The Pittsburgh Steelers blocking has been a mixed bag of good so far this season. Games where the blocking is about as good as it gets, and others where their overall play is certainly below the line, as Mike Tomlin would say. Against the Oakland Raiders in Week 9, the Steelers' offensive line did a great job blocking in both pass protection and run schemes, and they got some help from the tight ends and fullbacks on the roster.
It wasn't always pretty, but the team got the job done, and was a big part in DeAngelo Williams rushing for 170 yards and two touchdowns. In this film room we will take a look at three plays, all in three different situations, where the offensive line was able to pave the way for the explosive Steelers offense.
In football sometimes the best job an offensive lineman can do in certain situations is to just push his man opposite him back as far as he can. Welcome to goal line offense. On this play you see Ramon Foster, Alejandro Villanueva and Cody Wallace do just enough to help Williams get into the end zone for the touchdown.
Villanueva stands his man up just long enough for Williams to find the seam, and the rest is pure determination on No. 34's part to do what it takes to get into the end zone. The Steelers have struggled in goal line and short yardage plays this year, but this was one of the few times the Steelers showed a glimpse of power football when it mattered most.
Roosevelt Nix deserves some credit on this play, but David DeCastro is the star, in my opnion. Yeah, DeAngelo Williams is running the football, but scroll up and watch the GIF again...focusing on DeCastro. He is very athletic for a lineman, and is able to pull from his right guard position and become a lead blocker on the left side of the field.
I will give a tip of the cap to Williams for showing patience to allow the blocking to set up. If he hits this seam too fast, the play doesn't go for as big a gain as it did on Sunday. The Steelers used Nix more in this game than any other in the 2015 regular season, and Nix and DeCastro paved the way for a huge run, one of many, for Williams in Week 9.
During the "draft season" here at BTSC, I wrote an article talking about the Steelers' interest in TE Jesse James. Todd Haley and Mike Munchak went to Penn State to watch his, and others, Pro Day and his size and offensive ability was very attractive as a potential replacement for Heath Miller when he decides to hang up the cleats. The biggest knack on James out of Penn State was his lack of physicality, especially blocking.
Whatever Munchak and company have been doing to help James as a rookie in 2015 has been working, and the above play was a textbook example of how. James, split wide, does his job and seals his initial block to give Martavis Bryant the sideline, but James sees Bryant hesitate and drives his man into another Raiders defender, essentially blocking two players at once.
Bryant's athleticism creates a touchdown out of what could have been a busted play, but without James' blocking the play never has the chance to develop. A solid job from the tight end on this play, and also catching a touchdown pass, all in his first NFL action of his young career.
The Steelers' blocking has been suspect at times, but against the Raiders it was good more than it was bad. The game of football at the professional level is very complex, but it always boils down to the fundamentals. Throwing, catching, tackling and blocking. The Steelers did those well against the Raiders, and were rewarded with their 5th victory of the season.
Whether the Steelers can duplicate this success for the stretch run to the postseason has yet to be seen, but the recipe for success has been written and it's main ingredient is fundamental football.