The Pittsburgh Steelers are out of Latrobe and back at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, also referred to as the South Side Facility. We are already into the regular season, where everything is magnified and, you know, actually counts. The team is working through the highs and lows and dramas that go through a typical Steelers season.
How are the rookies performing? What about the players that the team signed in free agency? Who is missing time with injuries, and when are they going to be back? What are the coaches saying about what they are going to do this season that might be different from how it was a year ago?
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.
Question: Is the offensive line ready to get into a groove?
Outside of continuity, there is nothing more important for an offensive line than health. The Steelers are unparalleled in their continuity along the offensive line over the past several years, but keeping them all on the field at the same time has been a tougher task.
Even this season. Ramon Foster missed the preseason with an injury, then David DeCastro broke his hand in the season opener. Marcus Gilbert was sidelined with a hamstring injury. Sunday’s game was the first of the year in which everybody played and nobody was injured during the game.
Excepting a minor scrape to the nose and a poke in the eye suffered by Maurkice Pouncey, that is, but that was of no significance.
And it looked like an offensive line hitting on all cylinders for the first time this season. It was the most complete performance of the season yet. Consider this: the offensive line didn’t give up a sack during the game, and Ben Roethlisberger was only hit a few times. They blocked for James Conner on a 110-yard day at an efficient 5.2-yard average.
And, well, they nearly played penalty-free. Pouncey did have a holding call in the middle of the fourth quarter. It negated an eight-yard run, but the offense would go on to convert on third down before punting a few plays later.
The Steelers have among the most talented offensive lines in the league, and for the first time this season, they played like it for 60 minutes. They have had a tendency to pick up steam and carry that along for the ride over the past few years. Will that trend continue in 2018, starting now?