By Matthew Marczi
Anybody who watched the Pittsburgh Steelers offense earlier this week will attest to the inefficacy and inefficiency displayed along the offensive line, as well as the tight ends. Even the running backs and wide receivers had a rough day in their off the ball assignments.
Obviously, the offensive line was struck a big blow very early in the game when the Steelers failed to execute a chop block on the nose tackle. The result of the play was right guard David DeCastro coming down upon center Maurkice Pouncey’s right knee.
Pouncey tore his ACL and MCL on the play and was subsequently placed on season-ending injured reserve. But for the sake of the offensive line, they must hope that the lingering effects of that injury were at their worst immediately following the unfortunate incident, because the line cannot continue to play as it did in the season opener.
But just how much was the offensive line impacted this past Sunday by Pouncey’s injury during the game, both physically and mentally? Realistically, it is difficult, if not impossible, to quantify the answer to such a question, but if body language and performance is any indication, it is fair to say that it was on the players’ minds.
DeCastro, in particular, was affected by the injury, of course, as it was the result of his attempted cut block that ultimately resulted in the injury occurring in the first place, and he was visibly upset with himself and holding and pulling down his helmet on his head while Pouncey was being attended to.
There was such a small body of work from which to compare the line’s performance before the injury and after it, because it occurred so early in the game. It was clear afterward, however, that they were not performing up to task, which former Steelers offensive lineman Craig Wolfley pointed out during Steelers Live earlier in the week, saying that he felt that DeCastro in particular took a while to get back into the rhythm of the game.
With reports surfacing that Fernando Velasco will start at center, the hope is that the line will be able to settle into its new normal beginning on Monday night. The good thing is that the offensive line was already highly inexperienced in terms of playing with one another, so one last moving part should not be that damaging from a chemistry perspective.
Velasco is the new anchor of the offensive line, and even if he has a bit of a learning curve to work with, there are reports that Ramon Foster will assist in the line calls, and one would think that he should be able to be fully up to speed following the Bye at worst.
Kelvin Beachum, all things considered, turned in an admirable performance in the circumstances, having not received any reps at center during that week of practice according to Todd Haley and only having limited in-game exposure at the position in the final preseason game. It is clear that he is not a natural center, however, and Tunch Ilkin, another former Steeler, believes that having a natural center in there is the way to go as well.
With Beachum returning to the tight end position this week—presumably—that position should benefit as well as it continues to nurse back to health its injured members. The Pouncey injury was a shock to the system, and it clearly affected the way the team played earlier this week, but there must be no carryover into Week Two in order for the Steelers to be successful either on the ground or through the air.