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How much of an upgrade does Isaac Seumalo give to the Steelers offensive line?

The Steelers double-dipped at guard in free agency. They must be happy with their additions.

New Orleans Saints v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2023 league year is underway. After adding several players last week, the Steelers made a big move by adding another guard over the weekend in Isaac Seumalo. So why did the Steelers add another guard after already signing Nate Herbig days before? How much of an upgrade does Seumalo give to the Steelers offensive line? This is the subject for this week’s Steelers Vertex.

Let’s get a quick reminder of where this nerdiness is coming from.

Vertex- a single point where two or more lines cross.

Sometimes to make a great point, it takes two different systems of analysis to come together and build off each other in order to drawl a proper conclusion. In this case, the two methods are statistical analysis and film breakdown. Enter Dave Schofield (the stat geek) and Geoffrey Benedict (the film guru) to come together to prove a single point based on our two lines of thinking.

Here comes the breakdown from two different lines of analysis.

The Stats Line:

When it comes to offensive line and statistics, there’s not a lot to tell. Therefore, a lot of this information will sound much like that which was reported when Isaac Seumalo first signed over the weekend.

In seven years in Philadelphia, Seumalo has appeared in 81 regular-season games with 60 starts. Taking over as the full-time starting left guard midway through the 2018 season, injuries have been a factor in Seumalo’s career. In 2018 Seumalo missed the final three weeks of the season with a pectoral injury. After playing every game in 2019, Seumalo missed seven games in the middle of the 2020 season with a knee injury. In 2021, Seumalo suffered a season-ending Lisfranc injury in Week 3. But in 2022, Seumalo started every game and played 1,137 offensive snaps in the regular season.

One statistic in which many look for with an offensive lineman is penalties. With 21 career regular season penalties, this averages to only three penalties a season in Seumalo‘s seven-year career. Although he only appeared in three games in 2021, there were no penalties called on Seumalo. Last season, he had a total of four penalties in 17 games. Of those four penalties, only three were accepted and they were all of the false start variety. The last time Seumalo was called for a hold in the NFL was in 2020 according to Pro Football Reference.

In looking at some of the statistics by Pro Football Focus, Seumalo only surrendered one sack in 20 games in the regular season and playoffs in 2022. Additionally, he gave up three quarterback hits and 21 hurries for a total of 25 pressures and an efficiency rating of 98.2%.

So there are a few numbers I could give. Let’s get to the good stuff with the film.

The Film Line:

Isaac Seumalo is a high end guard with very few weaknesses and some big strengths. We’ll start with what, in my opinion, is his biggest weakness.

Isaac Seumalo (#56) is the right guard (just to the right of the center).

If there is one spot Isaac Seumalo seems to struggle with, it is attacks like this on his left side. This is J.J. Watt, and Seumalo does a good job driving him to the inside to give his quarterback a bit more time, but this shows up in other games as well. Chris Wormley beat him off this same attack against the Steelers. He did better late in the season, and it could be an issue of a left guard playing right guard for one season, but it deserves mention.

Isaac Seumalo (#56) is the right guard (just to the left of the center on screen).

Seumalo is very, very good at driving rushers into his help or into their fellow rushers. Here Seumalo not only helps secure the defensive tackle with his center, but if you watch his outside arm, he gets that arm outside the linebacker trying to blitz to slow down any attack through that gap. This kind of awareness and multi-tasking shows up frequently in Seumalo’s film and is the #1 asset he brings to the Steelers.

Isaac Seumalo (#56) is the right guard (just to the right of the center).

Here Seumalo destroys this stunt by realizing what was going on and reacting quickly. Watch closely and you can see that the instant the defensive tackle disengages, Seumalo is moving to intercept the edge rusher. With one arm he negates the defender’s inside rush angle and the stunt is dead. Jalen Hurts moves toward pressure here when he has a beautiful pocket and clear throwing lane, and it gives the defense a chance to disrupt the pass.

Isaac Seumalo (#56) is the right guard (just to the left of the center on screen).

The Commanders drop Daron Payne (#94) and bring the edge and slot corner. Seumalo reacts quick enough to pick up the edge by himself, and with a little helpful push from his center, turns his man outside and into the path of the slot rush.

What impressed me on this play is how quickly Seumalo reacts to Daron Payne revealing the play and how quickly his entire body is reset to deal with the edge. If you look closely you can see Seumalo’s head turns before center Jason Kelce’s does.

Isaac Seumalo is a good pass blocker in one-on-one rushes, but he really shines when he’s diagnosing and shutting down blitzes and stunts.

Isaac Seumalo (#56) is the right guard (just to the left of the center on screen).

In this clip from the Super Bowl, Seumalo shows off that same talent on a run play and it is my favorite play I’ve seen from him.

It’s easy to see the defensive tackle trying to anchor against the double team, but check out this slow motion version to see just how good this play is for Seumalo.

Justin Reid (#20) has a good shot to cut this run off in the backfield, but Isaac Seumalo is ready for him. And this is a true beauty of a play.

You can see how Seumalo secures the block on Jones and is already looking for someone coming into the gap off his outside shoulder. As the DB attacks, Seumalo is helping drive Chris Jones outside and delivers a pop to Justin Reid in one fluid motion. After first contact with the safety he gets his left arm free and has perfect form blocking Reid.

This switch is crazy fast, and executed perfectly. It’s the offensive line equivalent of watching Antonio Brown run routes. It’s execution as an art form, it’s beautiful.

Isaac Seumalo (#56) is the right guard (just to the left of the center on screen).

You don’t get pancakes and burying guys on the ground with Seumalo, you are much more likely to get plays like this. Seumalo does his job slowing down the tackle to open a hole in this outside run, and then he lets go and moves on. He dosn’t show the “nastiness” people love to see in offensive linemen, but he does what is much more important in actually executing the play design effectively.

Isaac Seumalo (#56) is the right guard (just to the left of the center on screen).

Seumalo has two jobs on this play. First, you can see him using his right arm to help his tackle secure the defensive tackle. Second, he reaches the linebacker, disrupting his ability to get in on the play. Seumalo isn’t the most athletic lineman, but he moves smartly and fluidly and gets the job done.

Isaac Seumalo (#56) is the right guard (just to the left of the center on screen).

Seumalo doesn’t need to drive Daron Payne back on this run, just redirect him inside to open the run lane. The Eagles run game wasn’t a ton of power runs where Isaac Seumalo would be asked to push a defensive tackle off the line of scrimmage, it was much more about sealing defenders and redirecting them. When they did want to drive back the interior defense, they typically went with inside zone-style runs with double teams moving the tackles.

But there was one type of power run situation where the Eagles excelled and Isaac Seumalo was a big part of it.

Isaac Seumalo (#56) is the right guard (just to the right of the center).

I slowed this one down a bit because I want you to pay attention to #94 on the defense. He’s the defensive tackle that shifts slightly inside from his position across from Seumalo right before the snap. Keep you eye on him and see where he ends up. Seumalo drives low and hard into the defender and moves him completely out of the play. The Eagles pick up the first down and end up on the 1-yard line by following the path cleared by Seumalo.

This was an eye-catching play with how far he knocks the defensive tackle, but the next play is what you see more often on film.

Isaac Seumalo (#56) is the right guard (just to the left of the center on screen).

#94 for the Commanders is Daron Payne, he’s a dang good defensive tackle. Seumalo beats him off the snap, beats his pad level, and then removes from the play by hooking his arm and lifting him up. His leverage fully destroyed the flow of bodies moves Payne completely out of the way. I also love how the linebacker trying to go over the top ends up on Payne’s shoulder way too high to impact the play.

It was incredibly common to see the defensive tackle across from Seumalo standing up beside the play as the Eagles picked up a short yardage conversion. It isn’t coincidence either.

The Point:

Seumalo doesn’t bring freakish individual athleticism or strength. He’s not a star lineman for his ability to bully anyone who comes against him. What he brings is elite execution. He’s going to do more to strengthen the line as a unit than just play great individually.

Isaac Seumalo is an older player, and like Patrick Peterson in the cornerback room, he brings incredible understanding of the game and fantastic execution. The Steelers offensive line is very young, and with Seumalo they added a fantastic veteran to help the younger players maximize their potential and hone their craft.