The week 16 offensive line breakdown report for the Pittsburgh Steelers win this past Saturday against the St. Louis Rams is now complete and overall it was a pretty solid performance as everyone scored 86% or higher. The Rams run defense was pretty poor and the Steelers unit was able to push them around on quite a few plays and even get second level blocks on their linebackers, including James Laurinaitis.
Trai Essex – Essex was forced to move to center after just the second offensive play after Doug Legursky went down with a shoulder strain. He really looked unfazed by the move and really showed his position flexibility in this game. He had just a few pass protection issues and forgot the snap count on another play as he was late with the snap. His run blocking was more than adequate, but he is not nearly as mobile as Maurkice Pouncey or Legursky. That of course was expected, but it is my job to point out the obvious and not so obvious. He slid off of a few blocks and did not move his man on a few others, but it was hardly noticeable. Essex scored the best of all the Steelers linemen that played more than a few snaps and he surely deserved the game ball he got after the game, as you would have never known that center was not his primary position. Flexibility is what keeps Essex around and he showed it against the Rams. He might be a better backup center than he is a swing guard.
Ramon Foster – The play of Foster has been really consistent that last few weeks. He did not seem as comfortable this week though with Jonathan Scott to his right this week however, but played fine nonetheless. A few pressure issues and a few minor run blocking demerits is all I found and we saw him pull left quite a few times on some counter plays for good yardage. This is the most we have seen Foster pull left in one game and he has been fairly effective at doing it late this season. The Steelers offensive relied on the right side counter most of the season and we are starting to see that they might be ambidextrous with it come playoff time. Overall a good game for Foster, but it was not a dominant one.
Chris Kemoeatu – The key stat for Kemoeatu, who entered the game at left guard when Legursky went down and Essex went to center, was no penalties. That in itself makes the performance by him a good one. He did share in a few pressure and a few misses in the run game. One of his misses came in a misdirection quick pass to his side. We saw him pull a few times to right on some counter plays, but there was usually no gap to fill so he just went into the pile. One of these was on the touchdown run by John Clay. All kidding and nitpicking aside, it was probably the second best game Kemoeatu had all season and he looks much healthier than he did earlier this year.
Max Starks – Starks had a few pressures allowed along with a hit on the quarterback and a few minor run blocking demerits. It was not a bad game for him, but I have also seen better from him. He did well out in space this past Saturday, and the Steelers ran well to his side in addition. A few minor footwork issues when getting out of his stance is all I saw as minor pass protection flaws and I thought he used his long arms to his advantage. He definitely got the best of Rams defensive ends James Hall and Robert Quinn on the day.
Jonathan Scott – It was an OK game for Scott, who started at right tackle in place of the disciplined Marcus Gilbert, but he has the same problems as he did when he was a starter. He gave up a few edge pressures pretty easily and did not seem to get off the ball quickly in the run game department. He just can\’t seem to get his footwork together at times, but I thought he used his hands a little bit better than he has previously. Scott did get a snap as a lead fullback on one of the short touchdown runs. It was not his worst game as a starter, but Gilbert is in no jeopardy of losing his job to him either. Keep in mind he was up against Chris Long, the Rams best defensive end, and pretty much battled him to a draw on the day. If Starks were to do go down from here on out, I would feel much better if Scott played right tackle and Gilbert flipped over to the left side.
Marcus Gilbert – Gilbert came off the bench twice for goal-line runs and gave 110%. When at right tackle he exploded off the snap and turned his man inside for a rushing touchdown. The other snap saw him lineup as an extra tight end and he did his job. Two snaps is not much to judge, but he was ready when his name was called. I think this benching will do him good as will the rest his body got. He should get his job back pretty easy.
Doug Legursky – Just 2 snaps for Legursky at center before he was hurt hustling downfield to block on the 2nd play. Not much to grade, but he was a 100% for both snaps.
Skill Positions – David Johnson, Heath Miller and Jerricho Cotchery all had good run blocking days and Mike Wallace was also caught blocking in this game as well on the Clay touchdown. Miller had some good seal off blocks on a few counter runs to the right. Johnson had some crushing lead blocks. It was not the best game in run blocking department for Weslye Saunders however and I bet he heard it in meetings this week. Everyone has a bad game every now and again, so I think Saunders will be fine.