Analyzing the Steelers O-Line: Broncos, Preseason Week 3

The Broncos game was a disaster if you listen to Steelers’ fans. Too many penalties, costly interceptions and an ugly final score made Steelers’ fans are a lot more anxious now than they were a week ago, and they were already pretty anxious.

After all, there still is no clear answer to who will be Pittsburgh’s starting quarterback Week 1. But the uncertainty with the offensive line has largely cleared up — it would be shocking if Maurkice Pouncey isn’t the center in the opener and Flozell Adams will be the right tackle.

Player Good Plays Total Plays Pct.
Ramon Foster 9 10 90.00%
Tony Hills 19 22 86.36%
Jonathan Scott 19 22 86.36%
Kraig Urbik 11 13 84.62%
Maurkice Pouncey 34 43 79.07%
Doug Legursky 18 23 78.26%
Justin Hartwig 17 22 77.27%

After that, predicting the Steelers’ backup linemen — and how many they will keep — is a wide-open question. So that makes for a lot of fascinating viewing as I rewatched the offensive line against the Broncos. Lets dive in.

Maurkice Pouncey: For a rookie, Pouncey is very, very good. Usually Steelers rookies sit and learn, Pouncey will play right away. But lets not put him in Canton yet. Pouncey faced a very good test in battling nose tackle Jamaal Williams. He didn’t get blown off the line, but he also didn’t exactly take Williams and toss him around (it’s hard to toss around a 350-pounder). Pouncey was able to lock up Williams, but often Williams was able to still flow down the line toward the hole. But what was most important is that Pouncey was able to block Williams without much help — it’s a strong sign that Pouncey will be able to take on 3-4 nose tackles and hold his own.

Play Result Good Block?
1 With little help from Kemo handles Jamaal Williams Yes
2 Moss lined up over him. Drives Pouncey back, but Pouncey anchors, then shoves Moss to the ground Yes
3 Williams drags Pouncey to run hole, but Pouncey then puts him on the ground with help from Kemoeatu Yes
4 Double-teams Williams with Essex Yes
5 Blocks down/left on #98, but loses him and he gets assist No
6 High snap in shotgun, loses Bannan on rush up middle No
7 OK job on Williams 1-on-1. Driven back a little, but stays in control Yes
8 Again gives up a step into backfield, but then gains control, puts Williams on ground Yes
9 Quick block on outside screen Yes
10 Picks up #57 on blitz on 3-step drop Yes
11 Stiffs Bannan on another quick pass Yes
12 Takes Williams and drives him down line Yes
13 Williams stalemates Pouncey on run up middle No
14 Excellent job of hand-fighting with DT Yes
15 Williams flows down line to make tackle as Pouncey gets hands on him but can’t control him No
16 Recognizes blitz quickly picks up LB Yes
17 Confused by stunt, whiffs on attempt to block #56 who loops outside. Then whiffs on attempt to block #94 who also gets free to flush Dixon. Leftwich would have been posterized No
18 Williams manages to use arms to shove Pouncey aside on running play up middle No
19 Double-teams with Kemo to stuff Williams Yes
20 Not much to do as Williams takes pass play off Yes
21 Ok job on Williams this time on run up middle Yes
22 Blocks Williams well initially, then Dixon roll out scrambles everything on INT Yes
23 Helps Essex with DT Yes
24 Again really looking for something to do, so helps out Kemo Yes
25 Same story. 4-man front pass rush=Pouncey helping out OGs Yes
26 Tries to get out to pick up LB, but can’t get their in time, his man makes tackle No
27 Does a good job as a help blocker Yes
28 Same again. As helper in pass blocking Yes
29 Very good block. Makes punch, hands off one man, picks up another Yes
30 Loses battle of leverage, but has a good enough base to recover and stop pass rush Yes
31 Handles his man well as Essex allows sack Yes
32 With help from Kemo puts #79 on ground Yes
33 Picks up initial blitzer in ILB X blitz, but second man makes tackle. Confusion between him and Essex. Looks like he should have handed off first man and taken second LB No
34 No one to block on quick pass Yes
35 OK job. Blocks his man then helps on LB Yes
36 Not able to stop Williams from flowing down line and helping on tackle No
37 Excellent help on LB blitz Yes
38 Uses hands well again on Dixon scramble. Pops a LB after Dixon runs by Yes
39 One of his better blocks of night. Helps drive DT down line then slides off to get good block on ILB Yes
40 Stalemate with #99. Solid job Yes
41 No problem handling #99 on pass play Yes
42 Decent job in pass blocking Yes
43 No one to block on 4th and 1 bootleg Yes

Jonathan Scott: He didn’t have a better day than Flozell Adams, and at this point it’s hard to see how he’d be a starter. Adams would have had to fall on his face, but instead he played his best game of the preseason. But Scott has been adequate, which is good news for a tackle who was very inadequate last year in Buffalo. If you were looking for something to worry about, there was one play where Scott’s big weakness — struggling to maintain his base — cropped up, but unlike last year, he was able to recover after being lifted off his feet.

Result Good Block?
1 Good job on pass rush. Uses hands well Yes
2 Helps out Legursky on double team Yes
3 Solid job pass blocking with help from Legursky Yes
4 Stuffs pass rusher at the line. No push at all Yes
5 DE slides outside, but almost gives up Yes
6 Takes initial step inside, which induces DE to go outside on run the other way Yes
7 Loses his man outside, but run is the other way Yes
8 Takes LB and drives him off the screen. Scott flagged, but it’s Dwyer’s fault not his Yes
9 Bad block. Gets caught helping out inside as LB Mays beats him to outside No
10 Drives back DE #93 Yes
11 Solid block on quick pass Yes
12 Loses his man after initial pop. No
13 Good job pushing his man back Yes
14 Seals corner on Dwyer’s 40-yard run Yes
15 Decent block on run Yes
16 Problems with his feet as we’ve seen in past. Bull rush knocks him over No
17 Handles bull rush this time, although still troubles with balance Yes
18 Has two men to block. Picks proper one Yes
19 Decent job on Batch INT Yes
20 Drives him man, eventually puts him on ground Yes
21 Easy block as run is other way Yes
22 Decent shove on run his way Yes

Tony Hills: The tackle who was headed for the waiver wire is now making it awfully hard to cut him. There wasn’t a whole lot to dislike about Hills’ work on Sunday. He twice showed poor technique on pass plays and got away with some grabs that could have been flagged as holds, but, hey, if they don’t call it it’s good use of your hands. Hills is showing plenty of energy — he blocks to the whistle, he is quick enough to make blocks downfield (see his block on Dwyer’s long third quarter run for proof).

Play Result Good Block?
1 Poor technique, OK results in pass blocking Yes
2 Outstanding block. Maybe best by any OL tonight. Hurries to get inside angle on LB, then drives him back and puts him on ground Yes
3 Follows it with bad block. Gets caught cheating outside, beaten inside. Ends up getting away with hold to stop rush. No
4 Swallows up #52. Makes it look easy Yes
5 Easy block as his man has man responsibility on RB Yes
6 Very good run block on #93 Yes
7 Arm over throws LB outside on draw. Then excellent block downfield on CB Yes
8 Beaten to inside on Dwyer’s screw-up. Could have been flagged for hold again No
9 Not much to do with run other way Yes
10 Dominates man in pass blocking Yes
11 Same play that worked before. Throws LB to outside, but this time LB sniffs play out for tackle. Not Hills’ fault Yes
12 Solid pass block, quick pass Yes
13 Hustles, but finds no one to block on run other way for TD Yes
14 Keeps blocking and blocking on Dwyer’s second effort Yes
15 Blocks no one No
16 No one to block on pass play Yes
17 Gets #93 to do a no mas on TD pass Yes
18 Ok job with help from Urbik Yes
19 Excellent technique on Batch INT Yes
20 Blocks til whistle on run play Yes
21 Good drive block on run Yes
22 Shows awareness punches inside then slides outside to pick up man Yes

Doug Legursky: If Legursky wasn’t so versatile and didn’t have experience, I’d be wondering if he was in danger of being cut. It’s hard to say he’s played better than Kraig Urbik during the preseason. But Legursky is a competent center who can also play guard, which means that he’s not only likely to make the 53-man roster but also is likely to be on the gameday roster. Legursky doesn’t show as much power as some of the other guard candidates, but he is pretty mobile. When he was asked to pull, Legursky showed good mobility, but when a linebacker met him in the hole, he wasn’t able to blow them up. Instead they usually forced a stalemate in the hole, which created traffic for the running back to try to work around.

Play Result Good Block?
1 Fine job on #99 Yes
2 Puts #93 on his back Yes
3 Aggressive. Handles his man, hands him off to Hartwig then lights up Scott’s man Yes
4 Picks up blitzing LB Yes
5 Double-team help with no one lined up over him Yes
6 Pulls for OK block on LB, but his man able to wrap up Dwyer No
7 Finds LB and blocks him on nice Dwyer run on draw Yes
8 Dwyer blows assignment but Legursky does solid job Yes
9 His worst block of night, misses his man, falls down No
10 Handles his man on sack Yes
11 Blocks no one as he misses on LB No
12 Blocks LB downfield on quick pass Yes
13 Gets very good initial surge on Dwyer TD Yes
14 Flagged for false start No
15 Good job pushing on Dwyer’s extra effort Yes
16 Gives a little ground but maintains block Yes
17 Pulls, turns his man, but Dwyer runs right up his back Yes
18 Smith gets penetration on pass play No
19 Good job of pass pro. Yes
20 Not much to do on Batch INT Yes
21 Whiffs on LB No
22 Pulls for ferocious hit in hole Yes
23 Turns his man on run up middle Yes

Justin Hartwig: It looks like the end is near in Pittsburgh for the former starting center. If this was one of his final arguments for sticking around, it likely won’t help. Hartwig once again showed that he is a scrapper who will usually figure out how to get the job done, but he also ends up on the ground a lot — something that has been noticeable going back to his days in Carolina. I counted six plays (out of 22) where Hartwig ended up on the ground at the whistle. He also appeared to be at fault on a sack.

Play Result Good Block?
1 Good job on #91 in pass pro. Yes
2 Blocks no one, falls down No
3 Helps out in pass protection Yes
4 Struggles but manages his pass block Yes
5 Handles #99 and blocks til whistle Yes
6 Falls down again, but run outside so it doesn’t matter much No
7 LB too fast for him to reach to block. But problem is Dwyer busted his assignment Yes
8 Pushes #99 back a step, then #99 forces him to buckle to his knees Yes
9 Badly beaten by #52 who makes initial hit on Broncos sack No
10 Again can’t get to LB in time to lay a block No
11 Good block, but #99 throws him to the ground Yes
12 Again ends up on ground, but after laying block on ILB Yes
13 OK block on run up middle Yes
14 Falls down (again), but this time it works as he blocks LB who doesn’t see him from his knees Yes
15 Stalemate at line on run left Yes
16 Good job on #91 on pass play Yes
17 Stuffs LeKevin Smith on TD pass Yes
18 No one to block on quick pass Yes
19 Good block on Batch’s INT Yes
20 Doesn’t get any movement, but maintains body position on running play Yes
21 Drives Smith til whistle Yes
22 Caught in between, blocks DT, then slides off late to pick up LB, misses him, but also DT helps on tackle No

Ramon Foster: If you were grading Foster on Sunday’s game you would almost have to give him an incomplete. With the Steelers trying to split time between him and Kraig Urbik, Foster only received nine snaps (it was his bad luck that his drives were shorter than Urbik’s drives when they alternated back and forth). Foster did play well when he was in there, and his ability to play right tackle in a pinch (poorly, yes, but he has practiced and played there) will likely be a big selling point in keeping him around.

Play Result Good Block?
1 Bull rush doesnt faze Foster Yes
2 Bad block can’t reach #99 who blows up play in backfield No
3 OK job on Smith, but loses him late Yes
4 Fine job on quick pass Yes
5 Finds his man flows down line well to pick him up Yes
6 Good job on Dwyer’s second-effort run. Keeps pumping his legs Yes
7 Best block of night. Finds LB, seals him off on Dwyer’s 40-yard run Yes
8 Turns his man and blocks him to inside Yes
9 Adequate pass block, but he maintains it forever Yes
10 Makes DE give up on pass rush Yes

Kraig Urbik: Hills is battling Urbik for the title of most improved lineman on the Steelers’ roster this preseason. After watching him in limited action against Denver, it would be hard to see him pink-slipped at this point. Urbik showed strength, when he gives a punch or a push, the defender usually reels a little bit. He does has some trouble when he’s on the move trying to block linebackers or other moving targets. It seems like he’s a better player in the phone booth than pulling out on a counter.

Play Result Good Block?
1 Excellent pass block on bull rush Yes
2 LB gets no push in pass rush Yes
3 Shows some strength again, although his man reaches around to help stuff Dwyer Yes
4 Blocks no one. Looks confused No
5 With help seals #52 on busted play Yes
6 Finds LB and lays good block Yes
7 Gives pop, hands off man finds next target and picks him up. Very good job Yes
8 OK job on #99 Yes
9 Helps Hills stuff pass rush Yes
10 Fine pass block on Batch INT Yes
11 Excellent run block drives #93 back Yes
12 Doesn’t get free from DT block to pick up LB No
13 Pulls for first time meets #96 in hole for solid block Yes
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  • ToddinSyracuse

    Excellent stuff as usual, JJ.

  • ryan

    Agreed. I’m actually excited about Urbik and Hills. And for the first time in as long as I can remember, not completely dismissive of the o-line. Frankly, it’s a weird feeling.

  • GlennW

    If Urbik is cut from this team (and that’s what many mocks are indicating), this would have to be considered another major draft disappointment…

  • Cols714

    I am unable to generate any excitement for backup offensive linemen. But I do think the OL will be OK this year, it would be better than last year’s version had Colon not gotten injured.

  • Randy Steele

    Thanks again for doing these extensive breakdowns, Mr. Cooper. You and your Lounge partners are putting in a lot of high-quality overtime to make this site a must-read for Steeler fans, and I appreciate it.

  • JJ Cooper

    Thanks Randy and Todd. The Sunday-Thursday schedule made this a tight fit. But I hope to have the breakdown of tonight’s game done relatively quickly considering the cutdown is coming up.

  • JJ Cooper

    Thanks Randy and Todd. The Sunday-Thursday schedule made this a tight fit. But I hope to have the breakdown of tonight’s game done relatively quickly considering the cutdown is coming up.