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El-Gonzo Jackson
09-11-2009, 02:12 PM
Latest Steelers win does little to assuage concerns about offensive line
By Vic Carucci

PITTSBURGH -- Here's the good news for the rest of the NFL: The biggest blemish on the Pittsburgh Steelers' sixth Super Bowl title hasn't disappeared.

Here's the bad news: The Steelers still have the answer for how to conquer it before it can conquer them.

The story of the 2009 Steelers began pretty much the way the story of the 2008 Steelers ended -- with a dramatic, edge-of-your-seat victory and a whole bunch of hand-wringing over their offensive line.

No, this unit isn't any better at run blocking or pass protection than when it was on the way to a 27-23 triumph over the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII. That, to a great extent, was why the Steelers had to sweat out a 13-10 overtime victory over the Tennessee Titans in Thursday night's 2009 season opener. (OK, so Hines Ward could have reduced the drama by not fumbling away the ball at the Titans' 4-yard line with under a minute left in regulation, but it didn't change the fact that the offensive line's ineptitude did plenty to cause the offense to struggle for most of the night).

Willie Parker still has nowhere to run. Ben Roethlisberger still is hit way too often.

Fortunately for the Steelers, their defense remains dominant, failing to skip a significant beat even after safety Troy Polamalu suffered an ugly looking knee injury that brought a premature end to his spectacular performance in the first half.

And Pittsburgh still has Roethlisberger, who once again showed he can take a pounding and make enough plays to help his team win. Thursday night's fourth-quarter comeback was the 18th of his six-year career. He shook off the beating to throw for 363 yards (the third-highest total of his career) and, beginning in the third quarter and through overtime, ran a no-huddle attack to near perfection, completing 17 of his final 19 passes.

"That's his signature," Steelers offensive tackle Max Starks said. "Ben loves pressure situations and he always rises to the occasion. He's a consummate competitor, and you have to knock him out to get him out."

But keeping Roethlisberger healthy remains the underlying concern with this team. The Titans nearly did knock him out, sacking him four times and generally pounding on him the entire game. Yet, somehow, Roethlisberger managed to persevere and do enough to allow the Steelers to avoid having to explain how a season of high expectation could get off to such a lousy start.

What couldn't be avoided was the return of the familiar frustration that the Steelers endured through last season's journey to the Promised Land. Once again, their problems began with their inability to move the ball on the ground. They rushed for a mere 36 yards on 23 attempts -- a paltry 1.6 yards per carry.

"We have to make the running plays work when they're called, and we were inconsistent tonight," center Justin Hartwig admitted.

The same was true last season, which was the primary reason the Steelers gave up 49 sacks in '08. Not coincidentally, one of their offensive line's worst showings came in a 31-14 loss at Tennessee on Dec. 21 when Roethlisberger was sacked five times and hit on eight other occasions. That was the infamous "Disrespecting the Terrible Towel Game," with Titans players blowing their noses with and stomping on the Steelers' trademark good-luck charm on the sideline in the waning moments of the blowout.

Even more humiliating, though, was that the Titans were without their best defensive player, injured tackle Albert Haynesworth, just as they were Thursday night (now that Haynesworth is a Washington Redskin). Once again, the Steelers too often allowed Jason Jones and Tony Brown to look an awful lot like the man they're replacing.

"We had some communication errors," Steelers offensive tackle Willie Colon said. "We were just kind of sloppy in the protection at times, and that's going to happen in the first game."

The problem, though, is that it happened in so many games last season, including the Super Bowl. You keep saying to yourself that the Steelers can't possibly go through another season this way and expect to win another Super Bowl.

Roethlisberger was sacked twice in his first three drives Thursday as the Titans, with no concern about the Steelers' running game, were able to tee off on him from the start. Pittsburgh also failed on its first four third-down conversion attempts.

Roethlisberger got up slowly after being rocked while releasing a pass midway through the third quarter. He was drilled again after another throw later in the drive. And in the fourth quarter, Titans defensive end Jevon Kearse cleanly flew through the line to blast Roethlisberger for sack No. 4.

The Steelers' offensive linemen clearly were uncomfortable facing the Titans' 4-3 scheme after practicing against their own 3-4 defense throughout the summer. They also had no answers for Tennessee's frequent use of eight-man fronts. But they'd better find those answers soon because their next two opponents, the Chicago Bears and Cincinnati Bengals, also are 4-3 teams that won't hesitate to put a safety in the box in running situations.

Big Ben did his part to try to deflect blame from his blockers.

"That was a great defense, and we know that from the last time we played them," he said. "They're very physical, Baltimore-esque, if you will. We knew, coming in, emotions were going to be running high early and people were going to make mistakes. I made more than anybody."

Then, he added: "I told the guys up front that I was really proud of the way that third and fourth quarter and that overtime (went). That's the expectation. They really blocked their butts off."

Roethlisberger has that right. The performance in the latter stages should be the expectation from the very beginning.

But the line's performance left doubts about that Thursday.

"We try not to get emotional about it," Colon said. "We try to just keep slugging away, and we were able to win it."

Sounds like 2008 all over again which won't be so bad if it ends with the Steelers making room for a seventh Vince Lombardi Trophy.

http://www.nfl.com/news/story?id=09000d5d8128510d&template=without-video-with-comments&confirm=true

mulldog24
09-11-2009, 03:33 PM
I really hope BR makes it through this season without too many knocks but judging from the titans game he's gonna get quite a few. I just hope he is able to stay healthy all year.

SteelC7
09-11-2009, 03:38 PM
what we should all remember is that this was the strongest team we play all year besides the chargers or vikings, despite all the miscues we won, and thats all that matters, and when we went to the no huddle, the o line did a way better job protecting ben, we need to use it more

SteeleReign
09-11-2009, 04:24 PM
what we should all remember is that this was the strongest team we play all year besides the chargers or vikings, despite all the miscues we won, and thats all that matters, and when we went to the no huddle, the o line did a way better job protecting ben, we need to use it more

I agree that the no-huddle & more passing on first down is the way to go. But, we also have two dates with the Ravens, a game against the Packers, and the Bengals defense is no slouch. We can't expect to win all 8 of those games if we can't protect Ben and eliminate mistakes. We should have been much better than we played last night. No excuses. I was really surprised at how similar we looked to last year. And I agree with the author - we likely will not repeat as Champs without cleaning that mess up a bit.

Hines0wnz
09-11-2009, 04:38 PM
I'm not willing after just one game against a very physical defensive team to point fingers just yet. In last year's game, Ben had to pass more because the run game just wasnt doing well. Was it the OL or the Titan's D-line? I think it was more Titans than a cruddy O-line. Someone mentioned about the OL struggling against a 4-3 D and I can agree with that. Its easy for some on here to blame Willie because well, why analyze anything else if that is your calling card? :blah: Yes, the Steeler front office has done extraordinarily well with finding decent talent on the OL but I think it is now behind the curve. Maybe its the loss of Grimm or perhaps the guys are not developing as much or as fast as we'd like them to.

The OL did quite well in pass protection last night, much better than I expected, but Ben still took 4 sacks and was hit even more. This does not bode well. If this team's ID is to be passing first, then Marshall Faulk and Steve Mariucci were spot on about the concern for the amount of hits Ben takes. He is the franchise and he cannot continue to take these hits and deliver wins consistently. Something has to give this year and I just hope that it wont be one of Ben's joints or back that does. :doh:

HometownGal
09-11-2009, 04:41 PM
"We have to make the running plays work when they're called, and we were inconsistent tonight," center Justin Hartwig admitted.


What a brilliant observation. :coffee: You certainly made your share of fubars. I'd love to see what Legursky can bring to the line over a couple game stretch.

In fairness, however, the OL did what they needed to do at the end of the 4th and on the game-winning drive. Consistency, unfortunately, is not their trademark.

Texasteel
09-11-2009, 05:06 PM
what we should all remember is that this was the strongest team we play all year besides the chargers or vikings, despite all the miscues we won, and thats all that matters, and when we went to the no huddle, the o line did a way better job protecting ben, we need to use it more

Unfortunately, I wouldn't count out the Ravens. There young QB is getting better and better, and they still have a pretty good defense.

Hines0wnz
09-11-2009, 05:08 PM
Unfortunately, I wouldn't count out the Ravens. There young QB is getting better and better, and they still have a pretty good defense.

Agreed. I'm fairly certain one loss will be against them this year.

Preacher
09-11-2009, 05:16 PM
What a brilliant observation. :coffee: You certainly made your share of fubars. I'd love to see what Legursky can bring to the line over a couple game stretch.

In fairness, however, the OL did what they needed to do at the end of the 4th and on the game-winning drive. Consistency, unfortunately, is not their trademark.

:thumbsup:

Though, I would have to say, starting in teh second quarter, they got it together.

El-Gonzo Jackson
09-11-2009, 06:07 PM
I'd love to see what Legursky can bring to the line over a couple game stretch.
.
You better get your Hartwig voodoo doll out and hope for something to happen to Hartwig :bricks: ........because judging by that 4 year extension, Legursky isnt gonna see much action at center.

Steel_Bus_24
09-11-2009, 06:14 PM
Ben will not last dropping back 43 times a game....we need balance

Preacher
09-11-2009, 06:15 PM
You better get your Hartwig voodoo doll out and hope for something to happen to Hartwig :bricks: ........because judging by that 4 year extension, Legursky isnt gonna see much action at center.

Naaa... never wish anything bad on a player. I personally just don't think Hartwig is able to do what this scheming asks him to do. When he is called on to pull for screens and runs, he seems to not be able to get there. When he goes up against players that use skill and speed more than brute force, he seems to not be able to handle them as well.

I think that contract has as much to do with the coming CBA issues as with Hartwig himself.

I think this team is steeling itself for a couple bumpy years. That is GREAT planning by the front office.

As a Catholic Priest said to me once when he found out I was a Baptist.... "Better half a loaf of bread then no loaf at all!" :chuckle:

mmalone
09-11-2009, 06:16 PM
Ben will not last dropping back 43 times a game....we need balance

Redman :doh: im mean Amen..

El-Gonzo Jackson
09-11-2009, 06:30 PM
Naaa... never wish anything bad on a player. I personally just don't think Hartwig is able to do what this scheming asks him to do. When he is called on to pull for screens and runs, he seems to not be able to get there. When he goes up against players that use skill and speed more than brute force, he seems to not be able to handle them as well.

I think that contract has as much to do with the coming CBA issues as with Hartwig himself.

I think this team is steeling itself for a couple bumpy years. That is GREAT planning by the front office.

As a Catholic Priest said to me once when he found out I was a Baptist.... "Better half a loaf of bread then no loaf at all!" :chuckle:

Preach, what exactly is the scheming that Hartwig is asked to do?? How do you know what it is in order to make this judgement??

Please name a few interior D linemen in the NFL that use "speed and skill" and let me know which of them has exposed Hartwig and his inability to handle that.

While I respect your passion and love of the game and the Steelers, I really dont think you understand that the "phonebooth" that is the interior line requires less agility and quickness, but rather more brute force. The big guys with agility are desired on the outside to matchup with the DE's in the NFL.

Preacher
09-11-2009, 06:30 PM
Redman :doh: im mean Amen..

Why? Redman is slower than any back we have out there now. If the holes close NOW... they will crush him before he can get through.

Preacher
09-11-2009, 06:41 PM
Preach, what exactly is the scheming that Hartwig is asked to do?? How do you know what it is in order to make this judgement??

Please name a few interior D linemen in the NFL that use "speed and skill" and let me know which of them has exposed Hartwig and his inability to handle that.

While I respect your passion and love of the game and the Steelers, I really dont think you understand that the "phonebooth" that is the interior line requires less agility and quickness, but rather more brute force. The big guys with agility are desired on the outside to matchup with the DE's in the NFL.

Last night, He was asked to be the first guy out to a WR screen. He was too slow and simply could not get there. When he pulls, he does not seem fast enough to get to his blocks. So in the run schemes, he is not the right guy, or the schemes are not right for him. Either way-- because there are a LOT of pulling and running by the O line in our scheming for the runs.

Last night, first quarter (only one I have broken down so far, later tonight I can give you the play...) the RDT came at him. Stepped left, and then gave him a swim move and went right around him. Hartwig stepped to block him and literally slid down the guys back and was laying on the ground. That is two times last night in the first quarter. In the third Preseason game the lineman came at Hartwig. Hartwig had a nice initial block. However, the lineman put a spin move on Hartwig that literally froze Hartwig in place...and the guy was gone.

I understand the phone-booth mentality. However, I also understand that there is a significant different between the NT in a 3-4 and IDT in a 4-3. THe NT is NOT supposed to get PASSED the Center, he is supposed to push through the center and eat up two gaps. The IDT's are supposed to eat up only one gap...and can do so by moving around the center. The difference between those two is the difference I speak of. Hartwig so far this year has had trouble handling IDT's who are responsible for one gap and are making atheletic moves to get to them...

mmalone
09-11-2009, 06:56 PM
Why? Redman is slower than any back we have out there now. If the holes close NOW... they will crush him before he can get through.

well, maybe someone that can crack away from one arm or tackle and make the second move forward.. if not redman, we need someone who doesnt lay down so easy. summers still needs to get the ball once?? he carried people in college...

he needs to start sometime.

HometownGal
09-11-2009, 07:35 PM
You better get your Hartwig voodoo doll out and hope for something to happen to Hartwig :bricks: ........because judging by that 4 year extension, Legursky isnt gonna see much action at center.

I hope you aren't serious by implying that I would wish injury on Hartwig so that he could ride the bench where I feel he belongs (sorry). I'm not impressed with the guy's play and I've made that well known on this board, but I would NEVER wish injury on anyone. That being said, however, I'm not an NFL coach nor am I a member of the Steelers FO, so booting him out of Pittsburgh isn't in my area of expertise, nor is it my call.

Preacher
09-11-2009, 08:45 PM
well, maybe someone that can crack away from one arm or tackle and make the second move forward.. if not redman, we need someone who doesnt lay down so easy. summers still needs to get the ball once?? he carried people in college...

he needs to start sometime.

Summers had a hard time finding hte right person to block last night.

If it was just an arm tackle away from breaking runs... then you may have something. As it was, it was an arm tackle away from two other guys crushing the RB.

Steelman16
09-11-2009, 08:54 PM
None of the lineman played adequately, but Essex had to be the worst. I know Coach T's all about position versitility, but Essex looked out of position. I felt better when Stapleton was in there. Can Legs play RG?

I thought Colon had the most solid night considering the lack of help he was getting to properly cover the right side. (Kearse's unblocked sack aside)

Big Ben will always be Big Ben. Therefore forget improving on the pass protection, somebody needs to play with some intensity and open holes for the run game. (Be it "Slow" Willie Parker or not)

Summers did look slightly lost. But I know he likes to block, so I believe he'll improve dramatically in the next few weeks.

And was it just me, or did almost every player except Troy seem unusually jittery?

BKAnthem
09-11-2009, 11:25 PM
They don't get payed to just pass block...

steeltheone
09-12-2009, 12:06 AM
We signed the same people to play the same positions that have the same problems as last year. Not hard to figure.

Fire Haley
09-12-2009, 11:03 AM
And was it just me, or did almost every player except Troy seem unusually jittery?

Are you kidding? Troy had 3 penalties - he was higher than a kite on the 4th of July.

SteelerEmpire
09-12-2009, 11:57 AM
With this week O-line situation.... wish we had a "Super Power" RB like ol' Earl Campbell, Jerome Bettis, or Brandon Jacobs...... guys like that that'll take 1 or 2 defenders "down the field" with them....

Fire Haley
09-12-2009, 12:26 PM
Bears pass defense sucks, bottom of the barrel.

Come out no-huddle, shotgun, 5 WIDE and blow them out.

They got no pass rush either, lot of injuries.

Ben and Holmes will eat them up.

Psyychoward86
09-12-2009, 12:41 PM
Bears pass defense sucks, bottom of the barrel.

Come out no-huddle, shotgun, 5 WIDE and blow them out.

They got no pass rush either, lot of injuries.

Ben and Holmes will eat them up.

30th in pass defense last year, better only than the Chargers and Seahawks. But if i recall correctly Tillman, and their other starting corner were injured for much of the year.

markymarc
09-13-2009, 06:26 PM
While I am not a big fan of our current OL, IMO they did improve a lot after the 1st quarter. Like it or not they are not much of a run blocking OL and at this point they are only good at pass blocking. Hard to believe, but the run game is dead in Pittsburgh IMO. And to think that 4 of the 5 starters are now signed for awhile.

El-Gonzo Jackson
09-14-2009, 01:35 AM
Last night, He was asked to be the first guy out to a WR screen. He was too slow and simply could not get there. When he pulls, he does not seem fast enough to get to his blocks. So in the run schemes, he is not the right guy, or the schemes are not right for him. Either way-- because there are a LOT of pulling and running by the O line in our scheming for the runs.

...

On that WR screen, he was not asked to be the 1st guy blocking. It was on the left sideline and Hines was already out there blocking. He only went out there because there was nobody over him and its a long run for any center to make. Matt Birk, Kevin Mawae, Nick Mangold, etc could not make that block.

So, can you tell me please if the Steelers offensive running attack is "a zone blocking scheme" as many have described?? That will help me understand your belief that Hartwig is pulling a lot in the schemes, or just moving laterally to make a block.

Would you say that Kemo is quicker in pulling that Hartwig is???

Preacher
09-14-2009, 02:54 AM
On that WR screen, he was not asked to be the 1st guy blocking. It was on the left sideline and Hines was already out there blocking. He only went out there because there was nobody over him and its a long run for any center to make. Matt Birk, Kevin Mawae, Nick Mangold, etc could not make that block.

So, can you tell me please if the Steelers offensive running attack is "a zone blocking scheme" as many have described?? That will help me understand your belief that Hartwig is pulling a lot in the schemes, or just moving laterally to make a block.

Would you say that Kemo is quicker in pulling that Hartwig is???

Arians said some time ago that they were a zone blocking scheme. Are they STILL? That is hard to know. With so many new players on the line and the problems they are having, I have no idea if that has changed or not.

I am watching the rest of the game again tonight. What I keep seeing is Hartwig on the ground. People getting around him when they are not coming straight on to him. Why? I don't know. but it seems that unless someone is squared up on him, he isn't going to be the best guy out there to block. Now, when the other guy tries to power him, he stones them cold.

Back to the first play which was a screen. Sorry, I have to disagree with you. Watch it again, Hartwig snaps the ball. The very first step he takes isn't backwards to block. Nor does he even bring his hands up and crouch to engage anyone. He snaps it, and his first move is a step up and to the left, running for the sideline. Matter of fact, he has to run AROUND a lineman. You are right though, he wasn't the lead blocker... I forget about Heath being out there. BUt Hartwig is definitely schemed as a blocker on that play, and simply cannot get out there fast enough.

Now, is that Hartwig's fault or was the scheme badly drawn up for his speed? I don't know. Maybe the play was supposed to come inside and Heath's guy blew it up by step in, forcing Ward to the outside and the Safety to get to him before Hartwig can block the safety. That is possible too. But it definitely was schemed.

As I have said before though, I am starting to get more worried about the number of times I see Hartwig laying on the ground while the play is still happening. and the number of times I see Hartwig not being able to block guys coming on angles or using spin moves etc.

As long as we are playing a 3-4, he is solid. But its starting to look like DT's are giving him fits.

OneForTheToe
09-14-2009, 03:13 AM
With this week O-line situation.... wish we had a "Super Power" RB like ol' Earl Campbell, Jerome Bettis, or Brandon Jacobs...... guys like that that'll take 1 or 2 defenders "down the field" with them....

Green Lantern?

Green Hornet?

The Wasp?

:noidea:

Wonder twin Powers activate




:wave: