Can Pittsburgh’s Offensive Line Withstand Pressure From Chicago’s Defense?


Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Improving their dormant pass-rush will be a major goal of the Chicago Bears when they take the field this weekend according to Larry Mayer of the team’s website.  Chicago’s defense has only recorded two sacks through their first two regular season games, and that fact is not lost on the Bears’ new defensive coordinator Mel Tucker.

According to Mayer’s article, Tucker had this to say about Chicago’s current issues when it has come to recording sacks and collapsing the pocket of their opposition:

"Pass-rush is something we need to improve on, …  We need to finish in our rushes.  We were getting close, but no cigar.  This week is about finishing."

Luckily for Tucker and Chicago’s defensive front, they will head to Heinz Field this weekend to face-off against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

In a way, I feel bad for the Steelers’ offensive linemen.  After they were tossed around by the Titans on opening weekend and the Bengals for much of Monday night’s contest, they are now set to match up against Chicago’s hungry, determined, and talented front-four.

Pittsburgh’s offensive tackles, arguably the weakest links of their make-shift offensive line, will be forced to contend with All-Pro Julius Peppers in addition to the emerging Corey Wootton and Shea McClellin.

How Mike Adams will keep the veteran Peppers at bay is an enormous mystery, and I hope that he can at least spare Ben Roethlisberger an enormous beating on Sunday evening.  The 33 year-old Peppers can still bring the heat off of the edge, and he notched 30.5 sacks during his first three seasons with the Bears.  Adams has been a jersey-grabbing turnstile during the first two games of the regular season, and I am sure that the veteran will try to take advantage of his every weakness.

On the right side, Marcus Gilbert must keep his head on a swivel for Wootton and McClellin as well.  Wootton, who had a banner-year last fall when he started seven games and collected 7.0 sacks, has one of the Bears’ two on the season and a fumble recovery to boot.  McClellin, Chicago’s first round draft pick last fall, earned 0.5 sack in the Bears’ opening game versus the Bengals.  Both McClellin and Wootton could give Gilbert fits on Sunday night, especially if Gilbert’s line-mates along the interior have their hands full with the likes of Henry Melton and Stephen Paea.

After the incredibly strong and athletic Geno Atkins had his way with him on Monday, David DeCastro, Ramon Foster, and Fernando Velasco must face another athletic three-technique in the form of Melton.

The former Texas Longhorn was named to the Pro Bowl last fall, and he brought the heat from the interior in 2012 to the tune of 6.0 sacks and 43 tackles.  If Melton or the space-eating Paea, who has 0.5 sack this year, require double-teams on a consistent basis, then Pittsburgh’s inexperienced tackles will be at the mercy of the defensive ends in passing situations.

Final Thoughts

Pittsburgh will need some amazing play from their offensive linemen if they wish to have any chance against Chicago on Sunday night.  Their weaknesses and faults are on tape for everyone to see, and it will be up to them to rise to every occasion.  If the Steelers’ running game stagnates against the Bears, which it probably will, then this group must find ways to keep “Big Ben” off of his back when he is put in “2nd & 3rd and long” situations.

To stay in the game and save their season, the Steelers must put everything on their signal-caller’s shoulders.  All of Pittsburgh’s most potent offensive weapons at the moment are wide receivers, and the team will try to ride Ben’s right arm to victories until Heath Miller and Le’Veon Bell can return.

Roethlisberger cannot save anything though if his offensive line is unable to keep him at least somewhat protected in the pocket.

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