The Pittsburgh Steelers had Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback this season for 17 games when you include the postseason. The offensive line only allowed him to be sacked 19 times in those games. That used to be the number of times he would be sacked during the team’s home-and-away series with the Ravens.
Roethlisberger deserves partial credit for the stark contrast in the number of sacks that he has recently. He does get the ball out quicker and is more willing to resort to a check-down rather than attempting to extend a hopeless play in a non-essential situation.
But it should be taken as a given that the vast bulk of the credit would rightfully go to his blockers up front along the offensive line, who may well have turned in the best collective performance from the group in the history of the franchise.
I realize that I have touched on this topic a number of times recently. I managed to sing the offensive line’s praises on a number of occasions in the week leading up to the Patriots game. But they also deserve credit for their performance up in Foxboro considering that Roethlisberger did not take a sack in that game.
In fact, he only took two sacks throughout the playoffs, which lasted for three games for the Steelers. Pittsburgh managed to sack even Tom Brady twice during the AFC Championship game by way of comparison. They have been far more successful sacking opposing quarterbacks recently than opponents have been sacking Roethlisberger.
I will admit that the Patriots did surprisingly well against the Steelers’ line in terms of defending the run. Better than I expected them to be able to do. An awfully large caveat to that concession would be the fact that Le’Veon Bell aggravated a groin injury in the first quarter and was virtually a non-factor in the game after he had been the prime mover of the offense for the past two months.
But they did a more than commendable job when it came to protecting Roethlisberger not just against the Steelers, but against the entire playoff field. Really, they did some of the best work that any offensive line group accomplished during the season during their second-half run.
That is a fantastic building block to even greater success next year. The fact that the left tackle position still has some meat on the bone in terms of growing is simply the cherry on top, and there is every reason to believe that this unit can continue to plow ahead in 2017, picking up where they left off at the end of the season.