In yet another case I will officially file under, “I can’t believe this was ever a topic of discussion,” the Steelers young and beleaguered offensive line faced great scrutiny following the team’s 26-17 Week 2 loss to the Raiders at Heinz Field.
If you were living in a cave right before that game and moved out of it just before reading this article, you may have assumed, based on the box score, that the linemen were being criticized for allowing quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to be hit 10 times.
In your defense, they were, but that was merely the secondary focus. The primary focus in the days leading up to Pittsburgh’s Week 3 showdown with the Bengals at Heinz Field was the fact that the young hogs simply forgot to pick Roethlisberger up off the ground after most or all of those aforementioned hits from Las Vegas defenders.
You see, Roethlisberger suffered a pectoral injury in the game, an ailment that put his Week 3 participation in jeopardy, and in a post-game chat with the media, he said that the injury was really noticeable when he had to “pick himself up off the ground.”
That wasn’t an indirect shot from Passive-Aggressive Ben, was it? Nah. Anyway, the media took that quote and ran with it. Former NFL players, including offensive linemen, chimed in with their opinions and said things like (and these aren’t exact quotes but the self-righteous tone is perfect), “When I played, not picking your quarterback up off the ground, especially when it was your fault that he was sacked/hit, was totally unacceptable.”
Actually, here is a real Tweet from former Steelers offensive lineman, Trai Essex, courtesy of SteelersNow.com:
“That is absolute BULL****! Completely unacceptable.”
Really? How unacceptable was it in your day, Trai? Did you fine a lineman in kangaroo court for failing to help up the quarterback during a game when you played? Did you work on this during the week by helping up the third-string quarterback at practice?
In Roethlisberger’s defense, he is 39-years old, and when you get to be that age, you're more likely to talk about the times you fell to the ground and even the difficultly you had when trying to get back up. Heck, at my age, 49, I find myself telling stories about the times I almost fell.
It sucks getting old.
For his part, second-year guard Kevin Dotson said he and his mates were “embarrassed” by what happened in Week 2, especially the stuff about not lending a helping hand to their prone quarterback.
Moving on to this past Sunday’s game against the Bengals, a 24-10 loss, and a contest in which Roethlisberger was sacked four times and hit seven times. I’m not sure if sacks are a completely separate number from total hits, which would make it 11, or if the big guy was hit a total of seven times, but that’s still a lot of hits, either way.
But for the most part, the Steelers young offensive linemen did rush over to Roethlisberger and help him up just about every time he hit the ground—just like the days when former tight end Mark Bruener often ran over to help up Jerome “The Bus” Bettis in order to get some camera time during games.
I believe I saw Dotson help Roethlisberger up after a hit. Rookie Dan Moore Jr. did as well. It was so nice to see. This is just my opinion, and don’t @ me, but I’d like to think these young guys were letting Roethlisberger take so much punishment just so they could get the necessary “help up” reps.
If I recall, Joe Haeg did not help Roethlisberger up after a sack, but he’s a veteran and probably already knew the rules.
Development comes in stages for NFL players, and the Steelers' young linemen appear to have the “help up” technique almost perfected after just three regular-season games.
Next up: blocking.