We should learn more today about what might be in store for the week, but as we head into today’s press conference with Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, I find myself wondering about the current state of the team’s offensive line. Not about how they’re playing, but who they’re playing.
By the end of Sunday’s game, the team had two backups in the starting lineup. Right tackle Marcus Gilbert did not play at all, ruled out in advance of the game, with Chris Hubbard making the fourth start of his career in his place.
During the first half on Sunday, additionally, Ramon Foster suffered thumb injury while attempting to recover a fumble after the Steelers gave up a sack. That knocked him out for the rest of the game, which left the team to roll with B.J. Finney, who started two games there at left guard last year, and another at center, to close things out.
While they certainly have not been bad this year by any means, the Steelers’ offensive line was already not living up to its potential. After they finished out the 2016 season, including the playoff run, as one of the best units in football, the hope was that they would pick up where they left off.
For the most part, they haven’t been too far from that when it comes to delivering in pass protection for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, but the run-blocking has left something to be desired, to be sure.
It seemed however that it would merely be a matter of time as they work in unison and get into midseason form before the unit would once again establish itself as a true strength of the team, but that is going to be complicated if health has to be a factor.
Gilbert suffered a hamstring injury during last week’s game in the second half, and that left him unable to practice this past week, resulting in him being ruled out on Friday. We should hear from Tomlin about whether or not they expect him to be able to practice in the early portions of the week.
We should also get an update from him about Foster’s thumb injury and how that might affect his ability to practice and play.
The Steelers demonstrated last season that they could still keep on clicking even if they had to plug in and play a backup lineman. In fact, a couple of their best games offensively came last season when they had a backup in the lineup.
If they have to play with two backups along the offensive line on Sunday in Baltimore against their defense, which, even after an embarrassing showing in London is still a fearsome unit, especially if Brandon Williams is back, then they are going to find themselves with some trouble.