Closer Look At The Steelers Offensive Line Pass Blocking Efficiency
Let me start off by saying that I love Pro Football Focus and suggest you subscribe to the premium stats if you are not already doing so as it is a great source of information. This past week they have focused on pass blocking efficiency of the offensive lineman using a formula that encompasses quarterback sacks, hits and hurries. They also only used the formula on lineman who stayed into pass protect on at least 200 occasions for their rankings. To the best of my knowledge there were around 79 guards, 76 tackles and 32 centers that fit the snap criteria although I think a few were left out of the rankings because they did not have enough snaps at one position. This would apply to Doug Legursky and Trai Essex for the Steelers.
Looking at their bottom 15 right tackles, you will see that Flozell Adams was near the top in the bottom 15 of the right tackles with a 6.31 PBE, this is perhaps just below average right tackle wise being as there was likely just under 40 players that qualified with 200 pass block occasions at right tackle. Although not listed in the left tackle top 15 or bottom 15, I have Jonathan Scott with a PBE of 5.60 using their formula. This would also likely have him somewhere in the middle of the overall rankings of left tackles using this stat.
Guard wise for the Steelers, Chris Kemoeatu finished 3rd worst in the league among the guards with enough snaps with a 5.61 PBE, not far behind him though was Essex with a 5.60 PBE and Legursky with a 4.63 PBE, although as I mentioned, neither logged enough snaps at the guard position to make the rankings even though they both logged at least 200 pass blocking snaps. Ramon Foster finished with a 3.66 PBE and that seems like it was good enough to be about average as far as the guards went league wide.
At center is where the big surprise was as Maurkice Pouncey finished with a 4th worst 3.31 PBE. The spread however between the middle third of the pack of center rankings is very tightly grouped and the bad games Pouncey had against the Ravens and Bills in weeks 4 and 12 respectively was enough to wreck his PBE although in both those games he combined to give up just 2 sacks, 2 pressures and 2 quarterback hits.
Although I am not totally behind this stat as it does not take into account how quarterback Ben Roethlisberger likes to extend the play, I think it is useful as a portion of a lineman rating system. When you look at both Adams and Scott, you can see that they were not awful league wide. They were basically average. Guard wise you also see how poor Kemoeatu played in pass protection last year and the tape confirms this easily over the course of the year. The play at right guard was well below average as well until Foster settled in at the position and the PBE shows he was not great, but not horrible. Even though Pouncey ranked low in the PBE, it is not a true reflection of his pass protection in my opinion as I feel the tape shows he was certainly in the average range as opposed to the ranking in this stat.
Overall I think that if PFF can incorporate some sort of quarterback blame into these rankings, they will pretty much have it on the money. The Steelers finished dead last in the PFF Team Pass Protection Rankings of 2010 and even Khaled Elsayed admits that Roethlisberger could be part of that reason as we all know how he likes to extend the play. The Steelers pass protection from the offensive line was far from great last year, but I feel they were not as bad as all of these ranking make them out to be. Bottom 3rd of the league easily, but I feel these stats are still a little subjective where the quarterback style and play comes into it. I also wonder how drastic of an effect a few awful games by both Kemoeatu and Adams can have on the overall rankings in addition.