Below are my offensive line grades and breakdown of the Pittsburgh Steelers 26-24 preseason game win Sunday night against the Indianapolis Colts. I always like to disclaimer that not knowing the exact play call and assignments on each play makes it tough, especially with the normal TV angles. The All-22 look is not available until the regular season begins and that will make grading the offensive line and every other position much easier at that point. Each lineman on each and every play is watched 5 times at least and sometimes more.
I am working on an new grading system that I hope to debut next week
Overall I thought it was a good night for the offensive line, but especially good for the first team unit. Here are your grades and write ups.
ETA: Fixed a carry over error on Foster!
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Willie Colon – A position on the Steelers offensive line that was a weakness the last few seasons now appears to be one of strength as Colon looked very comfortable at left guard against the Colts. By my count Colon was perfect in pass protection and only had one small blemish when it came to the run blocking department. The Steelers former right tackle showed his ability to pull to the right and run the power and also looked good out in space and turning his man out of the hole on runs to his side. He and Marcus Gilbert worked well together in the run game and Colon registered a few knockdowns. I have been screaming for some time now for Colon to kick inside, and if he can stay healthy, the Steelers should have their left guard spot settled for a while. The biggest thing to look for going forward with Colon is how quickly he can gel with Max Starks on handling stunts and twist. It was a solid performance against the Colts.
Ramon Foster – Foster showed his position flexibility by starting the game at right tackle before moving over to left guard after Colon was done and I thought he played very well at both positions. In pass protection I had him perfect and in the run department he had just a few small blemishes. Foster is certainly not as good out in space as Colon is, but he can get the job done. As long as Foster keeps his pad level down he can be effective in the run game. He showed Sunday night that he should be able to handle the right tackle spot in a pinch, but I still would worry if that ended up being long-term as we only have a handful of snaps to go on right now.
Doug Legursky – Legursky replaced Maurkice Pouncey at center and I thought he played a solid game. He certainly is not as good out in space as Pouncey is and he had a few issues turning his man, but what I saw Sunday night makes me feel comfortable that he is capable of handling the position at least temporarily once again should Pouncey get dinged up. The biggest knock on Legursky in the past, although it didn\’t show much in this game, is his ability to get off blocks at times and to the second level. He has also been known to allow arms inside in pass protection, but once again, that did stand out as a problem Sunday night.
David DeCastro – DeCastro sure does not play like a rookie. He remains solid on the move and helped to his right when needed in pass protection. Not knowing his assignments makes it tough, but on tape and using educated guessing, he looked sound in that area. His footwork and hip movement is fun to watch and his hand work should get even better as time goes on. One of his blemishes was a false start penalty, so keep that in mind when looking at the grades. If there was any doubt that he should be the starting guard, there shouldn\’t be now. DeCastro will only get better.
Maurkice Pouncey – Sunday night was another fine showing by the Steelers starting center, who is showing no ill effects of his offseason ankle surgery. The pass protection blemish came on a safety linebacker blitz where I thought he could have done a better job at least getting a piece of the safety that was coming that ultimately got pressure on quarterback Charlie Batch, who did a great job of pointing out the blitz out prior to the snap. Pouncey had a few minor run game minuses, but overall it was a solid showing in my eyes. No worries here.
John Malecki – Malecki entered the game at right guard before finishing the game at center. The sack that was charged to him could have really been split in 3rds, so do not get too caught up in that. He actually looks better at guard than he does at center, but it is important to keep in mind the quality of talent he was facing once he entered the game. He had some run game blocking issues and he slides off his man too easy at times. His effort is always there on each and every play, but based on what is ahead of him on the roster, the best that he can hope for is to land on the practice squad again. Right now I just do not see that in the cards for him though.
Ryan Lee – It was another good showing for Lee even though it was late in the game. On one play he pulled right and manhandled the linebacker at the second level. We did not get to see him much in pass protection as the Steelers only threw twice while he was in. I think that he has done enough to warrant some earlier snaps in a game, but we likely won\’t see that until the final preseason game against the Carolina Panthers. I would be shocked if Lee doesn\’t survive the first round of cuts after the Buffalo game and I think he has a fighters chance to make the practice squad as well. I think that Lee has the qualities to become a good swing guard down the road and the Steelers scouting department gets a kudos for finding him.
Chris Scott – It was a better showing this time around for Scott, who only saw action late at right guard. It is not worth me writing much about the former 5th round pick though as he figures not to be around much longer. He can\’t play tackle and is basically at best a practice squad right guard only that does not move well out in space.
Trai Essex – It was another poor showing for Essex, who I have down as giving up 4 pressures on the night from the right tackle spot. On one of his run blemishes he was easily discarded and that is concerning considering how late in the game it came. I really am starting to think that the Steelers might only carry 8 linemen initially on the 53 man roster and that would mean Essex would not survive the final cut. Neither he nor Kelvin Beachum, who we will get to in a minute, have shown anything thus far in the preseason. Essex would be a liability at right tackle should the need ever arise.
Marcus Gilbert – Do not let the final score of Gilbert fool you and I will explain why. One of his blemishes on a pass play was a miss out in space on a screen play. Another blemish was a false start that I charged to him in the pass column. He did give up 3 pressures on the night by my count, but none resulted in sacks. 4 of his 6 minuses came in a span of 5 plays. He needs to do a better job at protecting the edge. Gilbert moved over to right tackle for 4 plays before calling it a night and was perfect on that side. Overall I thought it was a good performance and he had some early run blocks along with Colon that went for good yardage. The experiment to give him snaps at left tackle I thought overall was a good one and I believe he could play there in a pinch should the need arise. Keep in mind that he only really had one week of practice preparation to play left tackle and that was mixed with continuing to get reps at his normal right tackle spot in addition. I wouldn\’t get too caught up with his score in this game as it is deceiving.
Mike Adams – Adams replaced Gilbert at left tackle and for the second game in a row he showed that he is not ready to be a starter there. While run blocking is the strongest part of his game, he had some issues there and a few times he came off of his blocks too easy. A man his size should be able to latch on better, but he just doesn\’t use his long arms or hands consistently well. In pass protection he gave up 3 pressures by my count and should get at least a 3rd of a credit for the sack that I charged to Malecki. On a few of those pressures I noted him allowing hands inside his frame and on his neck. Once that happens he is easily walked backwards. He has a tendency to get lazy and comes out too high in his pass sets and just like in the run game, he fails to use his arms and hands to his advantage. Right now he has a long way to go in his development, and assuming Starks is healthy, Adams is running the risk of being an inactive player early on in the season depending on how many linemen they decide to dress. Gilbert is a much better option than Adams is right now at left tackle should something happen to Starks. It\’s way too early to even consider calling him a bust, but he has quite a bit to work on before many will think otherwise. Some time in the weight room would do him good and his technique is very flawed.
Kelvin Beachum – Once again the Steelers seventh round draft pick struggled in this game. Initially he played left guard before moving outside to left tackle when Adams was done. On the sack he allowed, he pulled right from the left guard spot and was late meeting the free rusher. In addition, he allowed 2 pressures on the night and was flagged for holding twice. That makes 5 penalties in total for Beachum thus far in two preseason games. On one of the pressures he and Adams missed a switch. In the run blocking department he obviously lacks core strength. Based on what we have seen in two games now, it would be jaw dropping if he made the 53 man roster and it is borderline whether or not he is practice squad material. Being as it looks like he can only play left guard, I would keep Lee over him right now. It has been a tough transition for Beachum moving inside and I hate it because he is such a good kid. He really needs to show a lot of improvement over the course of the next two preseason games.