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Why the offensive line is so important to the Pittsburgh Steelers success in 2016

Week three's loss agasint the Eagles for the Steelers was nothing short of devastating. All this game has done is highlighted the importance of the offensive line to Pittsburgh's top flight offence.

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, after the week three matchup agasint the Eagles, Ben Roethlisberger sent a text to the offensive line. In his own words this is what was said:

"I just said, ‘Hey, listen, it’s one of those days. We all have bad days. I’ve had plenty of them. Let’s not get down.’"

It is clear that the offensive line is where the lion's share of the blame for the offensive failings in that game can be found. And Big Ben proves his ability to lead by sending a message like this, he's trying to lift their spirits.

But this failure is a little strange, being as the the line was monstrous in Weeks one and two. In Week one against the Redskins, the line allowed one sack for a loss of 10-yards, and the Steelers had 147 rushing yards in the game. In Week two against the Bengals, the Steelers line again allowed one sack for a loss of 9-yards and the team had 124 rushing yards.

Against the Eagles, in case you needed reminding, the Steelers line allowed 4 sacks for a loss of 35-yards and the team had just 29-yards rushing. That's right, the Steelers lost more yards from sacks than they gained rushing. Of which, 7-yards came from Roethlisberger's scramble, and 13 came from DeAngelo Williams longest run of the game. However, he did have five runs for 1-yard or less. That is pretty dismal. Clearly there has been some kind of mess up between the first two games of the season and the third.

Looking at the injuries sustained, the only change from the starting 5 in the line (Villanueva, Foster, Pouncey, DeCastro and Gilbert) was that Foster had to leave the game, and sit out Week 4's contest, with a chest injury and was replaced by B.J. Finney. Bearing in mind that he had field time against Cincinnati and Washington, it is unlikely that this is solely his fault.

It may well be that this could be simply less about having Finney, but more about not having Foster. Pouncey sees Foster as a major leader on the line. Foster will tap Pouncey's leg on the snap so that Pouncey doesn't have to take his eyes off of the guy opposite him. Thankfully, Le'Veon Bell is back, so this may simply be down to an unfortunate turn of events meaning that Williams couldn'yt get through the holes the line would create because Foster wasn't on the field and so Pouncey had to be doing more. Bell, on the other hand, can take advantage of less clear holes in the line to make a play- so this shouldn't be a problem.

The problem here is that I'm not entirely sure that any of this is what was the cause of this horrible Week 3 defeat. Looking at Pro Football Focus gradings for that week, only two players actually scored particularly poorly for that week, David DeCastro with a PFF score of 42.2 (as he allowed 6 total pressures, 2 sacks, 2 hits and 2 QB hurries) and Marcus Gilbert with 42.7 (as he allowed a sack, a hit and a QB hurry).

From this, the culprits are clear - DeCastro and Gilbert. However, considering that both players started all 16 games in last year's regular season, and have both been on the roster for a number of years, neither can be considered major weak links.

Either way, one thing is clear - the offensive line was not effective against the Eagles, and it was against the Bengals and the Redskins. For the Steelers offense to keep up with its goal of an average of thirty points per game, the offensive line will need to find its stride again. The team responded nicely in Week 4 against the Chiefs, and as far as I can tell, there's no reason for that not to continue to happen, because as Big Ben has told the line, there struggles could have been just "one of those days ... Let's not get down."