He may be a party of one but Mike Tomlin still believes in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offensive line. Despite their poor performance, something Tomlin readily admitted to post-game, he believes this group can turn things around.
“Not reflected in today’s performance,” Tomlin said Sunday when asked if he remained hopeful about the front five. “But if you’re asking me my level of optimism, I believe in these guys.”
Nothing that occurred at Heinz Field Sunday afternoon is reason for that optimism though. The run game was again lackluster, finishing the day averaging 3.0 YPC (Najee Harris averaged 2.9). Ben Roethlisberger was sacked four times for the first time since Week One of the 2018 season while he was hit seven more times. Every member of the starting offensive line – Dan Moore, Kevin Dotson, Kendrick Green, Trai Turner, and Chukwuma Okorafor – were penalized today. Those were drive killers, especially early on.
Two of the linemen didn’t finish things out, Green and Okorafor suffering second-half injuries that led to their exit. About the only thing this group did well today was helping their quarterback up after he was hit, something that happened far too often against the Bengals’ pass rush.
The front five was far from the only issue Sunday. Ben Roethlisberger played poorly, the receivers got hurt, and the defense wasn’t its typical, pressure-filled self, dealing with multiple injuries up front. Roethlisberger attempted to defend the o-line in post-game comments.
“I wasn’t disappointed with the way the line played today,” he told reporters. “When we drop back as many times as we do against that defensive line and that group, I thought they did a good job. And I just told them that. I just told them that I appreciate their efforts.”
He went on to say the sacks he took were “coverage sacks” that aren’t on the offensive line.
But the offensive line has been a common, disappointing thread through the first games of the season. And if Pittsburgh wants any hopes of their fortune changing, it’ll need its o-line to start playing a lot better. That starts with next Sunday’s matchup against the Green Bay Packers, a pass rush trying to find their footing without OLB Za’Darius Smith.
Until this o-line proves it, at least for one game, it’ll be downright impossible to share Tomlin’s optimism or Roethlisberger’s assessment.