Steelers News

Villanueva: ‘We Are Built To Pass-Protect’

The Pittsburgh Steelers are one of the very best pass-blocking offensive teams in the entire NFL. That hasn’t changed this year with the loss of Mike Munchak, who had been their offensive line coach for the previous five seasons, his assistant, Shaun Sarrett, taking over the job that he’d essentially already been sharing.

And Steelers fans would typically prefer to focus on the lack of success in the ground game, instead. But as left tackle Alejandro Villanueva pointed out while speaking to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “we are built to pass-protect”.

I believe only the New Orleans Saints have given up one fewer sack than have the Steelers over the course of the past three seasons, but Pittsburgh has had more pass attempts as well, particularly in 2018, when Ben Roethlisberger led the league in that category, as well as yards, and posted a career-high in touchdown passes.

But for as much as they’ve grown since an ugly 2013 in learning how to protect Roethlisberger, the reality is that they haven’t spent much time protecting him this year, because he hasn’t been on the field.

Roethlisberger exited the Steelers’ Week Two game at halftime and never returned to the field. Subsequent tests revealed a season-ending elbow injury that landed him on the Reserve/Injured List. Since then, they have started two more quarterbacks, and on Monday night will be making their fourth total change.

First, it went from Roethlisberger to Mason Rudolph, of course. After Rudolph suffered a concussion in Week Five, he missed the next game, started by Devlin Hodges. And now that Rudolph is back, he will return to the lineup.

Did I mention that both of them were seeing the first playing time of their careers at this point? Whatever success they’ve been able to have should largely be credited with the line’s ability to keep them clean and give them time to throw. Their approach doesn’t change, however, regardless of who is under center.

“It doesn’t at all”, David DeCastro said. “We’ve never looked back. It’s the same as with the running backs, when you’re blocking for different guys; it doesn’t change us at all up front. We take pride in it regardless”.

And you can be sure that the quarterbacks appreciate it. Munchak probably appreciates it, too, given the struggles that he has had working with the Denver Broncos’ offensive line, which is largely bereft of top-flight talent.

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