The week 15 offensive line breakdown report for the Pittsburgh Steelers loss Monday night against the San Francisco 49ers is now complete and overall it was not a good night as far as pass protection went up the middle and on the left side as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had pass rushers on him quite a bit and not a lot of room to step up into the pocket with his lead bad ankle. The pass protection started off OK, but deteriorated, especially in the second half. The run blocking was adequate, just not great.
Ramon Foster – Foster had a pretty solid game at right guard Monday night, especially in pass protection as I have him only allowing 2 marginal pressures in the game. He seemed to get off the ball and was able to set his legs quickly when he did not get a good first punch in. His run game miscues were not awful and mostly because he did not finish his blocks. An overall solid effort by him. He was not asked to trap pull to the left that I can remember.
Marcus Gilbert – A pretty solid game by the rookie, especially compared to his last game against the Browns. A had him for 4 nitpicked pressures, but they were not bad. He still recovers nicely out on the edge, but needs to make sure he gets a better push wide on the rusher when they choose to go wide on him. He cuts it close a few times, but always follows his man around the pocket. There were a few close calls with some swipes at the ball, but once again I may have been a little tough on his grading. Run blocking wise he had a good game.
Doug Legursky – This was probably the worst game pass protection wise that Legursky has had at center as he was driven back a few times deep into the pocket and he also struggled on a few twist. He allowed hands inside his frame quite a few times and was driven backwards unable to set his feet. Run blocking wise he was not dominant and he had a premature snap charged to him on the final offensive play of the night that resulted in a fumble. He is still a better left guard than he is a center in my opinion as he is able to use his short area quickness and low center of gravity better on the move, his strongest asset. On a positive note, Legursky goes 110% on every play.
Max Starks – Starks had a rough night, especially in the 2nd half. Justin Smith and Aldon Smith had their way with the tackle/end stunt and Aldon got his long arms inside of the chest of Max a few times to drive him like a truck. Justin would slant at Max on twist and Starks did not work well with Essex passing off the pass rushers. Starks was fine in the run block department, but the Steelers did not have many runs to the left. He did have have a nice block out in space midway through the game for a nice gain. He also had a false start for good measure. It was not his worst game of the year, but it certainly was one to forget pass protection wise.
Trai Essex – A pretty bad game for Essex making his first start this year at left guard. He just could not pass of Justin to Starks fast enough and kept getting beat across the face by Aldon, especially late in the game as those stunts got the best of him. Run blocking wise he was average and on the move, he is not as effective as either Legursky or Chris Kemoeatu on the counter lead or pike plays. He just does not have the quickness that they do. The Steelers really need center Maurkice Pouncey back so Legursky can move back to left guard.
Skill Position – Pretty average all the way around and the Steelers did not use too many two or three tight end groupings. Heath Miller had a nice block early to free Rashard Mendenhall and all the backs continue to do good job with blitz recognition and helping as support when they stayed in. Jerricho Cotchery is an OK run blocker, but will never be confused for Hines Ward in that department. David Johnson had a few nice leads into the hole.