As it turns out, the offensive line is a pretty fundamental element of offensive success. Apparently, from what I’ve been reading, the offensive line blocks defensive players, which allows running backs to run the ball without getting tackled right away, and gives quarterbacks time to throw to receivers without getting hit immediately.
I don’t know if others have caught on to it, but I think if the Pittsburgh Steelers can improve their offensive line this year, that can do a lot to improve their chances of winning. Chris Simms of Pro Football Talk is on the same page with me. In fact, he sees them being similar to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers if they can get that one issue settled.
If they can get this line together and become somewhat of a force, it’s unbelievable how many parallels there are, really, to the Buccaneers. There really is. Top-notch defense, guys in the front seven that are mean, nasty, and fly all over the field. Weapons galore at wide receiver. Hard to match up with all the guys they’ve got. If they can just get that o-line power run game aspect of their team in line to where teams are now like, ‘Whoa, we’ve got to bring a safety down. We can’t play nickel. We’ve got to be in a base defense and stop the run game. Oh no, now we’re one-on-one with Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool because we’re worried about stopping the run game.’ If they can get teams to start playing football that way against them, they’re gonna be a beast.
Longtime center Maurkice Pouncey has retired since last season. Alejandro Villanueva at left tackle and Matt Feiler at left guard both left in free agency. Pittsburgh has to replace the entire left side of the line. Kevin Dotson is expected to step in at left guard. Chukwuma Okorafor projects at left tackle.
The Steelers did draft two offensive linemen whom they expect to compete for starting jobs. Third-round center Kendrick Green has the easier path, challenging B.J. Finney and J.C. Hassenauer. Dan Moore Jr., a fourth-round pick out of Texas A&M, will be in the mix for either tackle spot, with Zach Banner viewed as the rightside blocker.
They have done more than switch out some starters, though. Pittsburgh changed offensive coordinators, dumping Randy Fichtner and promoting Matt Canada, who Pittsburgh brought in last year as quarterbacks coach. They also dumped offensive line coach Shaun Sarrett and promoted his assistant, Adrian Klemm, who has promised a more physical unit.
The question is, what will all of these tweaks ultimately amount to? Will the offensive line be good enough? Most people seem to be highly skeptical, particularly as it concerns the tackle position. Frankly, that’s understandable.