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PFF shines light on Steelers offensive line in Week 16, but their dominance has been a season-long trend

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The Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line was dominant in Week 16, but this hasn’t been a one-game trend by the unit.

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NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers have a dynamic offense riddled with superstars at every turn. Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant and even JuJu Smith-Schuster. All have a big-play ability few teams possess, but what truly galvanizes this offense is none other than the hogs up front.

The offensive line.

The Steelers’ offensive line has been tremendous all season, but especially in Week 16 against the Houston Texans. The folks at Pro Football Focus (PFF) do a tremendous job with the analysis side of the game of football, even if you disagree with their grading procedures, and their numbers for the offensive line in Week 16 were telling, to say the least.

TOP 5 GRADES:

G David DeCastro, 89.2 overall grade

T Marcus Gilbert, 86.9 overall grade

T Alejandro Villanueva, 85.4 overall grade

CB Artie Burns, 82.7 overall grade

QB Ben Roethlisberger, 82.6 overall grade

The Steelers’ line was tremendous in stopping the Texans’ depleted defense, but they weren’t the only players worthy of praise after the game. Check out some performances of not, per PFF, after the Week 16 game.

PERFORMANCES OF NOTE:

QB BEN ROETHLISBERGER, 82.6 OVERALL GRADE

For a game where he really wasn’t asked to do much, Ben Roethlisberger delivered when called upon by the Steelers on Monday afternoon. The Texans struggled to get pressure on him, and that was key, with Big Ben producing a passer rating of 111.0 on plays without pressure.

T MARCUS GILBERT, 86.9 OVERALL GRADE

Marcus Gilbert’s return to the starting lineup gave a boost to the Steelers offense, with the right tackle allowing zero pressures on 32 pass-blocking snaps, good for a 100.0 pass-blocking efficiency. The Steelers couldn’t ask for more as they head towards the playoffs, where they sit three wins from another Lombardi trophy

CB MIKE HILTON, 78.2 OVERALL GRADE

Even though Hilton was not targeted once on his 14 coverage snaps, his play was impressive because of his pass-rushing performance rather than his work in coverage. While Hilton rushed the passer just eight times, he was able to pick up a pressure on half of those as he recorded three sacks and one quarterback hurry against the Texans.

CB ARTIE BURNS, 82.7 OVERALL GRADE

Burns locked down Will Fuller against the Texans and had one of his best games in coverage all season. Burns played 29 snaps in coverage and was targeted just twice and did not allow a reception on either occasion. Furthermore, his interception in the end zone on fourth down came at a key moment when Houston still had a chance to come back into the game.

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But back to the offensive line. Not only did they perform well against the Texans, but they have played well all season. The Steelers offensive line has only surrendered 21 sacks this season, the third best total in the NFL, and you have to wonder how many of those sacks surrendered were on plays where Ben Roethlisberger may have held the ball longer than the average quarterback, who would have just thrown the football away.

Check out this statistic regarding how often Roethlisberger is pressured, compared to the rest of the NFL.

On top of keeping Roethlisberger clean, and healthy, they have opened holes for the league’s leading rusher Le’Veon Bell, and been a unit riddled with tremendous depth. Chris Hubbard has started nearly half the games this season for the injured/suspended Marcus Gilbert, and B.J. Finney filled in nicely for Ramon Foster in Week 16 when he missed the game with a concussion.

Come to think of it, there was a reason Ben Roethlisberger said Maurkice Pouncey should be the team’s 2017 MVP. Without the key players up front opening holes and protecting the quarterback, nothing else would even be possible, from an offensive perspective.

Kudos to the team’s offensive line for a tremendous 2017 regular season, but the best is yet to come.