Is there a better offensive line in the NFL than the Pittsburgh Steelers’ starting five? According to this CBS ranking, no, no there is not.
Author Sean Wagner-McGough unveiled his list of the top ten starting fives in football and the Steelers came in at the very top. Here’s part of what he wrote in giving them football’s top mark.
“The Steelers are Marcus Gilbert, who was , will be returning. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the Steelers lost respected offensive line coach Mike Munchak to the Broncos. Still, from a talent standpoint, the Steelers are loaded. “Everyone except right tackle
Continuity along the line is one of its biggest strengths. Alejandro Villanueva, Ramon Foster, Maurkice Pouncey, and David DeCastro have been starting as a unit since Villanueva replaced Kelvin Beachum mid-way through the 2015 season. In the NFL world, with free agency, managing the cap, and identifying talent, that’s an eternity.
The only difference in 2019, as he points out, is a shift at right tackle but even that’s a minor one. The line had gotten pretty used to Marcus Gilbert not playing over the last two years. Gilbert made only 12 combined starts over 2017 and 2018 before the Steelers dumped him for a 6th round pick earlier in the offseason. Replacing him will be either Matt Feiler, who started ten games a year ago and played well, or Chukwuma Okorafor, their 3rd round pick in 2018 who offers plenty of upside.
CBS’ chief issue seems to revolve around the loss of Mike Munchak. Wagner-McGough concludes by writing:
“The biggest concern is Munchak’s absence, but the Steelers are talented enough to overcome his departure.”
And it’s a fair point for obvious reasons. Munchak is one of, maybe the top position coaches in football and losing him to Denver hurts. No getting around that. But the Steelers have the best backup plan possible, immediately offering Shaun Sarrett the job. And I mean immediately. Sarrett sat in the room when Munchak told Mike Tomlin he was leaving and on the spot, Tomlin offered it to Sarrett.
Sarrett has been in the organization longer than Munchak and would’ve become the OL coach had Munch not been fired by Tennessee and available for hire. Pittsburgh also crucially added an assistant line coach, bringing in Adrian Klemm. That will help maximize reps during practice and take some of the load off Sarrett.
There’s every reason to believe the Steelers will again have a top front five to protect Ben Roethlisberger, their franchise, as they look to make a serious playoff push.