This article will be a surprise to a grand total of absolutely no one but the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offensive line is continuing to undergo a major transformation. For so many years in the middle of last decade, Pittsburgh’s front five was a unicorn. An excellent, stable group. They drafted well, developed better, and retained top talent. Names like Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, and Marcus Gilbert were premium draft picks while Alejandro Villanueva and Ramon Foster became diamonds in the rough.
But that era is over.
And this chart shows it. From 2018 to this year’s projected starting five, here are the Week One lineups.
Here are the year-by-year changes from the previous season. So 2018 reflects the number of changes in starting lineup from the 2017 season.
For 2021, that’s not even counting Banner as a change since he did start Week One last season. But he went down with a torn ACL at the end of the season opener so his inclusion to the starting lineup is really pretty new. The only constant now is DeCastro at right guard and even he may be gone after this season. 2021 is the final year on his contract.
Of course, I know what the retort to all this is. Good. The Steelers need some change. And that’s true. The offensive line, though they pass protected well, didn’t play well enough last season. The group was getting older. That’s a big reason for the change. Foster and Pouncey retired while Villanueva – presumably – is being let go in part due to his older age. The line simply wasn’t physical enough last year and they felt and looked tired by season’s end.
So this post isn’t meant to critque or praise as much as it is to illustrate what’s obvious. The 2021 Pittsburgh Steelers sure look different than a few seasons ago. A reminder of how much change this team is undergoing, a trend that will only continue moving forward. That’s life, that’s football, but the Steelers have almost exited the Ben Roethlisberger era even with Roethlisberger still on the team. For one more year, anyway.