To be honest, any type of rankings are purely subjective, but this fact doesn’t mean common sense shouldn’t come into play at some point.
Fans love to debate rankings, and when NFL.com recently released their Top 10 offensive line units, I’ll admit I took the bait. Why? Because I wanted to see where the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offensive line was ranked among the best in the NFL.
As I scrolled down the page, I saw team after team, with no hypocyloids in sight. I thought I might have missed them in the top five, so I scrolled back up. Nothing. Now I’m beyond intrigued. I’m wondering how in the world the Steelers’ offensive line isn’t in the Top 5.
I continue down.
6th — nope.
7th — nope.
Then I see them...at 8th.
My initial reaction was, “What the _____?!” You can fill in the blank with whichever expletive you prefer. So, before showing you the top 10, it is important to also include how author Matt Harmon came up with these rankings.
The rankings for this list were created using a 1-32 listing of both pressures allowed (pass blocking) and average rushing yards gained before close (run blocking) for every team. The rankings were then finalized with the lowest composite score coming out ahead.
NOTES: Next Gen Stats defines a “pressure” as a pass-rushing play in which a defender gets within 2 yards of the opposing quarterback at the time of the throw or sack. Other outlets collect pressures using different methods, and these have value. What is and is not a pressure will always carry some level of debate, but NGS provides us a unique advantage in that the numbers rely not on the subjective eye test, but rather on objective results that are consistent across all plays.
”Yards gained before close” (YGBC) measures the amount of rushing yards a running back gains before opposing defenders come within 1 yard of the player. In addition to making sense intuitively, this metric correlates with other measures of run blocking success. The league average is 0.29 YGBC.
Not sure if I buy all of that jargon, but on to the Top 10:
Pressures allowed: 180 (10th). Average YGBC: 0.35 (11th)
The Steelers’ offensive prowess starts up front, as both their run- and pass-blocking units were among the 11 best groups in the NFL. The excellent trio of Alejandro Villanueva, Maurkice Pouncey and David DeCastro has played together for the better part of three years, and the chemistry shows. The group deserves a wealth of credit for adapting its blocking to fit the unique running style of Le’Veon Bell. The All-Pro back’s world-renowned patience makes him more challenging to block for than most, but Pittsburgh’s group executes the assignment to perfection. The Steelers’ O-line also does its part to keep Ben Roethlisberger clean, as the Pro Bowl passer was under pressure on just 21.7 percent of his dropbacks.
Were you like me and thought the Steelers line should at least be a Top 5 unit? Or do you think the group as a whole took a huge step backwards throughout the season? Let us know which side of the fence you stand on in the comment section below!