By Matthew Marczi
Many fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers were chagrined when the team brought in Guy Whimper for depth along the offensive line, and not without reason. He has given up a lot of sacks in his career, and had been ranked as among the worst starting offensive linemen when he was asked to be a starter. He struggled in a backup role here in the first two preseason games as well.
However, he actually did a reasonable job in the third preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs, playing most of the second half at right guard.
He looked awful moving to the inside the game prior against the Washington Redskins, giving up a sack on his very first play. That set a pretty low bar from which to compare, but nonetheless, Whimper looked serviceable as an interior reserve option and game day inactive.
Still, he was brought in to provide depth at the offensive tackle position, so why is he playing so much on the inside? Have they given up on the idea of him being an outside player? If so, it does not appear that he stands much chance to make the roster, because both John Malecki and Kelvin Beachum, the two linemen who stand to be the game day active reserves, are capable of playing all three interior positions.
Otherwise, he is battling Joe Long as an inactive reserve at tackle, although his work on the inside may still give him an edge in the minds of the coaching staff. Without further ado, it is worth taking a look at Whimper’s performance in his last showing as we head into the final preseason game.
Whimper and the rest of the second-team offensive line—Beachum, Chris Hubbard, Malecki, Whimper, and Long from left to right, despite being listed in the exact opposite order on the official depth chart—entered the game with 6:29 remaining in the third quarter, after the first-team offensive line ran with Bruce Gradkowski in the first two drives of the second half.
On the first play, the Steelers were hoping to run a wide receiver screen with Derek Moye, but he dropped the pass. Credit Whimper for making the effort block down the field on a linebacker before he realized the play was dead. On second down, another screen pass to Baron Batch seemed like it had nowhere to go, but Batch made the first man miss. Unfortunately, the second man—the one Whimper was supposed to block—made the stop after a short gain.
A roughing the passer penalty gave them a fresh set of downs nonetheless, but again, Whimper failed to maintain a block on a linebacker that ultimately made the primary tackle on the next play. They may not have gotten much further than the four yards gained on the play, but Whimper needs to be able impede a pursuer more than that on a running play.
On second down, Whimper did little more on another handoff, but at least his man did not make the tackle. Finally on a traditional drop back in pass protection, Whimper and Malecki worked a strong double-team on a completed pass to Justin Brown, although a penalty on Beachum brought the play back. He and Malecki worked the same beat on third and 15, allowing Gradkowski to find tight end Michael Palmer for a 25-yard gain.
After that, Whimper started to look better as a run blocker. On the ensuing play, he blocked defensive tackle Anthony Toribio and allowed Batch to cut back inside for a six-yard gain. On second and four, he threw a chip block to help out Malecki before moving downfield to pick up safety Tysyn Hartman, whom he pushed to the ground, although Batch was brought down in front of his block a yard shy of the first down.
On the very next play, however, Gradkowski found Markus Wheaton for a 34-yard touchdown, with Whimper once again doing his job in pass protection, so everything worked out. Whimper continued this similar acceptable level of play throughout the remainder of the fourth quarter without too many plays to highlight specifically.
On one sack of Gradkowski at the end of the third quarter, Whimper gave up quite a bit of room in pass protection, but he was sacked by two other players, and Whimper generally was in control, with Malecki coming over to help. The next few plays were fairly quick passes with not much for him to do, and thus not much on which to comment. He did a solid job in pass protection to finish the drive as well, and did a nice job of turning the lineman out of the hole on the last running play.
On the Steelers’ final drive, Allen Bailey was able to get some push as a pass rusher on Whimper, but it was nothing egregious that would force Gradkowski to rush his throws the way he appeared to do on the final drive, although he was under pressure from Frank Zombo on the second down pass.
Overall, Guy Whimper had easily his best of three preseason games against the Chiefs, and, for me at least, it makes the idea of him as an eighth lineman somewhat more palatable if the Steelers ultimately go that direction. A few of his blocking attempts in the running game were poor, and he gave up some ground in pass protection when not working a double-team, but he did not give up a single hurry in the game. It is yet to be determined whether he, or Long, or Hubbard, or an outside free agent pickup, will be the eighth lineman, but it was a positive sign to see some improvement from Whimper in this last game.