Mandatory Credit: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports
Remember 2009, “Steeler Nation?”
You know, it was the same season that Mike Tomlin promised that the team would “Unleash Hell” in December.
Besides the fact that the Steelers folded like origami down the stretch, the 2009 campaign is also significant because Ben Roethlisberger was sacked a personal-record of 50 times that fall. Unfortunately for Roethlisberger and Pittsburgh’s offensive line, the 2013 unit is on pace to allow a total of 60 sacks this season!
Could Roethlisberger actually, assuming he stays healthy, be dropped for 60 sacks by the end of the season?
As sad as it sounds, there is an excellent chance that the offensive line will allow at least 45 more sacks over their final 12 games due to their issues on the edges.
Outside of Kelvin Beachum’s awesome versatility, Fernando Velasco’s steady play as a stop-gap center, and David DeCastro’s competency when pulling on run plays, the Steelers’ offensive line is not exactly in a positive state, particularly at the tackle positions.
Marcus Gilbert has had his fair share of issues as a pass-blocker so far, particularly with speed rushers, and he was replaced by Kelvin Beachum in the middle of Pittsburgh’s game against the Chicago Bears. The former second round pick rebounded to have a decent game against Minnesota, but he allowed far too much pocket collapse on the right side.
Thankfully for Gilbert, his poor performances have been overshadowed by Mike Adams and his incompetence on the blind-side. Adams has been abused all season at left tackle, and Julius Peppers and Jared Allen absolutely destroyed the former Ohio State Buckeye during Pittsburgh’s last two contests. Poor hand technique coupled with slow feet are not qualities which teams want to see in their blind-side protectors, but Adams put those on display since the 2013 campaign began.
Even though the Steelers benched their left tackle and traded for veteran Levi Brown, their blind-side woes are not over just yet. Brown has been a swinging-gate of sorts since he assumed the starting left tackle job with the Cardinals back in 2010. His pass-blocking has been suspect at best, and he still has to beat out the tough yet smaller-framed Beachum for the first-team reps at the position. Plus, Brown has only suited up for four regular season games since the 2011 regular season ended due to a triceps injury which kept him out for the entirety of the 2012 campaign.
Unfortunately for Roethlisberger, his make-shift offensive line will still have to face some extremely strong pass-rushing defenses over the next 12 games.
The Bills, led by Mario Williams, rank tied for first in the NFL in sacks with 18. Buffalo is tied with Cleveland, who the Steelers must play twice down the strecth, a team that features Jabaal Sheard, Desmond Bryant, Barkevious Mingo, and Paul Kruger. The Jets rank tied for fifth in the league with 14 sacks, while the Ravens, who the Steelers also have to play twice, rank tied for eighth with 13.
While there is really nowhere to go but “up” for Pittsburgh’s offensive line, there is a very strong chance that they could allow 45 sacks over their final 12 regular season games. “Big Ben” must ready to “Houdini” himself out of all sorts of pocket-collapsing situations during that span, and opposing defensive coordinators know exactly where the Steelers’ offensive weakness lies.
I just hope that Roethlsiberger can emerge from the rubble of this “lost” season relatively injury-free, especially if he is sacked 60 times.
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