The Pittsburgh Steelers first game of the 2012 season against the Denver Broncos is now in the books and I have now concluded grading every player on the offensive line for every play as I have done over the years. Let me start off by saying that this year I am able to use the All-22 via NFL Gamerewind and it is the most incredible thing. You see so much more and it takes so much of the guess work out of what the assignment may or may not be on a play. If you are a subscriber, you know what I am talking about.
Before we get to the breakdown, I should tell you that the tight end blocking in this game, especially in the first half, was not good and was partly responsible for the early run failures in my opinion. In addition, I thought the Broncos secondary and linebackers played the run well in addition. we often loose sight that the other team is paid to play too.
Steelers Offensive Linemen Grades Versus Broncos Week 1
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Maurkice Pouncey – Pouncey graded out the highest of all of the Steelers linemen with 3 pressures allowed in the passing game. His other two demerits included his man getting a hand up in the passing lane to deflect the two point conversion and a whiff out in space on a screen play. Against the Broncos front four, Pouncey mostly was relegated to helping left or right in the passing game. While the running game was not great, I did not see him as the main reason why.
Mike Adams – Adams entered the game after Gilbert left injured in the first half and played well initially. It should be noted that he had tight end help on his side most of the night just in case. His very first play in the game was a running play and that wasn\’t good. He settled down after that until late in the game when he allowed a pressure and two sacks, which came on the final possession. One of his run blocking demerits came on a goal-line run by Isaac Redman in which he failed to block down inside fast enough as Legursky left to the second level. This caused the play to get blown up for a loss and it would have been a touchdown had he reached well enough. Adams is still letting hands up high in his neck at times, but he was able to drop anchor at least when that happened. For a rookie thrust in at right tackle, he didn\’t play bad.
Willie Colon – Colon is still adjusting to life in a phone booth and needs to improve his short area quickness when trapping right as he doesn\’t always get off the ball quickly. In pass protection he looked pretty good overall outside of the sack and two pressures allowed. He also has 2 demerits in the pass category for two false starts. This was a problem for him at right tackle prior to missing the last two seasons, so hopefully he has it out of his system now. Straight ahead in space Colon was not bad, but will occasionally not hold his block long enough. He is using his wide base well in both the running and passing game. While this game wasn\’t his best, he is a huge improvement over Chris Kemoeatu. Colon did have one superb trap block that is worth highlighting in this recap.
Ramon Foster – Foster suffered an eye injury in the first half and did not finish. He was solid in the pass blocking department and was adequate in the run blocking department outside of slipping off of his blocks twice. Foster still is inconsistent on the move to the left and this is where the Steelers will miss David DeCastro the most. 21 plays is such a small sample size, but had he played the whole game, he would have been an upgrade easily over Legursky, who had a bad night in relief. Look for Foster to be back this week with a score in the low 90\’s or high 80\’s. He is one thing, and that is consistent.
Max Starks – Typical game by Starks, who I did not have as giving up a sack. He is good for a few pressures a game and a hit or two, but he moved well on his knee. Starks play out in space is hit and miss and where most of his run demerits come into play. When giving up a pressure he will fight all the way to the end and will do his best to at least chase and push the defender behind the pocket. This by no means was the best we have seen out of him, but it certainly was not a bad showing either. It is all about weight distribution with Starks, especially when protecting himself from a spin back inside. He did add a false start for good measure, which I thought for sure was going to kill the drive. Luckily it didn\’t.
Marcus Gilbert – Gilbert left the game with a hyper extended knee in the first half and did not return. He was looking good up until three of his last 4 plays in the game and his night ended with him being injured on a play that he allowed a pressure on. Gilbert is fine when he keeps his weight forward and shuffles his feet properly. Such a short night for him, but I will say that he did not have good play from Heath Miller beside him early on in the game on running plays.
Doug Legursky – This was not a good game for Legursky at all, especially in pass protection, as he gave up 2 sacks, 6 pressures and 2 quarterback hits after taking over for Foster. Legursky just doesn\’t have the reach and is easy to drive back or swim inside of at times. He is a much better center than he is a guard, especially when not facing a nose tackle. One thing we did not see, which is specialty of Legursky, is trapping him to the left. The best part of his game is when he is on the move. Foster should be back this week and it should be back to the sidelines. On the final sack that he shared with Adams, there appeared to be some miscommunication between the two.