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Protecting QB Ben Roethlisberger paramount for the Steelers going into the 2016 Season

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Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been smacked around his entire career. How can the offensive line protect the most valuable player on the team? Let's dive into it!

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has taken quite a few devastating hits in his career. Despite how beat up his offensive line was, he always found a way to win. In 2014, Roethlisberger played a full season for only the second time in his 11-year career. He has always been known for being the toughest quarterback in the league when it comes to his injuries.

The 2015 season had so much excitement and hope to bring home the 7th Lombardi Trophy, but this was not the case due to the amount of injuries sustained during the course of the season. Roethlisberger went down in a Week 3 matchup against the St. Louis Rams when he suffered an MCL sprain and was out for 4 weeks.

In the Wild Card matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals, Roethlisberger tore two ligaments in his throwing shoulder. Despite leaving the game for two possessions, Roethlisberger led his team down the field for the victory. What makes a quarterback an elite quarterback has many factors to it. One factor is how great they perform under pressure.

The Steelers never had a terrific offensive line. Over the course of a few seasons the organization decided to draft top tier offensive linemen. In 2012, Pittsburgh drafted David DeCastro to improve the unit and DeCastro was selected to his first Pro Bowl this year and had a fantastic season.

Roethlisberger, 32, is getting to the point in his career where hits can not happen every play. Yes, Ben has that unbelievable escapability factor, but just imagine if he can play until his 40's. Pittsburgh would continue to dominate if he stays healthy.

Having Roethlisberger for another 5 years is very possible, but this can only happen if he stays upright. Alejandro Villanueva, 6-foot 9-inches and 278-pounds, replaced Kelvin Beachum, 6-foot 3-inch 303-pounds, who tore his ACL earlier in the year. In my opinion, Villanueva improved as the season progressed. He provides a major height advantage over Beachum, and looked sharp towards the end of the season.

Kelvin Beachum is going to become a free agent when the new league year starts in March. I have seen enough physical evidence from Villanueva to suggest that Pittsburgh could move on from Beachum. This would save cap space for Pittsburgh along with a potential draft pick if they decide to trade him.

Ramon Foster is another pending free agent who might not re-sign because of money issues. Foster is unsure about his return to Pittsburgh. He was an undrafted player who has been a part of the Steelers since 2009. He just wants to cash in on a good opportunity whether it is with Pittsburgh or not.

These two key factors on the offensive line may not be here at the beginning of the season. Until then, Pittsburgh has a great replacement in Villanueva and for the left guard position (Ramon Foster) the organization just recently signed Cole Manhart to a reserve/future contract. Manhart is an offensive guard, who is 6-foot 4-inches and 298 lbs, and had prior NFL experience with the Philadelphia Eagles, New Orleans Saints, and Oakland Raiders. Who knows maybe Manhart could be the replacement for Ramon Foster.

We will just have to wait and see, but there is no doubt the focus for the team offensively this offseason should be protecting their franchise quarterback.