In his press conference after practice today (via Steelers.com), Head Coach Mike Tomlin talked about what he liked and didn’t like out of the offensive line during Saturday’s preseason opener against the Seattle Seahawks.
“I thought we played with good energy. I think we’re still growing from a cohesion perspective. I thought we gave up too many hits on the quarterback, and some of it’s cohesion, some of it is guys physically getting beat,” Tomlin said.
“Our goal is to keep our quarterbacks as clean as possible, and we could have done a better job even for a first time out. And that’s acknowledging how we practice out here isn’t necessarily how you practice in-game in terms of the pocket. There’s certain professionalism that you do in practice settings, we encourage defenders and rushers to stay away from the quarterback and specifically his arm action.”
Pittsburgh’s offensive line could’ve been a lot better on Saturday. While all three quarterbacks played well and the run game looked good, they still surrendered three sacks and a few too many pressures. Seattle also had four tackles for a loss. Kendrick Green and James Daniels, two potential starters, really struggled. Some guys looked good, like Joe Haeg and Chaz Green, but in general, the offensive line needs to improve for Pittsburgh to have a shot at making the playoffs this year.
The cohesion aspect has been talked about a lot, and with a lot of turnover on the line, it’s not unexpected that the group hasn’t fully gelled. Especially considering there’s a new offensive line coach in Pat Meyer who is teaching techniques that are different from what Adrian Klemm taught last year, it might take a bit for the offensive line to get on the same page. Still, it’s the last week of training camp, and while Tomlin acknowledged that training camp can be less physical as there isn’t a live pocket and rushers can’t hit the quarterback, guys should still be blocking as if they can.
There’s only one week left of camp and two preseason games left for the offensive line to get used to a live pocket before the regular season starts, so we’re at the point where the cohesion needs to start showing. While the defense is going to carry the team this year, there’s only so far that unit can take them. The offensive line has to keep the quarterback upright and allow him to make plays and open lanes for Najee Harris and the rest of the backfield so the offense can sustain drives and put points on the board.
The first three weeks of Pittsburgh’s season will help define their season. 2-1 is a reasonable expectation, and to get there, the line is going to have to play well, or at least markedly better than they did last season. With a little under a month to get ready for the season, let’s hope we start seeing some improvement soon.