The journey toward the Super Bowl is now well under way with the Pittsburgh Steelers back practicing at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, still informally referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility. With the regular season standing in their way on the path to a Lombardi, there will be questions for them to answer along the way.
We have asked and answered a lot of questions during the preseason and through training camp, but much of the answer-seeking ends in the regular season, and teams simply have to make do with what they have available to them. Still, there will always be questions for us.
You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the regular season and beyond as they develop, looking for the answers as we evaluate the makeup of the Steelers on their way back to the Super Bowl, after reaching the AFC Championship game last season for the first time in more than half a decade.
Question: Will the offensive line take a step forward against the Chiefs?
There are a number of issues to choose from when attempting to decipher the failings of the Steelers’ offense through three games, which has yet to put together anything resembling a complete game for 60 minutes, the nucleus of everything an offense does begins with the offensive line.
Last season, they had a top three offensive line by the time they headed into the postseason, such was their improvement over the course of the year, but they have done anything but pick up where they left off, even taking into consideration the loss of Marcus Gilbert for the past three games.
While the pass protection from the line has overall been solid—there have been a couple of sacks attributable to the backs and tight ends—there have been notable lapses. Alejandro Villanueva has not gotten off to a good start, while David DeCastro had a rough game on Sunday. Gilbert returning to the lineup should help a little.
But the bigger issues have been in the running game, where issues of nearly every variety have been present in contributing to the Steelers’ inability to run the ball effectively. One main example of this has been the struggles to run successfully on first downs, putting the offense consistently behind the chains.
These are not chronic, consistent problems. Rather, it is specifically inconsistency that is the issue, with one player blowing one assignment on any given play all too frequently. Whether it is a pulling lineman missing his block, or another failing to reach his block on the second level, or not holding his block at the line of scrimmage, all of them have been frequent enough to create the stats we see today.