Mike Tomlin has said many times that he’s not looking for style points. In the NFL, wins and losses matter, how you get there is much less important.
If that’s the case, then Sunday’s win over the Bills has to count as a success. It was ugly at times — especially as yellow flags kept flying like confetti at a ticker-tape parade. But this was truly a case of taking good news with the bad.
There was plenty of bad news – Chris Kemoeatu had one of the worst games a Steelers’ offensive linemen has had in quite a while. Maurkice Pouncey was better, but he struggled as well — he’s very good for a rookie, but if you listen to the TV announcers, you may believe he’s Pro Bowl caliber. He’s not yet that good.
At the same time, there are several things to be excited about. The Steelers ran the ball extremely well including one stretch where they ran the ball on eight consecutive plays. If it hadn’t been for the penalties, this would have actually been a pretty good performance by the standard of expectations of the Steelers banged-up offensive line. The Steelers held the ball for a massive amount of time — they ran 90 offensive plays, which is 20-30 more than a normal game.
Here’s a look at how the linemen looked, as graded by watching each player on each play. Each player is judged on whether they contributed to a play’s success or were a reason the play could fail.
|Player||Good Plays||Total Plays||Pct.||Pressures||Sacks|
There’s little to say positive about Chris Kemoeatu’s day. Kyle Williams was simply better than him, and very quickly Kemoeatu learned that there wasn’t much he could do to stop Williams. There were the holding calls (4), multiple plays where Williams drove Kemoeatu into the backfield (7), struggles to get to the second level to block linebackers (3), missed blocks at the line (5), difficulties executing blocks when he was pulling (2) as well as confusion (1), difficulty sticking his block (1) and a failed cut block (1).
When Trai Essex played this poorly, the Steelers benched him and replaced him with Ramon Foster. It seems highly unlikely that the same thing will happen with Kemoeatu. For one thing, the Steelers just don’t have many more options — if Kemoeatu wasn’t strong enough to handle Williams, Williams would have squashed Doug Legursky around like he was an annoying gnat. And for another, unlike Essex, Kemoeatu has a relatively lengthy history of adequate, if unspectacular play which works in his favor.
As mentioned above, Pouncey was not a whole lot better. In Pouncey’s case, the big problem was that Williams was too strong for him. He proved very difficult to move, and there were several plays where Williams drove Pouncey back into Roethlisberger.
When you compare Ramon Foster to his fellow interior lineman, he comes out looking OK, even though he was beaten for a sack. Foster wasn’t great, but he’s done enough in the past two weeks to expect to see him starting the rest of the year. It’s hard to say he’s any stronger than Essex, but he is more consistent than the man he replaced.
On the outside, Jonathan Scott was adequate enough. Ben Roethlisberger will have to be ready to scramble at a moments notice as long as Scott is his left tackle, but performances like Sunday (three pressures) are good enough for a backup left tackle filling in.
And at this point, Flozell Adams is a rock of stability. He was beaten for a sack and he still doesn’t exactly block to the whistle, but Adams’ strength lets him get away with a lot of things. If you want to see what I’m talking about when mentioning Adams’ amazing strength, check out what he did to a safety on this play — he’s the right tackle so you have to watch the backside of this run. But Adams looks like what a big kid picking on the shrimp at recess here — it’s bad if he’s in first grade, it’s great when he’s an NFL offensive lineman.
David Johnson’s numbers this week don’t look all that good, but he did show some impressive blocks filling in for Matt Spaeth. Trai Essex’s entry into the game as a tight end meant the Steelers were running — he wasn’t on the field for a pass play — but at the same time, he did a good job blowing defensive ends off the ball. Putting a 320+ pounder at tight end causes plenty of problems for a defense.