Even while being off in Week 9 due to the bye week, the Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line continues to plummet down the position rankings from Pro Football Focus.
Entering the Week 9 bye, the Steelers sat at No. 23 overall in the offensive line rankings. Coming out of the bye week and preparing for a tough New Orleans Saints front seven, the Steelers’ offensive line now sits at No. 26 overall, according to Sam Monson at PFF, falling behind the likes of the Cincinnati Bengals, Arizona Cardinals, and Saints.
After playing relatively well early in the season, at least compared to expectations entering the season, things have started to fall apart a bit for the unit up front in recent weeks, especially while going against tougher fronts like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Miami Dolphins and Philadelphia Eagles.
Stability has been a key for the Steelers up front, as all five starters have played almost every single snap this season, but stability doesn’t make for good play overall, especially in the run game, where the Steelers are severely lacking at the moment.
“All five starters for the Steelers have played almost every single snap this season, giving them one of the most stable units in the league,” Monson writes regarding the Steelers’ ranking at No. 26 overall. “But, the Steelers average just 1.1 yards before contact as a unit, 24th in the league. The Saints’ defensive front has been playing more like its talent level in recent weeks, improving as both a pass-rushing force and against the run.”
Averaging just 1.1 yards before contact puts the Steelers in the bottom half of the league, which could explain some of the issues running the football in recent weeks. Granted, some of those issues in the run game could be attributed to Najee Harris’ running style as of late compared to rookie Jaylen Warren, but the fact of the matter is the offensive line hasn’t been good enough in the run game, in terms of creating lanes and moving people off of spots.
It won’t get any easier in Week 10 against the Saints, led by defensive Cameron Jordan and linebacker Demario Davis.
Right guard James Daniels has been the best of the starting five this season and is seemingly getting better and better as the season progresses, but outside of the free agent signing the rest of the offensive line appears to be regressing some. While Mason Cole has been praised for his leadership and ability to communicate, he’s still dealing with a foot injury and isn’t playing up to his standard, while tackles Dan Moore Jr. and Chukwuma Okorafor have regressed hard in pass protection in recent weeks, though Moore has shown improvements overall with hand usage.
Left guard Kevin Dotson put together a great performance against the Dolphins, but took a step back against the Eagles and can’t seem to stay out of his own way when it comes to penalties.
The offensive line, which has allowed double-digit pressures in two straight games, has to get back to playing good football once again if the Steelers want to defeat the Saints and get the second half started on a high note.