By Matthew Marczi
According to Pro Football Focus, the Pittsburgh Steelers boast an offensive line that is—just barely—in the top half of the league. The site ranks their offensive line 15th league-wide with an overall grade of -0.5, which is the first negative grade on the list, with number 14 have a score of 1.4.
No doubt this ranking will have many fans of the team scratching their heads, as I did mine, upon learning of it. Admittedly, however, I do not have a solid basis of comparison, as I will be the first one to admit that I do not spend much time breaking down film of other teams’ offensive lines. The word of Pro Football Focus is not gospel, of course, but it does provide an interesting perspective.
The site ranks the team’s run blocking overall as 10th in the league at a score of 0.3. That particular grade, however, includes the overall run blocking grades of everybody on the team, and tight end Heath Miller’s impressive 3.1 grade skews the number significantly. The scores of others somewhat balance it out.
David DeCastro boasts the highest credentials among linemen for his run blocking with a score of 3.4. The only other lineman with a positive run blocking grade for the season is Marcus Gilbert—with a score of 0.2.
On the other hand, the site ranks the Steelers 21st in pass protection, which is no surprise given the number of sacks and pressures they have forfeited through four games already. Their overall score is -7.3, which, considering Mike Adams’ woeful -10.2 grade, is actually somewhat of an achievement.
The man that could be replacing him for now—Kelvin Beachum—has a pass blocking score of -0.4 in 86 snaps, but of course those snaps came from every position but right guard. Perhaps a consistent position will serve him better.
Ramon Foster has fared the best thus far in pass protection with a grade of 2.8. In 146 pass protection snaps, he has given up one sack, one hit, and just three hurries.
The Steelers also get a boost for staying clean on the penalty sheet. As a team, they command an overall grade of 10.5 on offense, which ranks fourth in the league. Just three penalties have been called on the offensive line through four games so far in 2013, which is a significant change from years past. The only other penalty was on Antonio Brown, who took his frustration out after an interception.
Does any of this mean anything? It is hard for me to tell. Perhaps the Steelers have a better offensive line, relative to the rest of the league, than fans are willing to admit to themselves, but the reality is that it is still not good enough to allow the team to do what it needs to do to win games. DeCastro and Gilbert are improving, while Fernando Velasco and Foster have been consistently average. Could it really be as simple as shoring up the left tackle position? And can Beachum be that guy?