After a rather frustrating — and at times embarrassing — performance in Week 8 on the road against the Philadelphia Eagles in a 35-13 loss that saw rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett bruised and battered throughout, the Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line took advantage of the much-needed bye week and seemingly got some things corrected entering Week 10.
Though Pickett was sacked six times, hit seven and pressured 25 times, the Steelers’ offensive line had its best overall performance of the season in the 20-10 win over the New Orleans Saints, rushing for 217 yards, cracking the 200-yard mark for the first time since the 2016 season.
While the number of sacks, hits and pressures are relatively high, all five Steelers starting offensive linemen graded at 74.9 overall or higher from Pro Football Focus in the pass blocking category. Just three of the sacks on Pickett and 14 of the 25 hurries were charged to the offensive line.
That performance from a pass blocking and running game perspective led to the Steelers’ offensive line improving two spots in the latest positional rankings from Pro Football Focus’ Sam Monson Wednesday morning. The Steelers moved up from No. 26 overall during the bye week to No. 24 overall coming off of the win over the Saints.
“All five starters against the Saints recorded PFF pass-blocking grades of at least 74.9, performing well across 45 pass-blocking snaps,” Monson writes regarding the Steelers’ offensive line from a pass-blocking standpoint. “As an offense, the Steelers are generating just 1.1 yards before contact on average in the run game, 25th in the league.”
While Sunday’s performance was a step in the right direction for the Steelers’ offensive line that continues to gel, the yards before contact average is a bit concerning in the run game still, as it means running backs Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren are still being forced to create consistently on their own at the line of scrimmage. That said, it makes Sunday’s performance on the ground all the more remarkable.
Looking to build off of the win over the Saints, the Steelers now turn their attention to AFC North football and the visiting Cincinnati Bengals in Week 11 at Acrisure Stadium.
That matchup will be no easy task once again as the Bengals can roll out Trey Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard off the edge, and could see the return of standout defensive tackle D.J. Reader in the Week 11 matchup after he’s been out since Week 4 with a knee injury.
“Trey Hendrickson will test Dan Moore Jr. at left tackle,” Monson writes ahead of the Week 11 matchup. “The Bengals are also close to getting D.J. Reader back on the interior — their highest-graded defender from the three games he played before injury.”
The last time these two teams matched up came in Week 1, a 23-20 Steelers win in overtime. While the Steelers’ defense got after Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow in a big way, sacking him five times and forcing five turnovers, the rebuilt Steelers offensive line played well in its first true test together, keeping then-QB Mitch Trubisky clean on 43 pass block reps, allowing just three hurries and six total pressures with no sacks.
Now that they’ve had time to gel throughout the season, it’s realistic to expect an even better performance in Week 11 against the AFC North rival.