O-Line Keeps Big Ben Clean Against Bengals’ Front Seven

It would be fair to say that the Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line did not get the 2017 regular season off to the start that they would have liked, but they have gradually improved over the course of the first half of the season, and seem, perhaps, to be rounding into form as we hit the midway point.

Evidence of that is borne by some of yesterday’s numbers, in which the Steelers put up 420 total yards on offense, including over 150 yards on the ground. Their yards per carry figure might be low, but that factors in three quarterback kneels and a fair bit of short-yardage work.

But most impressive is the fact that the line has for the first time this season kept quarterback Ben Roethlisberger standing upright, failing to give up a single sack in yesterday’s game against the Bengals. Cincinnati came into the game having had at least one in every game, and was in the top five in sacks with 18, despite having played one fewer game than those ahead of them on the list.

Considering that the Steelers had Chris Hubbard lineup up against Carlos Dunlap all evening, that is an accomplishment. Dunlap had his reps, to be sure—there was at least one ball on which he was able to hit Roethlisberger’s arm to force an errant pass—but I’m not sure the quarterback was even knocked down more than once all game.

Last season, the Steelers allowed the second-fewest sacks in the NFL, and it would have been the fewest had the line, absent Maurkice Pouncey in the regular season finale with several starters resting, not allowed backup quarterback Landry Jones to be sacked four times. But that just brought their total to a mere 21 for the year.

This season, through seven games, Roethlisberger has been sacked 10 times. That would put the line on pace to giving up 23 sacks on the season, which is still excellent, of course. But if they follow a similar trajectory of growth from a year ago, they should be getting even stingier as time goes on.

Over the course of Roethlisberger’s final six games of the 2016 regular season, the line prevented him from being sacked even once four times, which is astounding. He was only sacked three times during that six-game span, and the Steelers won each of those games.

For comparison’s sake, Roethlisberger was actually sacked 11 times within the first six games of the 2016 regular season, so they are slightly ahead of where they were a year ago. Things are looking up on the whole when it comes to the line’s play.

And that is not even taking into consideration the fact that starting right tackle Marcus Gilbert has only played about two sevenths of the Steelers’ games so far, missing four starts about the equivalent of about another full game over two additional games. He’s started and finished just one. But hopefully he will be a full go after the bye week three weeks from now.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • LucasY59

    Its good, but I expect it from the OL, what impresses me more is the difference in sacks from the D compared to what they did early last yr

  • Darth Blount 47

    If there is any one reason, aside from repeating as Super Bowl champs, that would make Ben want to come back in ’18, and maybe even finish out his contract, it would be these facts. I remember the days when Ben would get absolutely demolished. We’d give up 30, 40, even 50 sacks a year. It was horrendous. No wonder Ben has missed so many games. And has contemplated early retirement. The guy used to get PUMMELED. In years 2006 to 2014, his yearly sack totals were 46, 47, 46, 50, 32, 40, 30, 42, 33. YEESH.

    Thank God we invested so heavily in the O-Line. And say what you will about Haley, but he has helped to drop that total by having Ben play a more quick and thoughtful game. Having Bell has helped tremendously as well, taking some of the added pressures off.

  • 7 games in and the OLBs have registers a collective of 11 sacks. If Dave Byran put up the goal of at least 20 from that group, we are more than half way there with 9 games left. The defense as a hole has 24, there are on pace to have 54/55 sacks on the year. Impressive improvement from a year ago.

  • JT

    I saw a stat that because of their 2nd 10 sack game yesterday, the Jags are actually on pace to best the 84 Bears sack record. The Colts game alone might get the OLBs to 20 sacks!

  • JT

    Because this is really Patriots Depot not Steelers Depot, let’s take a lot at how Tommy Boy has been fairing. Since missing almost all of 2008 his sack totals are 16, 25, 32, 27, 40, 21, 38, 15*, and 18 in 7 games this season. That low water mark of 15 was only in 12 games. That puts him on pace for a career high of 41. I wouldn’t mind seeing that number continue to trend upwards and continue to make him feel each on of those 40 years.

  • Darth Blount 47

    Oh, man, he got absolutely leveled last night. Slammed! But alas, he just gets up, dusts off, throws a TD, and goes to the sideline and drinks another Kale/Avocado smoothie.

  • The Tony

    Dupree just missed on a sack that Alulalu finished too. I though Bud shoul have been credited a half sack

  • Mr. Goodkat

    I thought Bud should have finished that sack.

  • nutty32

    Hubbard letting Dunlap get under his pads and push him into the hole on that 4 & 1 Watson run & the arm tap were about the only 2 bad things he did all game. Villy has played worse than Hubbard this year, albeit LT is harder.