There is no one single thing that defined the Pittsburgh Steelers’ season more than the simple fact that they have had three different players start multiple games at the quarterback position. And only two of those games were started by the man who was supposed to be under center, 16-year veteran Ben Roethlisberger.
Second-year quarterback Mason Rudolph, drafted with visions of being Roethlisberger’s successor in mind, started eight of the next nine games, but the rest have been manned by Devlin Hodges, a rookie out of Samford, who will make his fifth start on Sunday against the New York Jets.
That’s not easy on anybody, that it may be especially difficult for the offensive linemen. While quarterbacks and their receivers obviously have to have a rapport to properly complete the throw-to-catch transition, the linemen have to have a feel for their quarterback to know how best to protect him, which is the nucleus of any offense.
Five-time Pro Bowl right guard David DeCastro talked about that a bit recently during a sitdown interview with Missi Matthews featured on the team’s website. Both he and Maurkice Pouncey made it to the Pro Bowl this year, which is notable in no small part due to the turnover at literally every other offensive position outside of the line—even fullback.
“It’s just the little things that people don’t understand”, DeCastro said of making the adjustment to playing with different quarterbacks. “When you have a guy like Ben, you’ve been around him and comfortable, little things like the cadence, the little intricacies and just knowing where he’s gonna be in the pocket, little stuff like that. But I think the guys have done a good job, doing the best they can, and we’ve made it work”.
Another part of the equation this year has been the transition at the coaching level. Mike Munchak departed after five seasons in Pittsburgh only to have his assistant, Shaun Sarrett, taking over. While that in-house promotion provided some continuity, it’s still another variable to which the group has had to adjust.
Truth be told, this hasn’t been the offensive line’s best season in recent years, but there has been so much working against them toward that end that it could hardly be deemed surprising. Nevermind the three different quarterbacks, they have also had three different running backs start games and feature as the primary runner.
Even at wide receiver, ignoring the reality of the major change that is Antonio Brown not being here, JuJu Smith-Schuster has missed a month. Donte Moncrief was supposed to be a starter. Almost nothing has gone according to plan. The line has been the closest thing to a point of stability the offense has had all season.