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Health of Steelers' offensive line driving overall success

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The Steelers' offense is 28 points away from becoming the highest scoring team in franchise history. Credit the Big Three, but credit the coaching as well as the health of the Steelers' offensive line.

Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

When the Steelers brought in former Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Munchak to be their offensive line coach last off-season, they knew he wouldn't solve all of their problems.

But Munchak, combined with a (finally) healthy O-line, has quietly been a driving force behind the Steelers' offense this year.

Center Maurkice Pouncey, who missed last year after tearing his ACL in Week 1, has returned to his All-Pro form this season and has played a large part in the Steelers' success offensively.

Right guard David DeCastro has also begun producing big time. The 2012 first-round pick was sidelined for much of his rookie year with an injury sustained in the preseason. DeCastro has lived up to expectations in his second full season, giving the offensive line solid young talent along with Pouncey.

Keeping Ben Roethlisberger upright has been a struggle in recent seasons, including last year when he was sacked 42 times for 282 yards lost. This year, through 14 games, Ben has been sacked 32 times for just 166 yards lost. The protection has allowed him to throw for nearly 50 more yards per game than last year and, most importantly, has kept him healthy.

This has allowed the Steelers' offense to click, as they lead the league in total offense at 424.9 yards per game.
The offensive line deserves a share of credit for Le'Veon Bell's breakout year. Leading the AFC in all-purpose yards, Bell now holds the franchise's single-season record for scrimmage yards. While Bell had a solid rookie campaign, his second year has been his coming out party and a major reason for the Steelers' success.

Bell's dynamic running style has allowed the Steelers to close out teams and play well with a lead in the fourth quarter. Instead of relying on the passing game to move the chains late in the game, they're able to rely on Bell to kill the clock. A prime example of this was four weeks ago when the Black-and-Gold traveled to take on the Tennessee Titans.

The Steelers led 27-24 with just under seven minutes left to play when they received the ball at their own 19-yard line. After two Roethlisberger passes, Bell rushed seven times for 43 yards and earned the Steelers five first downs, including several runs in which he waited behind the line until a hole opened up before dashing through it. The offensive line was able to open those holes, allowing Bell to get into space and use his speed and agility to run the clock out.

This allowed Roethlisberger to kneel the ball twice to seal a huge road victory. The Steelers burned nearly half of the fourth quarter by making huge holes for Bell to run through and keeping their suspect defense off of the field.
With a playoff berth on the line this Sunday against Kansas City, the Steelers have the comfort of a fully healthy and competent offensive line for the first time in a while.

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