With an embarrassing end to their 2020 season, the Pittsburgh Steelers must look towards the future and not dwell on the past. However, if they are to improve next season, the Steelers must fix their atrocious run game. However, the blame for the run game, or lack thereof, cannot be placed on the shoulders of the running backs. In fact, most of the blame should fall on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ decrepit offensive line. This offseason the Steelers need to overhaul their entire offensive line.
Despite the Pittsburgh Offensive line being historically great, their age seems to be getting to them.
At 31 years of age, the center Marquise Pouncey is still a solid blocker. However, over the last two seasons, he has had several errant snaps. Over the last two season, he has had two opening drive over snaps that lead to a touchdown for the opposing team. Two is not a large number, but it is still two more than it should have been. Not only that, he has had an uncountable amount of under snaps that have led to broken plays and miscues on offense.
The left tackle Alejandro Villanueva is 32 years old. Due to his massive 6’9 320-pound frame, he was hard to get around early in his career. However, this season he has allowed pressure after pressure on Ben Roethlisberger. Even against back-up defensive ends and edge players, Villanueva has struggled. He does not prevent pressures and sacks; he only delays them, but not long enough for the quarterback to get the ball downfield.
David DeCastro, the right guard, despite being 31 has been the bright spot for the Steelers veteran line. Despite his excellent pass blocking, he has been piss poor in the run-blocking department. Time after time, the holes or blocks that DeCastro was supposed to make, collapsed or failed even before James Conner could even get to them.
The blame for the bad line play, however, cannot just rest on the old veterans.
Matt Feiler moved from right tackle to left guard this season, and his lack of experience in the position shows. Feiler allowed constant pressure and did not allow Ben the time to develop plays down the field all season. On top of that, he could not create gaps for the run game whatsoever. Feiler was simply the weaknesses of DeCastro and Villanueva put together without any of the experience or the upside.
The final member of the offensive line was not a projected starter at the beginning of the year. However, with the injury to Zach Banner in week 1, Chukwuma Okorafor became the starter for the rest of the season. However, the more he played, the more we saw why Banner was supposed to start over him. In terms of run and pass blocking, he is not better than average. However, his downfall comes from his inability to stop committing penalties. Every game that Okorafor has started he has committed at least one false start or one holding penalty. This is inexcusable, especially for a player that nothing more than average.
With solid players everywhere else on the field, the Steelers need to draft offensive linemen in the 2021 NFL draft. They had a steal in the draft last year with Kevin Dotson in the fourth round, but they still need more. Once they can get young and capable linemen on their roster they can start running the ball again. However, until then they will be the same Pittsburgh Steelers they were this year, no matter who the running back is. Whether you like it or not, the Steelers Offensive line needs to be overhauled.