It may be too much to say that the Pittsburgh Steelers’ season lives or dies based upon the play of their offensive line, but…they’re certainly not going to live if the line plays poorly. And so far, they’ve come precariously close to playing at that level in several games, some of which have resulted in losses.
That’s not wholly unexpected. After all, their line is substantially different from last season, with two starters parting due to retirement and salary cap issue (David DeCastro’s release being prompted by the need to find another starter due to his injury). They’ve been relying on two rookies, a second-year guy, a veteran free agent on the downslope, and a right tackle who was supposed to play left tackle.
On top of that, the Steelers got a new offensive line coach and a new offensive coordinator. With the extreme amount of change, one would expect there to be substantial growing pains. There have been, indisputably. But there have been hints of light at the end of the tunnel. And Sunday’s game against the Cleveland Browns will be a big test for them.
“I think so. They should”, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said of his line when asked if they view this upcoming game against Myles Garrett, Jadeveon Clowney, and the rest of the Browns’ front as a sort of measuring stick. “They should understand what’s coming. I understand what’s coming. It’s a good challenge for them and they should be excited for it”.
Of course, the majority of the line is new to the rivalry, particularly their two rookie starters, center Kendrick Green and left tackle Dan Moore Jr. Both of them have faced an uphill battle in adapting to the NFL level of talent. The Browns won’t provide them with a respite.
As for the relationship that Roethlisberger has with his new center, after spending the past 11 years with Maurkice Pouncey, he said, “we’re getting there”, noting that their lockers are next to each other (rookie tight end Pat Freiermuth has the other locker next to Ben—Pouncey and McDonald to Green and Freiermuth). “I saw his new tattoo on his arm today, talked about it”, he said.
One thing that should be said of Green is that he has done pretty well simply snapping the ball so far. That’s notable for multiple reasons, but especially because of the fact that he only started four games at center during his college career, primarily playing guard.
Now that the new linemen know that you’re supposed to go scrape your quarterback off the dirt when you get him knocked down, things are looking up for this group, but the question is, how high is the ceiling? And how quickly can they get there?