The Pittsburgh Steelers 2011 season will be remembered as an injury plagued one and the offensive line certainly had their fair share of them. In the 17 games the Steelers played this past season they started 10 different line combinations due mostly to injuries as the table below shows. Offensive line coach Sean Kugler broke his personal best this year with starting line combinations as he used 9 different offensive line combinations in his final year with the Bills.
Here is a rundown by game of the musical chairs on the offensive line.
Week 1 – Against the Ravens the starting 5 left to right were Jonathan Scott, Chris Kemoeatu, Maurkice Pouncey, Doug Legursky and Willie Colon. Colon sustained a triceps injury with about four minutes left in the game, after quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was sacked and lost a fumble. He was able to finish the game, but was lost for season as a result of the injury.
Week 2 – With Colon out for the season rookie Marcus Gilbert started at right tackle. Kemoeatu was inactive against the Seahawks due to his arthritic knee so Ramon Foster got the start at left guard.
Week 3 – Kemoeatu returned after missing one game and was back at left guard against the Colts. With Gilbert now installed as the right tackle, this made the 3rd different starting combination in as many weeks. Gilbert left with an arm injury in the game and was replaced by Trai Essex at right tackle. Legursky, who started the game at right guard, injured his shoulder in the second half and Foster replaced him. Scott, the starting left tackle, injured his ankle late in the game and Gilbert was forced back into action to finish the game at left tackle.
Week 4 – Both Scott and Legursky were ruled out with their injuries against the Texans so the 4th different starting lineup left to right to start the game was Essex, Kemoeatu, Pouncey, Foster and Gilbert. Luckily everyone played the full game.
Week 5 – Max Starks was re-signed prior to the Titans game and got the start at left tackle. The knee of Kemoeatu acted up again after the Texans game and he was forced to sit out. Gilbert suffered a shoulder injury in the game and was replaced by Scott at right tackle. Pouncey was dinged up as well for a few plays so Legursky shifted over from left guard to play center and Essex came in to play left guard. This made 5 straight weeks a different offensive line started the game.
Week 6 – Gilbert and Kemoeatu were both inactive against the Jaguars so Scott started at right tackle. Legursky started at left guard but suffered a dislocated toe early in the game and Essex had to finish in his place. If you are keeping score, this makes 6 different starting offensive line combinations through the first 6 games of the season.
Week 7 – Gilbert and Kemoeatu were both back against the Cardinals, but Legursky remained sidelined with his toe injury. Your 7th different starting lineup for this game left to right was Starks, Kemoeatu, Pouncey, Foster and Gilbert. It may be hard to believe, but everyone played the entire game. Pouncey was however on the injury report leading up to this game with an elbow injury he suffered the week before.
Week 8 – Finally some continuity as the same 5 started against the Patriots. The first game all season that happened. Gilbert missed a few plays at right tackle and was replaced briefly by Scott. Legursky was inactive still with his toe injury.
Week 9 – The same 5 started once again against the Ravens and this marked the 3rd straight game with the same starting lineup. No in-game injuries and once again Legursky was inactive.
Week 10 – For the 4th straight game the Steelers had the same starting 5. Starks was dinged up a couple of plays with a stinger and replace by Scott at left tackle temporarily.
Week 11 – Thank God for bye weeks.
Week 12 – Following the bye week the Steelers had Legursky back in the lineup at left guard in place of Kemoeatu. The last time these starting 5 played together was in week 5 against the Titans. Pouncey came into the game very sick and was forced to leave early. Legursky moved to center from left guard and Kemoeatu came in to play left guard.
Week 13 – Pouncey was back against the Bengals, but Foster was forced from the game with ankle injury and was replaced by Essex at right guard. Thanks to the blowout in this game, Pouncey and Starks were allowed to exit the game late.
Week 14 – Against the Browns, Starks, Legursky, Pouncey, Foster and Gilbert made their 3rd straight start alongside each other. That of course did not last long as Pouncey exited with an ankle injury right before halftime and Legursky took over at center and Kemoeatu came in at left guard to finish out the second half.
Week 15 – Against the 49ers the Steelers were without Pouncey and Kemoeatu was benched for poor play. Legursky started at center and Essex got the start at left guard. This made the 8th different starting combination of the season and the first different one the Steelers had used since week 7 against the Cardinals. All 5 starters played every down in the loss.
Week 16 – Pouncey remained sidelined with his ankle injury against the Rams and Gilbert was benched for a bad week of preparation leading up to the game. Scott started at right tackle in place of Gilbert and Legursky started once again at center, but injured his shoulder very early in the game. This forced Essex to move over from left guard to play center and Kemoeatu was back in at left guard.
Week 17 – Pouncey was back for the final regular season game at center and Gilbert reclaimed his starting spot at right tackle. Legursky missed the game with his shoulder injury from the previous week so Kemoeatu was back starting at left guard. Essex saw time at left and right guard in this game. Foster had to miss a few plays late due to injury, but came back in to finish.
Wild Card Week – Pouncey aggravated his ankle during practice leading up to the Broncos game and it forced him to miss it. Legursky started at center bad shoulder and all in his place. Starks left right before the end of the first half with an ACL injury and Scott replaced him for the rest of the game at left tackle. The starting lineup left to right of Starks, Kemoeatu, Legursky, Foster and Gilbert made the 10th different starting combination of the season for the Steelers.
Steelers 2011 Starting Offensive Line By Week