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Devil’s Advocate: Top Of The Line O-Line

You may recall for the past several offseasons that I ran an article series called The Optimist’s/Pessimist’s Take. I used it to explore different issues and topics the Pittsburgh Steelers were facing and took a positive or negative approach, examining each side in a separate article. This is essentially the same idea behind that, only condensed into one article for every topic.

In this version of the idea, I’ll be playing the Devil’s Advocate for both sides of the issue, looking at the best-case and worst-case scenarios in trying to find the range of likely outcomes of what is likely to happen for the Steelers relating to whatever topic the article is covering.

When it comes to the process of trying to construct a championship roster, the reality is that there are a ton of moving parts, and several ways to acquire said parts. There are a lot of things that can go right or wrong in not always predictable ways, so I think it’s helpful to try to look at issues by seeking out the boundaries of the likely positive or negative results.

Topic: Will the Steelers’ offensive line be able to pick up where they left off last season in their quest to be the best group in the NFL?

The Steelers’ offensive line may not have gotten off to the greatest of starts during the 2016 season, but by the end of the year, they were being talked about in discussions as the best line in football. That wasn’t just a matter of better recognition, either, as they legitimately improved significantly as the year developed.

That was no more true, naturally, than for left tackle Alejandro Villanueva, who had less than a season of starting experience heading into last season. He was quite shaky to start the year, but flashed top-tackle potential by the time they exited the playoffs.

Now the question is whether or not they can sustain the momentum that they left off on and continue to improve. Even late in the year there were some periods of inconsistency. They didn’t run as well as they would have liked to against the Patriots, for example, even factoring in Le’Veon Bell’s injury.

There is no reason why is can’t happen, of course. After all, each of them have shown what they are capable of doing. A pair of them have already been named first-team All-Pros at their position in the past.

But it might be a tough sell for a group that has such a history of injuries, Villanueva arguably being the healthiest of the bunch. Injuries have annually been a factor, even last year, and that has to be considered.

So, too, does Ramon Foster’s age. And a potential regression to the mean for Villanueva. David DeCastro did not have his best season last year, and particularly seemed to regress a bit in pass protection. It is by no means a foregone conclusion that they will be as good a line as they were late last season, even if it is realistically attainable.

Which side do you lean closer toward?

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