Does Steelers OL changes move the needle in the win-loss column?

Pittsburgh Steelers center Kendrick Green (53). Mandatory Credit: Caitlyn Epes/Handout Photo via USA TODAY Sports
Pittsburgh Steelers center Kendrick Green (53). Mandatory Credit: Caitlyn Epes/Handout Photo via USA TODAY Sports /

The Steelers have a lot of turnover on their offensive line. Will their changes move the needle one way or the other in the win-loss column? 

I don’t know what Ben Roethlisberger thought he would be getting when he took a pay cut to stick around for another season, but I don’t think he could have expected this. The offensive line looks extremely different than it did just months ago, and there is set to be just one returning starter from this group in 2020.

Maurkice Pouncey was the first of the unit to go, as the long-time starting center elected to hang up his cleats following the 2020 season. A While later – after Roethlisberger already took a pay cut and had his deal worked out to stick around in 2021 – Matt Feiler joined the Los Angeles Chargers and Alejandro Villanueva departed for Baltimore to join the Ravens.

The Steelers had the least amount of turnover on their offensive line over the past six years, and David DeCastro was the only remaining offensive lineman from the successful group of the 2010s. Now, the two-time All-Pro right guard was recently cut by the Steelers as it was reported that he would require yet another ankle surgery.

With so much turnover and four new starters in place along the offensive lineman, one must wonder if this will affect Pittsburgh in the win column this year. But are these changes enough to move the needle one way or another?

OL changes shouldn’t move the needle for Steelers

There are certain players that can move the win-loss needle for their team. We have seen this through gambling odds. For instance, when Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott went down with a foot injury last season, Dallas’ win total projection plummeted. On rare occasions, some special players outside of the quarterback position can move the needle as well if they are unavailable.

However, should we expect fewer wins by the Steelers in 2021 with this new-look offensive line than what they would have had with their previous unit? The simple answer is no.

While there is much to be said about chemistry and continuity along the offensive line, this isn’t exactly the same elite group we saw from 2014 to 2017. In fact, you could make the case that all four of the players they lost were already past their prime – some even playing the worst football of their careers.

When it comes to their replacements, there isn’t exactly a lot to write home about. The Steelers haven’t spent higher than a 3rd round pick on their offensive line since 2012, and newly-signed guard Trai Turner is coming off a season in which he was arguably the worst starting offensive lineman in the league.

Still, there isn’t enough reason to believe that this mostly inexperienced group with shift Pittsburgh’s odds to lose more games this year. I’m sure you recall that the Steelers already had the worst running game in the NFL last season, and that is something I am confident will improve this year. It’s also important to consider the difference a good offensive coordinator could make, and have little reserves that Matt Canada will be an improvement over Randy Fichter.

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Though they will have to get used to playing alongside each other, the Steelers offensive line is a younger, quicker unit than they were just a year ago. I don’t think even having four new starters this year is enough to change Pittsburgh’s win projection in 2021.