Steelers 2013 Reserve Linemen By The Numbers

By Matthew Marczi

While the Pittsburgh Steelers have their starting lineup along the offensive line set, the truth of the matter is that they have said goodbye to a lot of pieces that have been part of the core of that unit over the years—namely Max Starks, Willie Colon, and Doug Legursky.

Irrespective of their own past performances, the fact of the matter is that the Steelers will be dependent upon a lot of new faces among their reserves, and a lot of these candidates do not even have any in-game experience, like Joe Long, Justin Cheadle, Mike Farrell, Mike Golic, Jr., and Nik Embernate.

Because so many of these candidates have no experience, it is difficult to determine just what they have to work with. In fact, if you include interior lineman John Malecki, who played half of a game in the 2012 season finale, only three of these reserve candidates have any first-hand experience, the other two being of course Kelvin Beachum and Guy Whimper.

So what do the numbers look like for the few players that actually have in-game experience? Remember, of course, that Malecki had only one half-game of playing time, Beachum was a rookie, and Whimper’s numbers are from playing in a different offense, in a different system, on a different team.

Let’s start with Beachum, who by all accounts would appear to be the sixth man and the first one off the bench for just about any injury along the line. Beachum has spent a lot of time trying to master the center position this offseason. Also, when Mike Adams was stabbed, Beachum received the snaps at right tackle this spring, where he started the final five games of the regular season as a rookie.

How did he do? In the seven games in which he played, he accumulated 314 snaps. That broke down into 109 running plays and 205 passing plays, so the offense was clearly geared toward the passing game by almost a two-to-one ratio while he was playing.

However, in 195 non-penalty passing snaps, he allowed pressure on the quarterback 18 times, or on just over 9% of all pass protection snaps. But only five of them registered a hit on the quarterback, and just two of them were sacks. Because Pro Football Focus weighs hits and pressures less than sacks, for obvious reasons, Beachum had a pass blocking efficiency rating of 92.8.

In comparison, Starks—who played every snap of the season—had a pass blocking efficiency of 93.4. Adams, in allowing seven sacks, had a pass blocking efficiency of 92.4. Marcus Gilbert, however, had a pass blocking efficiency of 96.2. If he had played 25% of the team’s pass blocking snaps, that would have qualified him for 13th best in the league. Only the top six tackles rated 97 or above.

Overall, Beachum came out with a -0.4 score for pass protection. However, he struggled mightily against the Dallas Cowboys and Cincinnati Bengals in run blocking. In those two games, he had a run blocking score of -2.3 combined. In the rest of his games, he rated out at 1.1. In addition, his two penalties on the year came in the two weeks that he was thrust in the lineup due to injuries. In his five starts, he was penalty-free, which was a noted improvement from the preseason.

Contrary to Beachum, there is not much to say about Malecki. After David DeCastro left the season finale with an injury, Malecki finished up the last 31 snaps of the game. His pass protection was fine, allowing no pressure on 15 snaps. On the other hand, his 16 run blocking snaps were quite poor, scoring -2.9 for his efforts in about half a game.

Guy Whimper is another matter altogether. Last season, in 197 pass blocking snaps, he allowed 26 pressures with five sacks for a pass blocking efficiency rating of 89.5—70th best out of the 72 tackles league-wide that played at least 25% of the team’s pass blocking snaps.

Just for comparison’s sake, Jonathan Scott played 175 passing snaps for the Chicago Bears last season. He allowed 20 pressures, but one sack, for a pass blocking efficiency rating of 91.3.

Whimper’s run blocking was also lacking. He rated out at -4.4 in that department. On the other hand, after starting all of 2011, he actually rated positively, with a sore of 4.5 in run blocking. Of course, his 14 sacks, 27 hurries, and seven hits on the quarterback allowed made for a pass blocking efficiency of 91.6—which was still, amazingly, better than his performance last year.

These are some of the main candidates for the reserve spots along the offensive line in 2013. Next time, we will look at the numbers for the team’s backups in the past to see how they compare to what they have heading into this season.

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • Stephen Dale

    the Steelers have problems on the OL and the best testament is the fact Whimper, Beachum, and Malecki are considered the best three reserves available ???? Please !!!!! Needless to say, the hope for OL depth rides on the talent of the UDFA’s signed … Hopefully at least 2 UDFA’s will make it —and send those ” 3 valued reserves” packing.

  • DoctorNoah

    Bring on Embernasty!

  • George Siegel

    The only problem I see with this analysis, is that the “facts” used come from Pro Football Focus, a source that is rapidly overtaking Bleacher Report as the most nonsensical source of NFL information available.

  • frankthebuc

    Thank you George. Pro Football Focus is a decent site but these guys have never played nor coached football yet they are grading players? Also, tell me how you can grade an offensive linemen’s performance without knowing the line call? How do you know if he made a mistake when you don’t know what the line call was/

  • George Siegel

    Granted, Beachum had some strength issues last year, which isn’t uncommon for rookies, an off season with an NFL level strength program ought to help that. But what makes you think we’d be better off with a UDFA rookie?

  • dgh57

    Of all the reserve o-linemen I have the most confidence in Beachum. I have the least confidence in Whimper! Everyone in between until I see some actual game action I don’t know what we have. If ever there was a time for the starting o-linemen to finally turn things around on the injury front it would be this season! I wouldn’t be surprised if we didn’t use some of that cash we have to sign a veteran o-lineman before the season starts!

  • dgh57

    Fat chance a UDFA unseats Beachum as the top reserve o-lineman!!!

  • SteelerFanInMD

    I agree. The status of the O-line is an unknown. The starters are all young and haven’t played any snaps with the new lineup. Gilbert will be new at left tackle. The backups, other than Beachum, are all very young and inexperienced or named Whimper. My guess is that it will take several games, maybe 4 or 5, for them to establish a rhythm, as long as there are no major injuries.

  • woundedvet

    Numbers can be made to do whatever anyone wants them to do. Numbers or not, Beachum looked excellent at right tackle last year when he replaced Adams. Beachum’s improvement compared to preseason was amazing. Its comforting knowing he & Foster can play right tackle ok, for in case Adams doesnt show in this preseason that he can passblock yet.

  • Matthew Marczi

    What exactly do you find nonsensical about Pro Football Focus?

  • Matthew Marczi

    Everybody that is not part of the team that grades offensive linemen, including us here at Steelers Depot, do not know the line calls as fact, but it’s often pretty apparent. It’s also pretty clear when somebody gets beaten individually. Line grading is not as cryptic and mysterious as a lot of people make it out to be. Of course it’s an inexact metric, but it’s still rather accurate and a very useful tool.

  • dgh57

    When you combine the history of injuries to our o-linemen, with the lack of experience in certain positions, and with what we have in reserve beyond Beachum it can be most concerning to say the least! This is going to be a very interesting preseason as my eyes will be focused intently on the o-line play and anything related to their play for sure!

  • alex

    so this equates to 5 virgins, Beachum and Malecki have been to first base, and Whimper has a fake id AND got the door slammed in his face…

    this list, does not a wingman make!

  • joed32

    Beachum will be fine, played well as a rookie and will only improve. They do need to find a gem or two among the UDFAs for depth.

  • Asmitty56

    We have to assume that Wimper was brought in only as a veteran presence to the over all young group, but especially for the rookie back ups. On the bright side we have a lot of young back up linemen that has the skill set for a zone blocking scheme and will cost pennies to retain them long term. If we can get a couple of Ramon Foster’s or Doug Legursky’s out of this group of rookies then I’d consider it a success.

  • Asmitty56

    Some would say their extreme distaste for guys like Maurkice Pouncey and Ike Taylor. It seems like they pick and choose stats that may not apply for some players. Pouncey had absolute sh*t as far as guards go on either side of him for most of his career. He had to double team almost all the time to help the guards. Know he has two solid guards beside him. Ike Taylor doesn’t get INT, but our CBs are not trained to be aggressive to the ball unless it’s a bad throw, that’s how you get burned. But Taylor probably gets thrown at more than most of the #1CBs in the NFL but yet still holds his own against some of the league’s best QBs and WRs.

  • gene mann

    The biggest issue is backup LT and we all agree that Whimper is strictly a RT at best. So that would mean a Rokkie Long or Farrell would have to show something at LT.This is a very serious issue going into camp.

  • gene mann

    The Guard spot should be intresting with Ebernasty,Gloic and Cheadle

  • Christopher Wilkes

    I don’t understand why the Steelers don’t try and bring another veteran Tackle in for training camp competition. It seems like our weakest position on the team in terms of depth.

  • gene mann

    I am sure they realize this but who would you like for them to bring in at this point? I don’t think there are many out there. But you have to figure they be watching the cuts during pre season.

  • George Siegel

    Because they attempt statistical comparison of players who do not have the same job, which cam be misleading at best. You, yourself, have fallen into that trap.

    Quoting you, “Or do you want to dispute the fact that Hood managed 14 pressures on over 450 pass rushes?”

    I would dispute that Hood rushed 450 times. His job is NOT to be a pass rushers. His job is to tie up the end of the Offensive line to allow the linebackers to get to the quarterback. I will agree that he doesn’t collapse the pocket as well as we would like, but the point is that he is being compared to other DEs who do more rushing. Few 3-4 teams use their Defensive linemen the same way, which makes me believe that grading them on the same scale and comparing them to each other is worthless.

    Another comparison I have seen citing their grading system, I don’t recall who wrote it, was comparing pass catching tight ends to blocking tight ends with the primarily receiving tight ends getting the better grading. While I have not used the term, ProFootball Fantasy, I can see where that comes from.

    They don’t take scheme or situation into account. I realize that that would be an impossible task and that PFF does have a place. I guess my problem with PFF is more how the information is used, using their grading as the analysis rather that writers doing their own analysis.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Of course there are schematic anomalies (although I would say that the manner in which the Steelers use their defensive ends are not as unique as one might think), and I said as much. But those are anomalies that shape everybody’s data, not just Pro Football Focus, so to try to pin them down as somehow the most egregious offender is unfair. And how to account for Brett Keisel generating *more* than twice as much pressure in the passing game in each of the last two seasons? He plays in the same system, yet does a significantly better job rushing the passer.

    I’m assuming that you are not a subscriber to the site, and don’t have access to their data, but Matt Spaeth had a negative grade for receiving last season and still had the 7th highest overall rating from them last year. In fact, half of the top 10 tight ends graded out better in blocking than in receiving, and none of them graded negatively in blocking.

    Statistics are just statistics. PFF understands that, and they’ve written dozens and dozens of articles examining the nuances that the data can’t capture, such as the differences between playing zone and man. If you base your perception of the site on the fact that they don’t differentiate between the way the Steelers use their defensive ends and the way other 3-4 teams use their defensive ends, then frankly I think you’re being unfair to yourself. To pick out the greatest anomaly perhaps that you can find and hold it up as the proof that the entire database of statistics that they track is all just nonsense would be unreasonable.

    Maybe your problem is writers using the data as a crutch (although I would argue that most writers should stay far away from analysis, given how little most seem to know), but I would ask that you not hold that against me. Especially considering your comments reflect the first article I’ve ever written using PFF as a reference. I also made it abundantly clear in that article that it was, specifically, about how PFF viewed Hood and Heyward, because it was a comment on their site that germinated the article.

    And you say that they don’t take the situation into account, but they do. There’s a lengthy page on their website that explains the nature of their grades. You can kind of compare their number grades to WAR in baseball statistics; plays in which a player does exactly what was expected, but no more and no less, receive a 0 grade.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Some might say that, but I would hardly say that they have a “distaste” for anybody. Yes, they think that Maurkice Pouncey is overrated, and they do mention that. A lot of people, however, including Steelers fans, think he is overrated. According to PFF, John Sullivan was the best center in the league last year, but he had two of the worst guards in the league next to him.

    Ike Taylor was graded well this year, aside from getting docked for all of those penalties. He did get off to a slow start, so that hurt him a bit in the long run. You are right that Taylor was targeted frequently, however; the seventh most targets per coverage snap in the league. But Keenan Lewis was fourth, and Cortez Allen was first.

  • George Siegel

    As I said, I guess my problem with PFF is more how the information is used, using their grading as the analysis rather that writers doing their own analysis. I am not basing this on the one example I used above, I am
    basing it on years of reading analysis after analysis based on PFF’s statistics. You feel that they take the scheme and situation into account and I don’t, even though they claim that they do. It’s as simple as that.

    Actually to this point, I have liked your articles, although I may not always agree,,,

  • Matthew Marczi

    Actually, I only said they take the situation into account. For example, allowing a 15 yard catch on fourth and 16 is viewed differently than one on first and ten. Hail Marys and tipped picks are viewed differently than normal interceptions. Things like that are taken into account when grading plays, they say. The only manner in which scheme is taken into account is that they separate DEs and OLBs by their scheme in their statistical columns, so Ziggy Hood is compared to Arthur Jones, not Jared Allen, and likewise LaMarr Woodley is compared to Aldon Smith rather than…well, James Harrison in 2013.

    You are right, though, that there is something to be said about the way that PFF has been used by some writers. I take it that you read a wider variety and greater bulk of sports writing than I do, because I personally don’t see PFF come up that frequently, but I certainly won’t question your point. I think that, because PFF is still a relatively new tool, a lot of writers are still adapting to it and trying to figure out how to utilize it properly as a tool, as a means to an end rather than an end itself. I am just beginning to incorporate their data into my own writing myself, and must acknowledge that it is a feeling out process.

    Quite honestly, they are the first people to acknowledge that they’re not 100% accurate. As all of us, they are hindered by the limitations of what the tv shows us, by not knowing for an absolute fact what play was called, by not knowing what hot reads a team is using at a given time, etc. It just gets frustrating at times to see people (in general, not you specifically) try to dismiss the site as a whole for being imperfect, so I apologize if I sounded abrupt. I was actually going to thank you for being more tactful and thorough in your first reply, as not everybody is willing to be that respectful during a disagreement.

    A forewarning, however: I will be utilizing PFF when I feel it is appropriate in future articles. I will do my best to use it wisely, but one should always remember take take all statistics with a grain of salt, not just PFF.

  • Christopher Wilkes

    Anyone better than Guy Whimper, which leaves endless possibilities. How about we start at the top with Eric Winston.

  • George Siegel

    I have to admit that this HAS been on of the more civilized disagreements that I’ve had in awhile. To this point I have liked your writing so keep it up. If you are using PFF stats in your articles, I will have no problem with it if you are using your own analysis, and if you are not I hope you’ll forgive me if I pass them by.

  • gene mann

    I thought Winston was a RT and that not going to solve the backup LT spot and curious whay he still a Fa and he did play for Bicknell at KC. Listen i agree no way am i hoping Whimpewr makes this team.

  • Christopher Wilkes

    R or L makes no difference, although a LT would be the best option. I just want someone other than Whimper. I’m just hoping the coaches are banking on one of the young guys to step up and overtake Whimper. I think Winston is asking way too much right now for what he is and also considering his age.