Stubborn Steelers stand pat on the offensive line

Earlier this week, former Steelers great (and Detroit native, if you didn’t know) Jerome Bettis criticized his old team for not upgrading its offensive line during the offseason.

Though it’s still a bit confusing as to why Bettis called out the coaching staff and not the front office for signing new blood, we agree with the broader point — the Steelers collectively failed to address the biggest weakness on the team.

ESPN’s Michael Smith reported earlier today that right tackle Willie Colon thinks improved communication and technique will help today against the Bears at Soldier Field.  But, still, while this unit can do a decent job of pass protection (thanks in large part to quarterback Ben Roethsliberger’s ability to escape a collapsing pocket and throw on the move), the run blocking is bad.

So why won’t the Steelers explore an upgrade?  Regardless of the inactivity during the offseason, veterans Jon Runyan and Damoin McIntosh are available.  Why not at least bring them in for a tire-kicking?

Our guess is that the Steelers are simply being stubborn, possibly to the point of arrogance.

Sure, they won a Super Bowl with the same rag-tag pair of tackles.  But once Starks whiffs on a defender or gets blown up into the backfield and Roethlisberger suffers a real, non-exaggerated injury, the Steelers will have a hard time getting back to the playoffs with Charlie Batch or Dennis Dixon.

30 responses to “Stubborn Steelers stand pat on the offensive line

  1. Wow, stubborn?? There is a reason those guys (Runyan, McIntosh) are out of a job. They are poo poo now. Steelers would rather go with younger guys with more upside. Didn’t know that was being stubborn.

  2. Well We all know the O line needs to gel..However in their defense on run blocking you cant run into a crowd n expect to get anything out of it.. Willie isnt that style of runner.. He should be busting outside,n hit his speed…I thought Moore has been running well behind that same line..And Mendenhall will catch his stride too.We have all gotten spoiled over the years having a Bettis in the backfield plowin people over n draggin them 10yrds downfield..That jus shows you how special he really was.
    But i believe in our coaching staff…they know whats goin on.. They heard this same stuff last year.. and we won the lombardi… 🙂 LOL and yes i said WE… I ran every yard in that game with them..LOL
    I do agree tho Ben cant keep takin the hits thats for sure.

  3. One of the issues with any OL is unit cohesion that can only come with playing time with the same personel.
    Last year, the Steelers didn’t have the same OL line up for more than 2 weeks at a time until week 12-13 due to injuries.
    Once that line up was set, they gelled and got better, and we know the rest of the story.
    Once again they have a different line up from their last game (SB). Hopefully injuries will not be a problem this year and this current unit can play more than just a few weeks together and gel and get better.

  4. As Crash Davis told Meat in Bull Durham, you never f### with a winning streak. Baltimore “upgraded” from Dilfer to Elvis Grbac at qb after their SB in 2001, and what did that get them? They won 11 straight games including the SB, and they dump their qb? Something was working.
    I don’t see why reaching into the nursing home and paying mega-millions for old timers like Runyan would upgrade anything. More likely he would play one or two games, then sit out the rest of the year with injury.
    The thing to understand is that Mike Tomlin has clearly ascended to become one of the best coaches in football, and if he thinks he can get more out of this O-line, he has earned a little bit of faith.

  5. While not elite, the O-line is not nearly as bad as advertised. Last year was their first year working together, and this year they will only get better. (They team beat Tennessee in the opener, didn’t they?)
    Couple of points:
    1) Big Ben is more than partially responsible for many of the sacks. He holds onto the ball forever (which often enables him to make a big play, but which sometimes results in a huge sack).
    2) They need to seriously upgrade at running back:
    – Fast Wille Parker (FWP) is no longer so fast, and his wheels have just about fallen off the rim.
    – Mendelhall is a FRB (first round bust). The Steelers should have taken Ray Rice instead last year, or this year taken local Pitt product McCoy (they will live to regret not taking him).
    – Their playing surface, the weather, and the beefy O-line is designed for a power running, North-South type style. For someone like Bettis.
    Prancers and dancers just won’t cut it.

  6. Oh dear god. I think Colon sucks probably more than anyone. (I actually saw his mom and family at Heinz field last week vs. the Titans. I assumed they were his family because they were wearing authentic Colon jerseys. I then turn to my dad and say, “even if he was my family, I wouldn’t wear his jersey because he’s…just awful.”) Anyway, my point it I would take Colon ANY DAY over John Runyan.

  7. Just to throw a thought in here. The Steelers played the Titans last week. This is essentially the same Titans team which injured the Jags line in the first game of the year last year. The same Titans team which starts hard and fast. Not every team is going to be like that. There are probably only a handful of teams that have that kind of defensive pressure and gap fillage. And the Steelers won right? (Damn Steelers!)
    It’s a little too early to say whether or not their o-line is going to be a big a problem as people are making it out to be. It’s a long year. As long as they have a qb in Ben who can hold on to the ball for Jim Kelly-esq durations of time, who is that hard to take down, who can move around well enough on his own as well, they’re going to have the ability to spread the ball and in turn get their running game going. Add to that the culture of responsibility the Steelers have and the pride they play with, it shouldn’t surprise anyone if their line improves. The only thing they really need to worry about is making sure Ben doesn’t get injured. The point is it’s too early to tell.

  8. well said Gatorsteeler36
    Ben even admits he is responsible for a lot of the sacks, I think they need to bring redman up from the practice squad and just see what he can do. he is a thumper. I agree with another poster on here The O-line improved in the last weeks of last season and got better in the playoffs. I think as the season progresses they will improve and Ben wont hit the dirt as much, not at the O-lines fault, him holding onto the ball to long well he more times then not makes big things happen when doing that. I think overall they will be fine.

  9. I love Steeler homers.
    When Big Ben gets sacked it’s because “the o-line sucks” but when he gets 5-7 seconds to throw the ball like he did in the 2nd half of the MNF game, it’s because “he scrambles around and makes plays”.
    Being an offensive lineman in Pittsburgh might be the most thankless job in America.

  10. Nice to see Florio still knows NOTHING about football. The Steelers tackles are better than probably 15-20 other teams starting tackles in the league. Why aren’t you writing crappy articles about those other teams starting tackles?
    The Steelers problems with run blocking are primarily on the interior of the O-line, namely the guards.
    Then again, in a few weeks when the Steelers run for over 100 yards vs teams like Cincy, Detroit, Denver, Cleveland etc.. I’m sure Florio won’t have crap to say. But as soon as the run game struggles vs Minnesota or Baltimore he will crucify the Steelers O-line again.
    News flash Foolio, nobody runs on the Steelers. Or the Titans, Ravens, or Vikings. Elite run defenses shut down the run week after week.
    Why aren’t you killing the Titans O-line for having thier vaunted run game stuffed by the Steelers?

  11. The Steelers’ O-line is a lot like Chicago’s defense – all rep and no substance, backed by pajamas-wearing fans who refuse to accept otherwise.
    The fact is that Pittsburgh gave up the 4th most sacks in the league last season with 49. Only teams worse were Detroit, Cincy, and San Fran.
    Not good company any way you rationalize it.

  12. How the hell does the Steelers O-line have “rep”?? All the media has done the past 2-3 years is talk about how bad they are.
    People fail to realize that last year they lost 2 starters for the year in Marvel Smith and Kendall Simmons. Also Kemoeatu was a 1st year starter, Hartwig was on his first year with the team, and Max Starks had to go from RT to LT.
    No wonder the stats were bad, however you cant deny that they were much better down the stretch after they played together for a few weeks.
    This year they have 4 of 5 returning starters in the same postions. They should be better, especially when they arent playing a top 5 defense.

  13. No team is perfect.
    Flaws exist on them all.
    Guess we’ll just have to settle for winning Super Bowls, warts and all.

  14. NFC north resident . While i agree to a point with you about how the good teams shut down the running games . You have to agree that we only got the Titans Collins sacked once .
    We gave up 4 sacks and countless pressures . We average about giving 3 sacks a game up . ONE GAME I WANT TO SEE THE O LINE GIVE UP NOOOOOOOOO SUCKS FOR JUST ONCE IN MY LIFE .

  15. TBIH,
    AND I love Steeler haters.
    I realize you have to just take shots when you can get them, but the stats don’t lie, man.
    Look at the sacks that Roethlisberger has taken over the past three seasons. Yes. Sometimes Ben gets 5-7 seconds. Sometimes there is only a three man rush. He BETTER get 5-7 seconds on a three man rush.
    Sometimes the OLine does a respectable job, but they blow their assignments as much as they pick them up.
    The line IS in bad shape. Both your inability to notice this and your sweeping generalizations about pocket time without considering the rush show me that you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.
    Steelers homer? Maybe. But at least I know what I’m looking at when I’m watching football.

  16. Could it salary cap related? Last time I checked, the Steelers did not have a lot of room under the cap. Who would they let go to make a roster spot? There is some good young talent they want to keep. Do you seriously think a guy off the street would be an upgrade to the a unit that has played many games together? Sure, the O-line did not run block well against the Titans, but they need more data before going into panic mode on the O-line. Just maybe the Titans run defense is pretty good.

  17. Another reason why those 2 guys are unemployed is because the NFL has a silly rule that says vets get a minimum salary at a high dollar amount. If that rule was not in effect and the vets could play for the minimum contract allowed, then they probably would have jobs. The NFL prices guys like that out of the game.

  18. None of us know more than the Steelers coaching staff. Even the so called “insiders”. I stand behind the coaching staffs decisions because they see this team everyday whereas, we see them for about 4 hours.

  19. NFC North Resident,
    85% of Steelers fans agree with you.
    Steelers fans are all rep. Most of us aren’t wearing black and gold tinted glasses.

  20. BFD, all teams have flaws.
    I guess they’ll have to settle for winning Super Bowls, warts and all.
    Oh, the shame.

  21. Florio is absolutely right. The OL is a huge issue for us. We won last year in largely in spite of them – not because of them.
    Though those guys have heart, they just are just flat dreadful at run-blocking. People can bust Fast Willie and Mendenhall as being has beens and never weres — but you can’t do jack when you’re getting 4 or 5 meathooks around your ass 3 yards deep in the backfield the nanosecond you take the ball from Ben. Watch the video – the eye in the sky doesn’t lie.
    It’s a bit like Mike Tyson’s comment (in his prime) when asked if he was concerned about the fight strategy of an upcoming contender: “It’s hard to work a strategy when you’re getting punched in the face.”

  22. Regarding the O-line coach, remember when Faneca was protesting how the “new guy” was changing things, and he didn’t like it? Perhaps he was right.

  23. I think were kind of going overboard about the steelers O-line. In my opinion there are 3 problems with there running game. 1) yes there line has issues. But it,s more of a center- gaurd issue than tackle problem. Hartwig, Essex, & Kemo aren’t spectacular in anyway. To often there getting blown -up sustain any type of running game. 2) Arians seems to be inlove with the spread offense. Thier O-linemen are built for a power game. When you spread the steelers linemen out you weaken them. 3) There running backs are terrible. Willie Parker looks like a done player, Mendenhall doesn’t seem to have that giddy-up that good runners have. Thier best option in reality is Mewelde Moore. Moore seems to have fresher legs, some power,& the offense plays better with him in the line-up. All these factors equate to thier running game problem.

  24. I’m totally fine with the Steelers being stubborn and doing nothing to improve that O-line of theirs.
    It just means more losses for them this year. Maybe next season they will get around to fixing it…

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