Below are my offensive linemen grades and breakdown of the Pittsburgh Steelers starting ounit from the preseason game Saturday night against the New York Giants. The All-22 look is not available until the regular season begins and that will make grading the offensive line and every other position much easier at that point.
Mike Adams – Adams certainly wasn\’t as good in the run blocking department on the left side as was last year that five game stretch on the right side, but it was good enough against the Giants, especially on the backside of runs. This was a trait of his in college as well. He moves well laterally and was good with his hand placement overall, but not dominating. On runs to his side, he only had one real powerful block on the outside zone play that went for minus yards when David Paulson failed with his block and Jonathan Dwyer didn\’t cut to the thin lane. Pass blocking wise, I thought Adams represented himself well. He used his arms and hands well and only once did I see him have a noticeable loss of balance moving to his left. I gave him one deep pressure allowed on the sack that Foster gave up, but that might have been a little harsh. Overall I thought he had a good showing against the Giants backup defensive ends. I\’d like to see him get more aggressive with his run blocking, however, even when the run is away from his side.
Ramon Foster – Within the first eight plays, Foster had three demerits and it included a sack allowed when he set too far outside on Cullen Jenkins, who clubbed him to the side. Foster pulled well to the right on one play and hit his target. Foster\’s biggest problem has always been that he will come off the ball too high on inside zone and power runs, but he gets by with his hand placement and mauling ability. He never has been a real technician when it comes to run blocks on either the backside or frontside of plays, as he is more of a lunchbox guard. I have become accustomed to his style over the years. Outside of the sack, and after the first eight plays, Foster looked like his usual self and he didn\’t have any demerits from that point forward.
Maurkice Pouncey – Pouncey wasn\’t his normal self Saturday night and he didn\’t seem to move as fluidly as he did last year off the ball. He wasn\’t dominating at all on the run plays as Linval Joseph and Shaun Rogers gave him a few good battles and he couldn\’t control or turn them. As far as pass blocking, he was skated back by Johnathan Hankins but that was his only pass blocking demerit. On screen plays, Pouncey still gets down the field fine, he just didn\’t look as athletic on inside runs. I could help but think he might have been sick, but like always, I might be overanalyzing. It wasn\’t one of his best showings, however.
David DeCastro – Outside of the first offensive play of the game, DeCastro looked like a first round guard. He always chops his feet and the knee injury is certainly well behind him now. He pretty much owned Joseph all night on move plays as he is becoming a technician with his hands. Imagine if Joe Thomas played right guard. As long as he keeps his head up off the ball he will be fine in the run blocking department. Pass protection wise, DeCastro would have been perfect except for looked like a miscommunication with Malecki when he came in to replace Pouncey at center. The all-22 view will not be available until the regular season and this is one play I wish I could see from behind the line. On the batted down pass early in the game, DeCastro was at the second level attempting to chop in the open field. It is good to have him back healthy and he looked good. Real good.
Marcus Gilbert – Gilbert allowed two pressures in pass protection and flagged once for holding on an early run play. His run blocking was much better than I expected considering all of the bad reports that have come out of training camp. He is not the most agile tackle, but is quick and decisive off the snap. He works well with DeCastro on angle blocks to the inside and showed some power on inside zone runs. Gilbert kicks out well out of stance but will allow himself to be susceptible to inside moves. He usually recovers unless beat cleanly, which never happened Saturday night, but it usually results in a deep drop into the pocket and thus a pressure. He never gave up on the pressures allowed and generally stayed glued to the defender. His hand placement was inconsistent and he still struggles occasionally getting his hands and feet to work in unison. Adams has been known to have that same problem last year, but I didn\’t notice it from him in this game. Gilbert stayed well balanced, but reacts a tick slow to great moves. Overall, I thought his play against the Giants was good.
John Malecki – Malecki only played 12 snaps with the starters and outside of the aforementioned miscommunication with DeCastro that led to a pressure, I thought he played well during those snaps and better than I expected. The only run demerit came when I felt he slipped off a block too soon on an outside run to the right. He switched well in pass protection and looked comfortable making his calls. You can clearly see why the team decided to let Doug Legursky walk during the offseason.
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