Alejandro Villanueva, Baltimore Ravens, Ben Roethlisberger, David DeCastro, James Conner, Le'Veon Bell, Marcus Gilbert, Maurkice Pouncey, Mike Munchack, Mike Tomlin, NFL, Ramon Foster
So after repeatedly hearing about how good the Steelers offensive line is I thought I would take a look at them for this week’s amateur adventures in film.
The first thing I’ll start with is talking about the difficulty in looking at this as there is no grouping that stresses the amateur in the series of posts I do on film like the offensive line. You can tell something about how good a player by their balance, and if they get beat but the nuances are something that I’m going to have to research more in the offseason as it just isn’t coming naturally. However, what you can see is that this group is used to working with each other and more than once I spotted defensive linemen being picked up on stunts as they came around the line and I don’t know how the player knew to do it.
So to start with the basics, the Steelers played the majority of the game I watched against the Baltimore Ravens in 11 personnel and from the shotgun formation. Left guard Ramon Foster, a giant of a man amongst large men is obviously the player tasked with checking on when Ben Roethlisberger is ready and giving Maurkice Puncey the nod to snap the ball.
On passing plays the line generally leaves it’s tackles Alejandro Villanueva and Marcus Gilbert to block on their own whilst the guards and centre double team defensive tackles and handles other defenders coming up the middle. That said the Steelers will often keep a tight end or running back in to help block and it was not unusual for them to keep both in to help out. Ben Roethlisberger made his name extending plays and being difficult to bring down and he’s still not exactly an easy sack, but with the receiving options available to him and his experience he gets the ball out pretty quick these days and it took a combination of coverage and a Ravens defender beating a single matchup to get pressure, which happened occasionally but mostly the ball was gone or Roethlisberger would move. The tackles look balanced and as I said in the intro this is a unit that flows well in unison.
The predominant use of the shotgun formation means the Steelers don’t exactly run the ball with power but they are still effective, and you will see the line mostly using David DeCastro and Maurkice Pouncey as pulling lineman to open up holes, although they will pull Foster every now and again but he does not have the athleticism of Pouncey or DeCastro and so he doesn’t find it as easy to get to the second level of the defence.
The offence of the Steelers is clearly playing well with James Conner capably standing in for Le’Veon Bell at running back and if the offensive line only ranks eleventh overall according to football outsiders, it is the first in the league for pass blocking. A lot of credit for this should also go to Mike Munchak who has really solidified this unit since joining the Steelers and now I have run out of things to say about the offensive line. As I say, I will be studying more in the offseason.
I will however leave you with this point, every year the Steelers seem to have some kind of wobble early on but round into being competitive and we have just seen them blow out a good Carolina Panthers team on Monday night football. I’m sure that Mike Tomlin would like to have got to more Super Bowls but I like him as a coach and at 6-2 they stand atop of the AFC North and I’m pretty sure no one is looking forward to playing them. I’m certainly dreading the Bengals’ week seventeen visit. This sounds a lot like the formula that we see the Seahawks and Patriots praised for and so I shall make sure the Steelers get put in the same list as they are doing it again.