49ers & Ravens Offensive Lines Take Different, Yet Healthy Paths To The Super Bowl
The Pittsburgh Steelers were forced to start seven different offensive line combinations this past season due to all of the injuries that they had suffered throughout the season. As a result, the front five never had a significant amount of time to gel together and it played a big part in the running game being dismal.
In less than two weeks the Baltimore Ravens will play the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII and it will feature two offensive line units on different ends of the spectrum as far as playing alongside each other all season long. Believe or not, the 49ers have started the same five players on their offensive line in the same five spots the entire season. That\’s pretty remarkable when you look at all of the juggling that has taken place on the Steelers offensive line for the past three seasons.
As a result of being able to start the same five players week in and week out, the 49ers finished the regular season ranked fourth overall in rushing yards per game (155.7) and third overall in rushing yards per play (5.06).
The Ravens offensive line, however, took a completely different route to the Super Bowl. While not as stable as the 49ers, the Ravens did have three players, Matt Birk, Michael Oher and Kelechi Osemele, who started every game this season. The Ravens made it through their first five games with the same starting five offensive linemen until left guard Ramon Harewood was benched for poor play and replaced by Bobbie Williams. That new starting five made it four games together until Williams was replaced at left guard by Jah Reid. With Reid now inserted that group of five lasted four more games until right guard Marshal Yanda missed the Week 15 game due to an injury. Yands returned for the Week 16 game, but sat out the regular season finale in order to rest up for the playoffs.
By the time the regular season was over the Ravens had only used four different starting offensive line combinations, but more were on the way for the playoffs.
In their Wild Card game against the Indianapolis Colts the Ravens made the bold move of juggling their offensive line for a fifth time in grand fashion due to a toe injury suffered by Reid. Veteran Bryant McKinnie, who hadn\’t started a game all season, became the new starting left tackle and Oher was shifted over to the right tackle spot. Osemele, who started all sixteen regular season games at right tackle become the new starting left guard as he replaced the injured Reid. That starting five has remained in tact throughout the Ravens three playoff games and will presumably be the unit that starts down in New Orleans.
If only the Steelers offensive line could remain as healthy as both the 49ers and the Ravens were this past season. In total the Steelers lost 34 games out of offensive linemen David DeCastro, Mike Adams, Marcus Gilbert, Willie Colon and Maurkice Pouncey due to injuries in 2012.