When it came to the performance of the offensive line for the Pittsburgh Steelers on Saturday against the Baltimore Ravens, the bad plays weren’t hard to miss, because there were a number of them to choose from.
In reality, none of the starting offensive linemen had would could be described as a good game, either in pass protection or in run support. While the pass protection was especially bad—that tends to happen when you give up five sacks—the running game wasn’t even used enough to be effective, in large part because the Ravens’ front seven played it so well.
Right tackle Marcus Gilbert missed most of the home stretch of the regular season with a knee injury that he suffered in practice, and perhaps he never fully quite healed from that, but he was just one of many Steelers linemen whom the Ravens’ front seven made look bad in the Wildcard round loss. It’s worth noting that perhaps his three worst games of the year all game against the Ravens.
Although it wasn’t always a complete disaster. In fact, Gilbert may have been the only lineman to find some success in the running game, overall. Early in the first quarter, Gilbert helped seal off Haloti Ngata on a second and two run off the right end, with Ramon Foster pulling, allowing Ben Tate to find an alley for a gain of eight, until he fumbled the ball.
Two plays later, however, it was partially his inability to anchor working against Courtney Upshaw in pass protection that forced Ben Roethlisberger to flush out to his left and overthrow his target. While he did finally anchor late, Upshaw would have knocked Gilbert back into Roethlisberger if the quarterback didn’t scramble as he was pushed backward doing the bunny hop.
Of course, with the Steelers facing a third and 11 late in the first quarter just outside of the red zone, Roethlisberger never had a chance to complete a throw against a four-man rush in large part thanks to Gilbert.
On this play, the right tackle worked one on one against Elvis Dumervil coming off the right edge. Gilbert tried to set wide to prevent an outside rush, but Dumervil got inside his pads and dipped underneath, and the fourth-year veteran spun down to the ground trying to recover as the pass rusher secured the sack for a loss of six yards.
Late in the third quarter, the Steelers were looking up at a scoreboard that said 20-9, and knew that they had to get moving. Roethlisberger failed to convert on third and one approaching midfield, so this conversion attempt was desperate.
On fourth and one, the Steelers gave the ball to fullback Will Johnson, who ran it up the right side of the line for three yards. Perhaps he got a bit of a break with the Ravens playing sparsely used end Lawrence Guy on the play, but Gilbert got great push against him and plunged forward to help pave the way for the first down.