Perhaps the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offensive line has not been as ‘flashy’, so to speak, as they may have been at certain times over the course of the past couple of seasons. There may not have been as many attention-grabbing signature blocks to accompany long gains on the ground, or on screens, which is where linemen receive the bulk of their attention.
But they have still been well above average this year, and that has been especially true of the interior offensive line. Pro Football Focus recognized that recently when they included both of the Steelers’ starting guards in their list of the top 25 offensive linemen in the NFL right now.
In spite of the fact that fifth-year right guard David DeCastro has accumulated a perplexing number of penalties this year—which unquestionably does factor in to any reasonable evaluation—he has still put together a very impressive season, an assessment that is in agreement with PFF’s list, which ranks him as the 20th-best lineman in the league.
In fact, in spite of the fact that he was named a first-team All-Pro in 2015, the list entry suggests that “DeCastro is having the best season of his career, and may be close to realizing his potential as one of the league’s better guards, rather than merely a good one”.
Of DeCastro, the fifth guard on the list, the entry continues to say that “he has surrendered three sacks and 17 total QB pressures this season, but his run blocking for the team has been very good, and one of the big reasons the Steelers have been able to have such success on the ground”.
Also included on the list is eighth-year veteran guard Ramon Foster. Foster is easily the lineman who most easily flies under the radar, which often results in him being undervalued by the casual observer, but the truth is that he has been their most stable and consistent lineman for years now.
“Foster has earned good grades in both run blocking and pass protection”, reads the list entry, “and has yet to allow a sack on Steelers QBs this season. He has also (unusually) not been flagged once for a penalty, and has played more games than any other guard with that distinction by three clear games”.
That last bit in Foster’s entry makes me wonder how heavily DeCastro’s penalties have weighed down his grading. While, as I wrote earlier, it is certainly an important, in fact, essential element of the evaluation process of a lineman—perhaps more than any other position—it would also be nice to gauge what they think about his performance outside of the penalties.
The Steelers have a couple of other good linemen on their roster as well, of course, and that holds true regardless of whether or not some list makes recognition of that fact. They have even had some strong performances turned in by reserves this year. There is no doubt that the offensive line’s play this year has been integral to the offensive success they have found in 2016.