Another week, another win. When the Steelers are 5-1, there’s no reason to complain. And when it comes to the offensive line, it’s hard to not be impressed with the Steelers’ depth this year — nine different offensive linemen have seen significant time.
Pittsburgh had to rely on that depth again Sunday. Flozell Adams went down, which forced the Steelers to turn to Jonathan Scott. And Ramon Foster split time with Doug Legursky at guard.
But with that caveat out of the way, this wasn’t a good Sunday for the offensive line. Pittsburgh struggled to generate holes for Rashard Mendenhall. And when it came to pass protection, Ben Roethlisberger got plenty of chances to prove he’ll stand in the pocket with a pass rusher ready to light him up.
Here’s the breakdown of the pass blocking.
And here are the pressures and sacks allowed.
The sack shared between Pouncey and Kemoeatu is hard to assess. Cameron Wake started on the outside, then looped inside. Chris Kemoeatu was occupied with one of the defensive linemen while Pouncey slid over to help out Doug Legursky. Now Kemoeatu could have handed his man off to Max Starks, or Pouncey could have stayed aware of a man looping inside, but it’s hard to say which of the two was responsible for picking up Wake.
On the second sack, Kemoeatu was driven into the backfield. On the third one, Mewelde Moore didn’t see a defensive back blitzing from the backside, while Max Starks stayed on his initial man instead of handing off. Again, on that one there is some question whether it was the play/line call or the player who was at fault — it’s hard to say without knowing what was called — so you could argue that play wasn’t the linemen/running back’s fault.
We’ll dive into the problems with the running game, when we look player by player, but this sums up the Steelers problems. On first down, the Steelers ran the ball 11 times. They gained only 25 yards (2.28 ypc), with a long gain of six yards.
And now on to the players.
Max Starks: I am starting to wonder if Starks is still recovering from the ankle injury he suffered in early September. He’s still strong with long arms, but he is having some problems with his lateral movement. But his biggest problem is maintaining his block. On four of the five blocks he blew in the running game, he found and put an initial punch on his man. But each time his man managed to shed his block to make a tackle.
In the passing game, Starks’ problems were all over the board. He was beaten to the outside once, to the inside once, and he was once driven back because he lost his leverage against a bull rush.
Doug Legursky: Legursky’s numbers look pretty bad this week, but some of it can be credited to the play of the Dolphins’ linebackers. On three of his six bad blocks in the running game, Legursky couldn’t get to a linebacker before he reacted and flowed to the hole. That’s a problem, but it’s not always the lineman’s problem. Sometimes your opponent makes a good play. He was also flagged for holding, which is a bigger problem.
In the passing game, the problems are much more worrying. Legursky found himself beaten off the snap on several plays, which forced him to hang on for another holding penalty.
Maurkice Pouncey: This wasn’t one of Pouncey’s best games, but once again he was one of the steadiest performers on the Steelers’ line. As I mentioned earlier, one of the dings on Pouncey for pass blocking could have possibly been someone else’s fault. In pass blocking he also was beaten off the snap once, was driven into the backfield once, made a good initial block but was shed too easily in another, and failed to pick up a looping defensive lineman on another play.
In run blocking, like Legursky, his biggest problem was the play of linebacker Karlos Dansby. Dansby shed his block to make a tackle once, was bowled over by Dansby on another play and failed to get to him quick enough to block him on a third play. He was also driven into the backfield on one play and was shed by the nose tackle on a fifth play.
Chris Kemoeatu: When Kemoeatu figured out who he was supposed to block, he was as good as usual. But he did have some serious problems in figuring out who to block.
On five plays, by my count, Kemoeatu either blocked no one or was late to make his decision on who to block which led to problems in blocking his man. One of those is questionable since the Wake sack is hard to determine, as was mentioned above.
Flozell Adams: Adams left the game relatively early after he suffered an ankle injury, but before that he was having one of his worst games of the year. In only 14 pass plays, Adams gave up three quarterback pressures (one of which he shared with Matt Spaeth). In run blocking, Adams was beaten of the snap once and once just stood around and blocked no one.
Jonathan Scott: Scott played more than half of the game in relief of Adams. He’s proven to be a better pass blocker than I expected — he blew his blocks in pass blocking on two of his first four snaps, then shut down his man for most of the rest of the game. His one other pass-blocking miscue came when he was beaten for a quarterback pressure by a speed rush in the third quarter. Of his three pressures, one came because of assignment confusion, another came on a bull rush and the third came on a speed rush.
In the running game, Scott had bigger problems, but there was no consistent thread. He was beaten off the snap once, he was shed after making an initial block on another, he was driven into the backfield on a third play, and he couldn’t get to a linebacker on a fourth.
Ramon Foster: We’ve mentioned it before, but the Steelers’ biggest asset on the offensive line is its depth. It’s not that Trai Essex or Doug Legursky is a Pro Bowler, but the reality is that Pittsburgh could lose both of them and still be OK. I’m not convinced that Foster couldn’t play just as well as Legursky if he got the same amount of playing time.
Foster was inserted after Legursky’s worse series of the game, then he returned for spot duty later. He wasn’t great, but he wasn’t any worse than Legursky either. He was beaten to the outside once in pass blocking, beaten to the inside once in run blocking and once he was driven backwards in run blocking.