View Full Version : Bires: Steelers walking the line

12-04-2011, 08:00 AM
Bires: Steelers walking the line
By Mike Bires mbires@timesonline.com | Posted: Saturday, December 3, 2011 11:45 pm

PITTSBURGH -- As the Steelers try to make amends for a dismal offensive performance last week in Kansas City, the best place to start would be up front.

That's where it always starts because as Jerome Bettis used to say, "We'll go as far as the O-line takes us."

There was plenty of blame to be spread around after an ugly 13-9 win at Arrowhead Stadium. Mike Wallace dropped two would-be touchdowns. Other receivers didn't get open. Ben Roethlisberger was picked off once and misfired on a few other passes. Mewelde Moore lost a red-zone fumble.

Certainly, the offensive line was at fault, too. Four starters -- Max Starks, Marcus Gilbert, Ramon Foster and Doug Legursky -- were flagged for holding at some point during the game.

Those violations played a part in a meager 290 total yards of offense, the Steelers' lowest of the season.

It can be argued that the O-line took a hit when a violent stomach virus had all-star center Maurkice Pouncey vomiting before the game and dry-heaving between the 18 snaps he took. When the second quarter started, Pouncey was forced to leave and Doug Legursky had to move to center from left guard where he practiced all week.

And it can be argued that the crowd noise at always rowdy Arrowhead made it hard to communicate.

Whatever, the bottom line for the Steelers is that their offensive linemen needs to elevate their games down the homestretch.

To be sure, it's been a bizarre year up front. Flozell Adams and Max Starks were cut at the start of training camp. Willie Colon got a contract extension but was hurt in Week 1. Other injuries ravaged the O-line to the point that Starks was re-signed in Week 5.

Right now, the O-line seems settled. But it is definitely unique.

At center and at both tackle spots, there are high draft picks out of the University of Florida.

Pouncey was selected in the first round of last year's draft.

Gilbert, the starter at right tackle since Colon's season-ending injury, was a second-round pick this year.

Starks, the veteran left tackle, is one of only two picks in the 2004 draft still playing for the Steelers. Roethlisberger was the first-round selection in '04, Starks was taken in the third round.

But the two guards -- Legursky and Foster -- are both third-year pros who weren't even drafted out of college.

Legursky, who played at Marshall, is one of the NFL's shortest linemen at 6-foot-1. A starter at right guard when the season opened, Legursky is healthy again after missing one game with a separated shoulder and three games with a dislocated toe.

Right now, the Steelers' offensive coaches believe Legursky is a better fit at left guard than Chris Kemoeatu.

Foster, who played at Tennessee, took over at right guard in Week 4 when Legursky got hurt the first time. Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said the Steelers run the ball best when they run right behind Foster and Gilbert.

Speaking of Gilbert, Arians said he's blocking just as well as Flozell Adams did last year when the Steelers advanced to the Super Bowl.

But as a rookie, Gilbert is prone to rookie mistakes. The one he made last week in Kansas City set the tone for the Steelers' sloppy offensive performance. On Moore's fumble on a second-and-goal call from the 8-yard line early in the first quarter, defensive end Tamba Hali dislodged the ball by hustling and chasing down Moore from behind.

If Gilbert would have held his block on Hali, Moore would have scored to give the Steelers an early lead.

Who knows? Had the Steelers jumped ahead early, maybe they would have blown out the Chiefs as everyone expected.

"He did a real nice job (in Kansas City) other than that one play," Arians said of Gilbert. "This kid's a player. If he keeps his head on straight and continues to improve, the sky's the limit for him."

Since the start of training camp, we keep hearing that the sky's the limit for the Steelers' offense. There's no doubt the weapons are there for this offense to be explosive.

But for the Steelers to consistently light up scoreboards, it's going to take more consistent play from the guys up front.

12-04-2011, 09:23 AM
Funny how the crowd noise doesnt really bother other teams as much going into Arrow head stadium.:noidea:

12-04-2011, 10:48 AM
It's been said a million times on all Steelers forums but the Oline just is not a priority of our front office like it used to be. We had some studs 6-7 years ago up front. If you live in another NFL city as I do now, its interesting watching the Olines of other teams then look at ours. Look at how sloppy and slow our guys look compared to other teams. A lot of teams are going for more athletic big men these days and I feel that really helps these other teams in pass protections. And by athletic I am not talking smallish like Pouncy. But those hogs that are weight room warriors and at least APPEAR to be in shape (is it me or does Kemo look 40 pounds heavier this year?).. Having guys that get off the ball quickly and have good footwork goes a long way. I don't want to be too critical because Ben can hang around in the pocket longer than most, but i'd love it if we could draft some of those Iowa or Wisconsin lineman