Does Mike Tomlin plan to make changes along the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offensive line? No he does not. That was the long and short of it when asked during his Tuesday press conference. Though Tomlin recognized the urgency for the group to get better, he doesn’t plan on changing who that group will be.
“I’m not,” Tomlin told reporters when asked if he’s considering shaking up the Steelers’ front five.
But it’s a group that must play better. Pittsburgh’s offensive line was the X-Factor coming into the season and through two games, it’s a big reason why the offense has been bogged down. A run game that was looking to improve has failed to do so.
In fact, the team is in a much worse place two games into this year than they were two games into last year. Pass protection has predictably taken a step backwards too. Ben Roethlisberger was hounded by the Raiders’ pass rush time and time again Sunday. And there were moments where his offensive line wasn’t even there to pick him up. Literally.
Pet peeve of mine this new/young offensive line needs to learn. If you're going to get your QB absolutely crushed…go help the guy up. Pouncey always did.
— Alex Kozora (@Alex_Kozora) September 20, 2021
Which led Tomlin to state the obvious.
“He took too many hits. We can run the ball better. We can get the ball out of his hand quicker. We can stay on schedule and not get behind the sticks and get in situations where the line to gain is so far that it enhances the rush.”
The Bengals’ pass rush has been effective over its first two games, registering six sacks already. They’re led by DT B.J. Hill with two and a defensive line that’s responsible for all six. Like in most Steelers/Bengals matchups, Cincinnati has a deep defensive line with a heavy rotation to keep players fresh.
“The interior upfront is much improved. When you really look at them, the collection of men and the depth of that talent that they have on the interior upfront. 98, 65, 92, 68. Boy, they run deep with those interior people. They’re big men. They clog up the interior of the defense. They minimize the running game.
“They got quality edge people in Hendrickson and Hubbard. They went out and got Trey from New Orleans. He had 13 sacks in 2020. Hubbard’s been a mainstay for them at end for a number of years since they drafted him out of Ohio State. Can’t say enough about the disruption that I’m seeing from their front.”
Though this O-line has struggled, there aren’t a lot of changes Tomlin could make if he wanted to. The most obvious would be playing Joe Haeg at right tackle. But he’s likely to struggle in pass protection, especially in games where Roethlisberger is required to throw the ball 35-40+ times. Beyond that, until Zach Banner gets back healthy, the starting five will likely remain unchanged, barring injury.