Jerome Bettis recently shared his thoughts on the Steelers and what they need to do to fix their rushing attack moving forward.
I recently had the privilege of catching up with Steelers Hall of Fame running back, Jerome Bettis. Since retiring after Pittsburgh won the Super Bowl in the 2005 season, Bettis has been in the media business and has worked for NBC and NFL Network. He even hosted his own show on WPXI-TV in Pittsburgh. Now ‘The Bus’ will appear in a Super Bowl commercial for Frito-Lay.
During our conversation, we had a chance to discuss the current state of the Steelers. One topic we delved particularly deep into was the state of the Steelers running game. When asked what Pittsburgh needs to do to improve their rushing attack, Bettis stated that they ‘have to address the offensive line.’ Here was some of his response:
I think they have some running backs that are capable. I think part of it is scheme, and the other part is that the offensive line just didn’t perform that well. Obviously, running backs, they’ve got to be better. There was some holes these guys missed didn’t bounce it a couple times when they could have. So there is some error on all sides, but I just think the Steelers have to address the offensive line. Obviously, they had some injuries there and some young players there… They’ve got a mixture of issues that they’ve got to figure out on the offensive line… The offensive line is the engine of any team, and when the engine fails, you’ve got no chance.
Bettis did admit that there was blame to be passed around, as the scheme and the running backs still hold some responsibility for the nightmare that was Pittsburgh running game in 2020. Still, he made it clear that the offensive line was the biggest need for this team, and it doesn’t take a expert to realize how much they were lacking in this area.
How do Steelers fix the offensive line?
Pittsburgh would be wise to take Jerome Bettis’ advice and judging by the statements made from Art Rooney II this offseason, they will be doing exactly that. But where do they start?
Alejandro Villanueva and Matt Feiler are both unrestricted free agents this offseason and are free to sign with another club. Meanwhile, there was an early report that Maurkice Pouncey had plans to retire, but the longtime center has yet to issue an official statement.
Though having a lot of turnover in one positional group never seems like the best answer, it could be something the Steelers need to make sure happens in 2020. While Villanueva is good enough to come back and start for one more season, Pittsburgh would be wise to move on from all three of these veteran starters from the 2020 season, as age is clearly catching up to them.
Offensive guard Kevin Dotson looks like he could be a solid building block to the next generation of Steelers offensive linemen, while David DeCastro probably has a bit more left in the tank. He clearly wasn’t himself last season, but that could have been due to a knee injury he suffered early on. Meanwhile, Chukwuma Okorafor really struggled in his first full season as a starter and he could benefit from moving back down to the swing tackle position, while it’s possible that Zach Banner could be re-signed to a prove-it one-year deal.
With virtually no cap space to work with, the Steelers will be forced to spend some early picks to retool the offensive line. Some of the players who could make sense in the first round are Oklahoma center Creed Humphry, Texas offensive tackle Samuel Cosmi, Michigan tackle/guard Jalen Mayfield, and Alabama offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood. Though Pittsburgh hasn’t spent more than a 3rd round pick on an offensive lineman since 2012, it’s really starting to show and most are expecting them to go that route early in the NFL Draft.
Jerome Bettis might be well removed from the game, but he knows a thing or two about good offensive lines, and this is starting to become a glaring need on Pittsburgh’s roster. We can’t expect the run game to improve until the Steelers start investing in the guys upfront.