Winning makes everything better. Which is good, because if the Steelers had lost Sunday’s game against the Ravens, there would be a lot of talk about the failings of the offensive line.
At this point, the Steelers’ offensive line is what it is. It’s a banged-up group that is just trying to survive. That’s been enough most weeks, and realistically, it’s hard to expect much more — by the end of the game, the Steelers were playing their Nos. 4 and 5 tackles.
But if you’re looking for analysis of what went well and what went wrong against the Ravens, it can be summed up very simply: wherever Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata were lined up, the offensive lineman facing them was in plenty of trouble.
Suggs generally lined up against left tackle Jonathan Scott, although he did move around enough to cause problems for Flozell Adams, David Johnson, Heath Miller and even Maurkice Pouncey. Ngata also moved around a lot. He generally just abused Pouncey, Ramon Foster and Chris Kemoeatu (none of them could effectively block him), but he also moved out to defensive end to provide matchup nightmares for Johnson and Miller at times.
The other big problem in the running game was the Ravens’ linebackers. As you probably know, Ray Lewis is pretty good. He’s more blockable now than he was years ago, but he’s still a moving target who knows all the tricks and techniques to avoid being wiped out of a play. And as the Steelers found on Sunday night, blocking him is always a tough assignment.
Before going into the individual breakdowns, here’s a look at the grades for this week. As always, here’s a reminder that this is done as best can be determined. We don’t know all of the play calls, but the grades are done on the basis of success: if a player blocks his man well, it’s a good play, but if his man makes the tackle, that’s going to be a bad play.
|Player||Good Plays||Total Plays||Pct||Pressures||Sacks|
During the game I tweeted that I thought Jonathan Scott would put up the worst grade since I started doing the new format. I was wrong. His grade of 73.9% isn’t pretty, but it actually was a little better than I expected. Scott simply couldn’t block Suggs. It didn’t matter if it was a running play or a pass play, Suggs’ strength and quickness were simply too much for the fill-in left tackle. It wasn’t just in the passing game, either; Suggs also caused problems in the running game showing the ability to flow down the line to block running lanes.
Before he left with an ankle injury, Flozell Adams had fewer problems than Scott, but in his case he got to block Jarrett Johnson most of the day, which was an easier assignment than Suggs. Three of his four bad plays in pass protection came when Suggs slid over to his side. In the running game, Adams’ problems came when he was asked to block linebackers. Four of his six poor plays came when he was asked to handle linebackers. Three of those plays came where he got his hands on the linebacker, but then failed to lock him up. Technically you could charge Adams with half a sack in this game — Suggs recorded half a sack while lined up against him, but I credited the whole sack to Ramon Foster because it was Ngata’s charge up the middle that wrapped up Roethlisberger, Suggs then followed up to finish him off.
Ramon Foster’s grade wasn’t much better than Scott’s. It wasn’t all because of Ngata, but he played a big part in it. Kelly Gregg also gave Foster some problems, and the quality of the Ravens’ linebackers also led to some poor plays. Foster had trouble getting free from the line to go block them, and even when he did, he found them to be difficult to block.
If Maurkice Pouncey hadn’t had to block Ngata, he would have had a nice night. But he was asked to block the Ravens’ two tons of fun on a regular basis. The rookie is having a nice season, but Ngata was simply too much to handle. Pouncey’s sack came when Suggs looped inside and managed to knock Pouncey backwards on his way to the quarterback. Pouncey’s quarterback pressures all came when Ngata simply drove him into the backfield. Ngata was Pouncey’s biggest problem in the running game as well: five of Pouncey’s poor run plays came against Ngata. The massive defensive tackle showed an ability to get his hands on Pouncey before Pouncey could lock him up, which meant he could work a stalemate then shed Pouncey to try to stuff the run. On other plays he just fired out and drove Pouncey into the backfield.
It wasn’t a great week for Chris Kemoeatu, but he had to be happy to no longer have Kyle Williams beating on him. Kemoeatu had the same kind of problems in pass protection that everyone else had: the Steelers just weren’t winning the battle in the trenches. But in the running game, one of his big problems was when he is asked to pull. The Steelers seem to think that Kemoeatu is a good pulling guard, but I don’t see it. Kemoeatu isn’t particularly nimble on his feet, and he doesn’t redirect well. He does get up a good head of steam, but if his target slides from one side or another, he struggles to still get a crushing blow. Two of his poor run blocks came when he was asked to pull.
Trai Essex’s numbers look quite good in his limited time, and he should be commended for playing well as a fill-in right tackle. At the same time, as mentioned with Adams, he got to block Jarrett Johnson instead of Terrell Suggs, so his job was easier than Scott’s.