The Pittsburgh Steelers’ offensive line has been just about the most stable unit in the league for the better part of a decade. I don’t think they had more than one lineup change from season to season since 2013 or so, at least until this year, marking multiple changes.
That was at least in part due to necessity. Longtime guard Ramon Foster, who has been a fixture in the starting lineup on the left side since 2013, retired in the offseason. In order to take over his spot, the team ended up moving right tackle Matt Feiler over to left guard and moved a new player into the right tackle spot.
Given these changes, and the fact that they came in a shortened offseason that featured no preseason games, it’s hard to offer much in the way of complaints about the way that they have performed so far this year—especially when you consider that two of the players who were meant to be in the starting lineup at the beginning of the season have missed two games each.
Right guard David DeCastro, arguably their best offensive lineman, missed the first two games of the season due to a knee injury, but returned in week three. Zach Banner started the opener at right tackle, but suffered a season-ending torn ACL by the end of the game, thrusting Chukwuma Okorafor into the starting lineup.
All things considered, not to mention having three different starters at right guard (from Stefen Wisniewski in the opener to rookie Kevin Dotson in week two), it’s awfully commendable that they managed to rank in the top 10 in Pro Football Focus’ first offensive line rankings of the season. They came in at nine (though that’s third in the division), with Sam Monson writing the following about the unit:
Stability had been the strength of Pittsburgh’s offensive line for years, and that has been tested a little lately, causing a notable difference in the overall play of the unit. While the left side of the line has played every snap so far, the right side has been more disorderly, with backups pressed into action at both guard and tackle at various points.
The lowest-graded players on the line have been those backups, so there is pretty good reason to expect this unit to jump in the rankings as the season wears on if it can get more consistent play out of that side and get healthy starters back — particularly David DeCastro, who debuted this past week against Houston.
Of course, they’re not getting anybody back at right tackle. Banner may never even play another down in Pittsburgh unless he re-signs here as an unrestricted free agent in March. But at least Monson is right to note that there is legitimate reason to believe that they can climb up the ranks as the season progresses and this particular iteration of the line gels. It’s not easy to create consistency when you start a different set of five every week.