Week 4 has come and gone and below is the offensive line report and breakdown for the Steelers week 4 Sunday game on the road against the Houston Texans. As I always like to warn, this grading is done on a play-by-play basis and a good or bad is given on every play. I always caution that it is impossible to know what the assignment on every play is. Thanks to nfl.com there are coaches tape views on several big plays and it makes it much easier to see things from that angle than normal TV camera views along with replays from behind the line of scrimmage.
The Steelers offense as a whole gave up 5 sacks, 2 quarterback hits and nearly 20 pressures on the afternoon. if you watched the game you know that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was under pressure most of the day. There were some bright spots this week in the running game as opposed to the previous 4 so if you are looking for something positive from this game, that is it as far as the offensive line play this week.
Marcus Gilbert – Gilbert was by far the lone bright spot against the Texans despite his 2 sacks 1 pressure allowed. He shows great foot work in pass protection and uses his hands well in addition. He is good about chasing his man around the pocket and we have seen this two weeks in a row. The false start penalty was another of his red marks. as far as the running game goes, he is improving. He is not as dominate as Willie Colon or Flozell Adams were, but he is getting there as far as his run blocking goes. He worked well when teamed up with Ramon Foster at the point of attack and the arrow is certainly pointing up with him. He seems to get off the ball well on nearly every snap. With more experience and coaching his progress should continue.
Ramon Foster – As far as the play of Foster went, all I can say is he held his own. While he did not give up any sacks in pass protection, I counted 4 pressures allowed. On one play he was asked to pull from right guard out to the left end spot and was slow beating Mario Williams to the spot as expected and Williams blew up the screen play to Rashard Mendenhall. He allows himself to get too upright at times off the snap and is often times beat inside because of it. As far as run blocking went he was just ok when asked to go one-on-one or to his left. He worked much better at the point of attack when teamed up with Gilbert as I mentioned earlier. These are all of the same problems he had as starter last season. Looked like the same Foster from last year.
Maurkice Pouncey – Pouncey finished third by my ratings on Sunday and it was by far not one of his best showings. He lost his composure during the deep drive late in the first half and his penalty negated a nice run by Mewelde Moore that had the Steelers set up goal to go. He pretty much played a solid first half besides that play and his problems all came in the second half as he was flagged for holding and gave up his sack and one other pressure. A few times when run blocking in the second level he was easily shed and did not looks as dominate one-on-one in the running game. He looks like he is still moving well though despite the ankle problem. His pass blocking was certainly better than his run blocking on Sunday.
Chris Kemoeatu – It was an up and down afternoon for Kemoeatu for sure. He had some great pulls to the right side on some of the better runs, but he did not look so hot in pass protection along side Trai Essex. That side was getting beat by some silly simple stunts and twist. Nothing exotic at all. Although he did not give up a sack, he did give 5 pressures by my count. The further the game went along the more it seemed like his knee might be bothering him again. A time or two on pulls he looked late off the ball and even got caught up in the trash from a Foster penetration. Not a good days worth of work from him.
Trai Essex – Essex only officially gave up 1 sack on Sunday but it sure felt like 7. To go along with the sack he gave up 4 pressures and a quarterback hit. He did not handle the switches with Kemoeatu well on the simple stunts and twist and it made Kemoeatu look just as bad. Not truly knowing the assignments for either leaves me to speculate just that. Do not let the run blocking score fool you here as the Steelers did not run much to that side. It is easy to score well in run blocking when the run is to the other side of the line. U-G-L-Y,ugly! I am pretty sure we have seen the last of Essex at left tackle.
Skill Positions – The skill position blocking was much better this week as opposed to last week. Heath Miller was back on his but was not without a few misses. He graded out as the highest rated blocker all around. Isaac Redman and Mewelde Moore chipped when needed and Moore really has good awareness at picking up blitzers. Rashard Mendenhall had a crucial miss on a blitz pickup that resulted in a hit on Roethlisberger and while David Johnson had some great run blocks, he was responsible for a few pressures. Hines Ward was a bit below average in his run blocking on plays that required it.