This may not come to you as a surprise, but the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offensive line is being highly regarded this season. After all, they have sent three starting offensive linemen to the Pro Bowl for the second year in a row. That is why offensive line coach Mike Munchak is a hot commodity right now in the head coaching circuit, and may soon land in Denver.
While Ramon Foster continues to be overlooked, his three starting teammates that remained healthy for the majority of the season have all wound up in the Pro Bowl. Leading the pack would be center Maurkice Pouncey, and joining him are right guard David DeCastro and left tackle Alejandro Villanueva.
For Pouncey, it was his seventh Pro Bowl nod in nine seasons, the only exceptions being the years in which he was injured. He was also named an All-Pro for the fifth time, albeit on the second team, the first time since 2014 he made that list.
DeCastro just completed his seventh season in the NFL and has been named to the Pro Bowl for the fourth consecutive year in what is looking like another annual tradition. Surprisingly, he was passed up for the All-Pro list this year in favor of, among others, Joel Bitonio and rookie Quenton Nelson.
Then there is Alejandro Villanueva, who had the best season of his career at age 30. In his fourth season, he earned his second Pro Bowl nod in as many years. A late bloomer and latecomer to the tackle position, he even received an All-Pro vote, though did not make the team.
Even Pro Football Focus has recognized the Steelers’ group as the top in the league, putting them in the number one spot in their year-end rankings list of all 32 offensive lines around the league. If memory serves, I believe they placed around the top five last season.
“The blame game has run rampant around Pittsburgh after a disappointing season ended”, the article reads. “Don’t point fingers anywhere near the offensive line though, as they were dominant down the stretch this season. Their lowest-ranked starter was still only the 61st ranked offensive lineman. That type of cohesion was unmatched around the NFL”.
Given that there are 32 teams, and five starting linemen on each of them, it’s quite impressive that the Steelers’ worst-ranked lineman would only be low as 61st among all positions, meaning that their worst starter is regarded as better than the majority of most team’s starters.
The line could be in for a shakeup this offseason, however, with Foster scheduled to be a free agent, Marcus Gilbert’s status in question due to injuries, and Munchak quite possibly leaving for a head coaching position. Do they have the talent and expertise to continue this high level of play?