Ben Roethlisberger is so good, who needs an offensive line?
That’s the rationale this Steelers fan has been using for the last several years, but I’m finally ready to put my foot down. As we embark on yet another year of Pittsburgh football where nearly every position along the line has some kind of question mark, I think it’s fair to say that Steelers fans have had enough.
It’s pretty safe to say that this team will win a lot of games this year, Super Bowl hangover or not. However, what’s equally certain is that Big Ben will spend much of his time either on the ground or running for his life. What’s sad is that this is nothing new. Ever since the glorious 2005 championship season, the Steelers have been forced to cope with a subpar line year after year.
It seems odd that this has befallen this franchise. This is the same football club that produced Mike Webster and Dermontti Dawson, and now there are luminaries such as Johnathan Scott and the newly re-signed Trai Essex playing major roles on the line.
Incredibly, the team has continued to win despite the offensive line woes. I still remain in disbelief that the Steelers won in it all in 2008 given how terrible that line was (Ramon Foster was a starter in Super Bowl 43. Just look at him!). But I’m really not sure that this can continue.
Fun fact: Ben has only started all 16 games in a season once in his seven years as an NFL player. He’s been concussed several times, has battled knee and shoulder issues in years past, and last year fought through a broken foot and broken nose. All due respect to Rashard Mendenhall, but the man IS the offense, and the team seems content to let him be beat to a pulp year after year.
By all accounts, this year will be no different. The Eagles sacked Roethlisberger twice on his lone series of their preseason game, and both Scott and his competition at left tackle, Marcus Gilbert, suffered injuries.
Add these concerns to Chris Kemoeatu’s lingering injuries, the revolving door at right guard (Tony Hills? The immortal Foster?), and the questions surrounding Willie Colon after a year out of commission and you have some serious reasons to be worried.
My challenge for the Steelers coaching staff this year is to at least be willing to try some new things. I think we know what we’re getting out of Scott and Foster at this point, and it’s not pretty. Please just give Gilbert and Hills a chance to see what you have with them.
Despite what the previous 400 words might lead you to believe, I’m not entirely unconfident in the coaching staff. I truly believe that the presence of offensive line coach Sean Kugler made a difference last year, since the team could actually convert on third and short situations.
But the work can’t end there. The Steelers’ championship window with this core of players is rapidly closing, and if things on the offensive line don’t change soon, it could slam shut before we know it.
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