After multiple weeks of obvious improvement in the trenches and trending in the right direction, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offensive line really struggled against a tough Chicago Bears’ front seven on Monday night at Heinz Field, drawing the ire of head coach Mike Tomlin the morning after the 29-27 win.
Speaking to reporters during his usual Tomlin Tuesday availability, Tomlin addressed the poor play up front after the Steelers struggled to successfully run the football and protect quarterback Ben Roethlisberger on the night, allowing four sacks, five quarterback hits, and multiple pressures in primetime.
Roquan Smith with a potential game-saving sack after a COSTLY fumble on the kickoff 💥
— The Game Day NFL (@TheGameDayNFL) November 9, 2021
“Some things that captured our attention, that that needs to be improved is we took a step back, I thought, just in terms of controlling the line of scrimmage on the offense. I thought we didn’t do that,” Tomlin said to reporters Tuesday, according to video via Steelers.com. “That was a step back relative to recent weeks, but you got to give the Bears credit and guys like [Akiem] Hicks and [Eddie] Goldman and [Roquan] Smith, the linebacker, really played well. I thought they were disruptive. I thought they won the one-on-one battles. I thought they wreaked havoc. We still very much have young guys working in that space.
“So, I’m not shocked sometimes when I look at tape and I see incremental steps backwards as we move forward, but largely I think the trajectory of our group has been one that’s positive. But, we’re not being realistic or true to ourselves if we didn’t acknowledge that that was a step back last night. And so the most important thing is, how do we use utilize it as a catalyst for growth individually and collectively? We got to watch the tape; we’re going to learn from it. Then we got to plot a course to minimize the possibility of that happening moving forward, so we got a lot of work to do in that area on the short week, excited about doing it.”
The key coming out of the rough showing is to simply learn from it and grow, just like Tomlin said.
Rookie center Kendrick Green started the game quickly on the ground for the Steelers, throwing a key block to spring rookie running back Najee Harris for a 10-yard rushing touchdown on the first drive of the game. After that though, the rookie really struggled in the trenches, failing to get any sort of push up front, especially in short-yardage situations as Goldman dominated the young center.
Rookie left tackle Dan Moore Jr. also had a really rough night, failing to get into his pass sets quickly and properly, consistently losing the edge against veteran pass rusher Robert Quinn, while guards Kevin Dotson and Trai Turner struggled to get much push in the run game, as well. Turner also had a bad miss on Smith’s sack of Roethlisberger in the second half, failing to see the blitzing linebacker until it was too late, whiffing on the block and getting his quarterback crushed in the pocket.
With such a young group, you’re going to have to work through the ebbs and flows of the game and the season, as the group is experiencing growing pains week by week. That’s part of the developmental process, so it’s good to hear Tomlin address it, but also stay even-keeled and state that steps back are expected.
How they rebound from it in Week 10 against the Detroit Lions will say a lot about this group overall.