It should be another strong season for the big five up front and the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offensive line is getting the credit they deserve. Unveiling their list of all 32 starting offensive lines in football, Pro Football Focus ranked the Steelers in third place.
Author Mike Renner wrote the following about the line.
“If you’re projecting purely off the final nine games from a season ago, the Steelers would be the No. 1 line in the league. Alejandro Villanueva came on extremely strong over that period, but his poor play from 2015 drags them down a bit. Over that final nine-game stretch, he allowed just 12 pressures. If that level of play continues, Ben Roethlisberger will be a happy man.”
Renner is basically correct across the board though the knock on Alejandro Villanueva is odd, to say the least. There’s no reason to expect he’ll regress to his 2015 play, essentially a rookie getting thrown into the fire mid-way through the season. If anything, he’ll be even better than last year and at worst, about the same.
The organization has worked hard to correct its woeful offensive lines of yesterday, making the offense more effective, efficient, and extending Ben Roethlisberger’s career. He was sacked a career low 17 times last season and just 20 the year prior. Compare that to 2009, throwing three fewer passes than last year, and being sacked a league-high 50 times.
Depth, though not included in the ranking, is also a strong suit of the line. Chris Hubbard can play all five spots, some better than others, while B.J. Finney looks to be the heir to Ramon Foster’s throne. Internally, the team seems very high on Jerald Hawkins, who enjoyed a strong training camp last season before going down with a shoulder injury. Brian Mihalik is back as Villanueva-lite and Ethan Cooper was easily the best UDFA the team nabbed.
Ranked ahead of the Steelers are the Philadelphia Eagles and the Cleveland Browns, who revamped their line in the offseason. We’ll have to see how the Browns’ line does in action, not just on paper, but it does look promising. I’d still take the Steelers over them. They don’t have a glaring unknown at tackle like the Browns.
It’s no surprise the Seattle Seahawks came in dead last. The Cincinnati Bengals, who were gutted up front, finished 31st while the Baltimore Ravens didn’t fare a lot better, finishing in 23rd place. They lost right tackle Ricky Wagner to free agency.