By Matthew Marczi
There is really little question that the Steelers’ offensive line has found its stride in pass protection over the course of the last few weeks, although that also goes hand in hand with the incorporation of more no-huddle and quick-release passes.
That naturally makes it easier on the line to pass protect, allowing them to play aggressively rather than reactively, but it certainly does not render the task effortless. The line has improved game by game over the last three weeks, and should be commended for it.
But are we set to see all of that development derailed once again due to injury?
Over the course of the Ravens game, the Steelers lost not only left tackle Kelvin Beachum, but also center Fernando Velasco, and eventually Mike Adams as well, who replaced Beachum at left tackle. Head coach Mike Tomlin also stated after the game that right guard David DeCastro injured his foot during the game.
By the time the Steelers attempted their would-be game-tying two-point conversion, they trotted out the following offensive line, from left to right: Guy Whimper, Ramon Foster, Cody Wallace, DeCastro, and Marcus Gilbert.
Do you think that might have impacted their decision as to what play to run?
It is still unclear as to what extent some of these injuries might be, although the extra few days off should help these linemen heal up. Velasco appears to be the worst for wear, as he was reportedly fixed with a walking boot after the game, which could indicate that he might be out a week despite the fact that he was petitioning to stay in the game following the play on which he was injured.
Also of concern is Beachum, because knee injuries can always be tricky. After he was injured, he tried to give it another go, but was forced to come back out.
Since taking over the left tackle position, Beachum has certainly come a long way as the blind-side protector. While his run blocking still leaves a lot to be desired (a not uncommon problem among left tackles), he has become much more consistent over the past two months.
He has also generally been playing penalty-free, having been flagged for just one infraction since he had three called upon him during his first start in Week Six against the Jets.
Needless to say, this offensive line looks a lot different without Beachum and Velasco. Believe it or not, but Velasco has logged the most snaps among linemen for the Steelers this year despite not even being on the roster to begin the season.
Should the line be without a member or two or be limited due to injury in the next game, it could be a big setback not just for the unit, but for the team as a whole.