Steelers Offensive Weapon Jammed Up By O-Line

By Jeremy Hritz

Nearly a week after the debacle in Pittsburgh against Tennessee, the loss still stings and the uncertainty surrounding the 2013 Steelers is muddier than ever. When the fourth quarter ended last Sunday, an 8-8 season seemed delusional, as if that mark was far beyond the reach of the talent of the Steelers. What seemed more realistic was a record south of 8-8. If the Steelers could not move the ball against one of the worst defenses in the NFL, how could they expect to gain yards against much better teams moving forward? And now, with Cincinnati and their stout defense on the horizon on Monday Night, the concerns are great not just for the ability of the offense to move the ball, but also to keep Ben Roethlisberger’s healthy.

Ryan Clark said earlier in the week that the Super Bowl is not won in week one, and he is correct. However, the Steelers cannot follow up a poor performance with exercises in justifications and rationalizations, they must follow up the game against the Titans with a display of life on offense. Even if their contest against the Bengals results in defeat, the Steelers must show that they are going to be a competitive bunch and not the lethargic and helpless offensive blob that they were against the Titans.

And is there any true way to rationalize or to explain the Steelers offensive performance except for simply not being a quality unit?

Did the injury of Maurkice Pouncey impact the offense psychologically? After the celebrated center went down, the morale of the team, and their execution, diminished. However, Pouncey’s injury occurred in the first quarter, and the Steelers play was just as bad in the second half as it was in the first.

Was the heat too much and did it fatigue the players too quickly? Very unlikely since Mike Tomlin put an emphasis on conditioning this offseason, and since the Titans, who had to play in the same weather, seemed to manage just fine.

Or was it the play calling of Todd Haley that led to the ineptitude of the offense and the inability to score points? Maybe the play-calling could have adjusted to the injuries that occurred in the game, but ultimately, it is the players’ responsibility to perform.

Could the ugly and unavoidable truth be that the Steelers are in decline and that the remainder of the 2013 season will be reminiscent of the opening-day thumping from the Titans?

Over the past several drafts, the Steelers have made a focused effort to draft linemen to protect their franchise quarterback, and in doing so with their high picks, they passed over potential explosive offensive weapons. And while their reasons for doing so was justified because they had to protect Ben Roethlisberger and save him from the beating that he took game after game, those first and second-rounders are not meeting the “standard,” and the result is an offense without any firework threats and with what appears to be a tremendously porous offensive line. The Steelers best offensive weapon is Roethlisberger, but when he cannot fire off a steady, accurate shot on two feet, the result is short-lived drives, sacks, and turnovers.

The defense should be fine, but the success of this team will depend on the play of an offensive line, that like many other recently drafted players on the team, have not lived up to expectations. If this continues to be the case this season, the outcome is no secret. And unfortunately, based on the evidence so far, there is no reason to believe anything will change.

Monday Night will be very telling for what’s ahead for this year’s Pittsburgh Steelers.

  • Anthony Renzelli

    I think the question right now isn’t if Ben gets seriously injuried this year, it’s when?

  • pittsburghjoe

    I just hope Velasco does not own a “Free Hernandez” hat too.

  • greeny

    Employing the ZBS with this group is suicide for our QB

  • Christopher Wilkes

    It’s all a bunch of talk. I don’t know for sure, but I heard they used it once last game.

  • RW

    ZBS is not a pass pro scheme, it’s a running scheme.

  • Christopher Wilkes

    As much as I like Jones as our 1st rd pick this year, I thought it was imperative we take offensive picks with our top 3 picks, at least. Although we did take 2 out of 3, I would have loved to see them grab a WR, TE, or OL with that 1st pick. We have a borderline Hall of Fame QB, and every year he gets shit on by a team that always puts the defense first and has seemingly made a huge mistake by investing in the current O-lineman. Just think about Ben’s weapons for a second. Only one high pick, currently on the team, is an offensive weapon for Ben, and Heath is a bit long in the tooth. If there’s any wonder why we struggle on offense all you have to do is look back at the lack of high picks used on offensive weapons the last 5 years, as well as the O-line not meeting expectations.

  • Rob H

    I’ve always been an optimist, and I’ll never apologize for it, there is no doubt that we need to come out with some tenacity, and at least play a good, reasonably close game against the Bengals, and with Johnson back, Velasco at center, and Beachum back in his TE/6th OL spot, that’s not an unreasonable expectation. If you can follow that with eeking out a win at home vs. the bears, and beat the Vikings in London, all of a sudden your at 2-2 going into the bye week, with Bell and Miller coming back. But…If they come out and lay another stink bomb against the Bengals, even I won’t be able to see any hope for this season.

  • SteelersDepot

    Three times.

  • bgsteelfan

    I know Hritz has been all about adding big name WRs and such in the draft, but lets be honest. This team doesn’t lack weapons. Brown, Sanders, Miller, Cotchery, and to an unproven extent Paulson and Wheaton. These are all guys that can make plays. Ben is a top flight QB. Even the much maligned RB corps is good enough to move the ball. There are teams out there with worse running games and better offenses. Some of the blame on the offense is misplaced, particularly by Colbert. It ALL starts with the offensive line, and they frankly, are not performing nearly to their draft level. But what is Colbert going to say, that the 2 1sts and 2 2nds we’ve spent on the line isn’t yet playing up to expectation? Far easier to place the blame elsewhere.

    Now, that is not saying anyone is blameless, and Dwyer and Redman could do a lot more to help, as could the other guys, but it all starts up front.

  • bgsteelfan

    I also wouldn’t put our conditioning up against many other teams. Given the way they have looked on the field and the number of conditioning injuries we have seen lately, I don’t have a ton of faith in our strength and conditioning coaches.

    Yes, a lot of that also is on the players for their offseason programs at this point in the year as well, but they’ve have enough time now that they should be in football shape either way.

  • steelmvl

    I agree with the conditioning coach, we seem to run out of gas, and seem to get a ton of injuries each year. All teams get injuries, but we seem to get more than other teams. It may be time to get another strength and conditioning coach.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    The offense is not on the decline as it is a very young group however they may not be that good but I feel that they just need some time together to get their mojo right. I feel we do have a playoff caliber team but it will take a few bumps here and there before we get things ironed out.

  • sean mcmartin

    Great point of the the Steelers having missed on high round picks..
    I think it’s time for the Steelers to admit they made some poor choices .
    The chargers found some O-line players off the couch before they played the Steelers . It can be done.

  • Mike Carroll

    The development of the OLine this year is definitely the biggest key to this team’s success. But, I think that Le’Veon Bell is still a big unknown that could greatly impact the offense if he is the type of back they think they drafted. I’m sorry, but the other RBs on the roster are not starter quality. That’s exactly why Bell was brought in. I sure hope Colbert (and Haley) got this one right.

    Ryan Clark is definitely right. You cannot win the Super Bowl in September, just as you can’t win a game in the first quarter. I actually think Tomlin and company are returning to that type of philosophy after starting to get away from it a couple years back. And I think we’ll see the OLine get better as the year goes on. They had better with all the picks they spent on it.

  • charles

    The Oline stunk. It was their very FIRST game together and the biggest problem may have ben solved by DeCastro.

  • Nolrog

    Great points in this article. They passed up skill positions for the line (both OL and DL, 4 first round picks, 2 second rounds) and neither is an exceptional unit (in fact, the OL looks to be just as bad as ever, if not worse.) Given the investment in the OL, we should really have one of the best OLs in football. Other teams are able to rebuild their lines without spending high pick after high pick but the Steelers cannot manage to do that, and have sacrificed a lot (by not picking skill guys) for a line that still just plain sucks.

  • Nolrog

    I thought Eifert would have been the perfect choice for us. He would have given us someone to cover for Heath while he’s out, then a great two TE set and then Heath’s replacement. However, I cannot in anyway fault the Jones choice. The defense is lacking playmakers as well, and Jones looks like the real deal (although, it does show that Worids is without a doubt, a bust.)The biggest failure of the draft was not picking an OL in the middle rounds. Instead, they went Landry Jones, which still puzzles me. Especially since they let so many of their back ups go, they were woefully unprepared. Just a terrible job by Colbert here.

  • Nolrog

    I think you over estimate the play making ability of some of those guys. Heath is really the only one, and he’s out for now. Brown and Sanders are nice receivers but they don’t have bit play ability (something they lost with Wallace). And of course, the RBs really bring nothing to the table at all.I do agree, though, that if the OL was playing better, the offense would be far more productive, and the fact that we spent so many high picks and the line is still terrible is an abject failure of Colbert.

  • Nolrog

    Zone Blocking Scheme?

  • Nolrog

    Pouncey was their biggest problem? Yeah, let’s take out the three time all-pro center; that will fix things.

  • charles

    If you are right, then it will be a long season. If you are wrong, then the Steelers will be in the playoffs.

  • HopalongCassidy

    The O-line stinks. It stunk last year and the Steelers did nothing to improve it. There are no rocket scientists running the Steelers.

  • bgsteelfan

    Brown was the first WR to have 1,000+ yards in receiving an return yards. Both he and Sanders are far better with the ball in their hands than Wallace will ever be. Wallace never made people miss, Wallace isn’t a playmaker, he’s a burner that only runs fast. Don’t confuse the offense’s struggles with lack of playmaking ability. The ability is there.

    The RBs are nothing special, no, but there is again enough talent there to put together an effective offense. We’ve seen it happen around the league time and time again.

  • Christopher Wilkes

    I understand, and if you can’t fault the Jones pick then maybe you have to fault the Worilds pick.

  • Stacey

    Maybe they thought ZBS stood for “Zero Blocking Scheme” in which case they executed that scheme flawlessly.

  • Callentown

    My main comment is not that the draft picks are not playing up to their expectations. Of course they are not. Although, they should be given a full year to start before being judged a failure in my opinion.

    My beef is the scheme. The Ravens won the SB last year using the Steelers blue print: Strong D and a physical run game.

    If we didn’t like the way Arians was running the ball, why switch to Zone Blocking?

    Think about it, with the NFL moving to a much more pass-centric approach, how valuable is it to be able to run the ball and take time off of the clock and keep those offenses on their bench.

    Now we have a bunch of guys who are supposed to be the kind of blockers who can run that (ZB) scheme. What happens next year when we move in a new direction, again?