Below is the week 3 offensive line breakdown for the Pittsburgh Steelers game against the Oakland Raiders. Before we get to the grades, it should be noted that the pass protection as a whole in this game was excellent. Part of that stems from the concerted effort to focus on a shorter passing game and get the ball out the hand of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. That being said, there were still a few times when the quarterback held the ball and the line did not let him down. As far as the running block went, there were lanes. Not huge lanes, but lanes nonetheless and I thought on 4 of the running plays that the back made a bad decision as to where to cut. The stats do not reflect this, but the run blocking looked the best it has all season in this game. It was not flawless by any stretch of the imagination, but I think ity is moving in right direction and it will be interesting to see if the return of Rashard Mendenhall gets better results.
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Maurkice Pouncey - This was by far the best performance by Pouncey this season. While he did allow 2 quarterback hits, they were not brutal, and in my opinion, did not affect the play. The Steelers center has such good range to be able to help out from tackle to tackle and he directed the line flawlessly. In the run blocking department he got off the ball much cleaner than he did last week against the Jets and his 2 run blocking demerits came on second level blocks that I feel he should have made. On an early wide receiver screen he showed great agility to get outside and deliver a block. I even wrote in the notes for that play, "animal". He had no problems with a defensive tackle over his nose in this game as well, although he was not faced with it often. A great game and fun to watch on the all-22.
Max Starks - A great game for Starks, who benefits greatly from the Steelers shorter passing game. He was charged with a half a sack and a hit on the quarterback, but that was it in pass protection. I noted a few nice cut blocks in pass protection and he worked well with Colon on handling hand-off of stunts and twist. In the running game Starks fell for the outside fake a few times and could not get balance to recover and cut off the move inside. It is not lack of effort or technique, just body control as he was caught on his outside leg. While Starks was far from dominant in the run blocking department, it was satisfactory. There were a few positive runs to his side that he made possible.
Ramon Foster - A great showing from Foster and he only struggles when he allows hands inside him while run blocking. His pass protection was great and he has to enjoy the occasional help he got from Pouncey as well. Foster did allow a pressure and was flagged for a false start, so that is where his 2 pass blocking demerits came from. On the one pressure he might have been hurt more than helped by Baron Batch. Foster pulled out to the left on a few plays and I thought he looked good doing so. On the running play that Jonathan Dwyer fumbled on, Gilbert and Colon allowed deep penetration into the backfield. A few other minor run blocking fails, one of which was when he allowed his man to control him all the way through the play to make the tackle. This is about as of complete game as you will see from Foster and he looked solid overall.
Willie Colon - Colon really had his best game of the season Sunday. In his pulls to the right he looked much cleaner and he had a solid trap block on one of those. Two of his demerits came in the form of holding calls and I charged him with the other half of the sack that Starks had as well. Like Pouncey, he got off of the ball much cleaner this week as opposed to last week, which allowed him to get to the second level a few times when asked to. He worked much better this week with Starks on the twist and stunts. Holding calls, and all penalties for that matter, can be killers, and they have to stop.
Marcus Gilbert - Gilbert gets a lot of credit for fighting through that injured groin, as it was killing him right from the beginning of the game. I though that all throughout the game that was going to leave and not return and I thought for sure that when Beachum opened the second half at right tackle that Gilbert was done for the day. He wasn\'t. A few deep pressures along with a quarterback hit is all I charged Gilbert with in this game. He did get help at times, but overall was solid in pass protection. On an early run deep in the Raiders end he was discarded very easily for a stop. He also missed on a second level block later in the game that prevented a run from going for much more yardage. Keep in mind that the Steelers only had 20 runs in this game with one being an end around and another being a scramble by Roethlisberger. A few of the runs were draws as well. There were lanes provided by Gilbert and Foster on the right side, but the running backs just could get in them quick enough.
Kelvin Beachum - The first NFL snap for the rookie was on a play were he was an extra end on the left side. His second snap was a false start that opened up the second half, but luckily it did not kill the drive. He did allow a minor quarterback hit and was never asked to run block while in the game. He seemed to protect the edge well enough in pass protection and it looked like he has taken to the right side well after playing all of the preseason on the right side.