As a young college student attending Edinboro University many, many years ago learning the craft of broadcasting and journalism, one of my duties was to interview our head football coach before each game. At that time, the team was led by a guy named Tom Hollman, a burly, quiet man. I once asked him what was the biggest reason teams win on a consistent basis.
"Line play," he bellowed. "It goes without saying that if you control the line of scrimmage, you control the possibility of a positive outcome for your side."
"Without a good offensive line, your quarterback will spend most of his day running or on his back. You can't win games without great line play."
Nearly 25 years later, that statement still rings true. I'm not sure what old coach Hollman is up to these days, but I can tell you what the Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line is doing, and that is a great job. Simply put, the big guys up front have been nothing short of stellar so far in 2014.
It's probably not a coincidence that, during the prior two seasons, the club's rocky 16-16 record had as much to do with their struggles on the OL as anything else. These issues ranged from losing center Maurkice Pouncey only seven plays into the start of the 2013 season, to others being injured or simply not performing well. And when the line is off, so is the rest of the offense.
On Monday over at Steelers HQ, guard David DeCastro spoke to the media's "ink-stained wretches" about Sunday's historic day by teammate Ben Roethlisberger, saying the game plan used wasn't something conjured up specifically for the Colts.
"It wasn't anything special, it wasn't anything different,' said the Stanford product. "I think it was just a lot of guys working well together. Mike filled in great. We got in a good groove in the offensive line. People just making their blocks. I mean there (was) nothing special, we didn't do anything abnormal. I think we just played a solid game."
It's no secret that when Ben has regular protection, the level and output of his game is better than when he's under duress. Much is made of Ben when he's extending a play and making something happen, but even DeCastro noted that it's no surprise, when Ben has time to throw and isn't pressured, that he has the ability to do special things.
"I think there is something to be said about giving him time, he's so talented." DeCastro said of Roethlisberger. "You give him time, not let him get hit. Let him do his thing, get him in that rhythm and keep him in that rhythm so he can look at the receivers down field while other than looking at where the pressures coming kinda thing."
It's easy to look at the stat line and say that Roethlisberger's day was one of historic proportions and that since Ben has done this before, he possibly could do it again. DeCastro and his line-mates feel they're a big part of that happening.
"You know it's a team effort," said DeCastro. "We always look at it that way. When you give him time, he's a special player and we take pride in that."
There's much yet to be written about the 2014 Steelers who now sit in a very good spot with eight games left on their schedule. Much of what will be penned in the weeks to come no doubt will hinge on the continued stellar play of the big men up front.