 season very well could end up being defined by the offensive line. As of now, the projected line is:
LT: Chuks Okorafor
LG: Kevin Dotson
C: Kendrick Green/B.J. Finney
RG: Trai Turner
RT: Zach Banner
Quite different from the 2020 offensive line, but the Steelers will hope they can not just rejuvenate the running game, yet also continue to protect Roethlisberger when they want to throw the ball. Some may say Roethlisberger is the straw which stirs the offensive drink, but when you think about this new offensive line it might just be the hogs up front which dictate the success, or failure, of Matt Canada’s offense.
Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the 2021 regular season.