One of the most notable characteristics of Pittsburgh Steelers teams over the last 10 to 15 years has been the strength of their lines on both sides of the ball. Last Sunday the Baltimore Ravens threw a wrench into the mix by physically dominating the Steelers lines. Now the Steelers must find a way to improve as the Seattle Seahawks will look to exploit those issues further.
On defense the Steelers defensive line were physically dominated at times by the offensive line of the Ravens. Bryan McKinnie, Matt Burke and company were able to impose their will on that defensive line, which sprung Ray Rice to a great offensive day. Those offensive lineman used everything they had to dominate Aaron Smith, Casey Hampton and Brett Keisel and it worked.
While Hampton played a somewhat decent game Smith was a non-factor in stopping the running game of the Ravens. Smith who is coming off of his second triceps injury has to prove that at his age and those injuries over the last few years won't hinder his ability on the line.
This coming weekend that defensive front will have to face the three headed monster style of running game that the Seahawks will bring to town. Those three are Marshawn Lynch, Justin Forsett and Leon Washington. While they aren't Ray Rice, they will present the defense with a different type of challenge.
Be prepared to see the Seahawks attack the Steelers the same way the Ravens did as Seattle this week has added a fullback off of the Cleveland Browns practice squad. That man is Eddie Williams who is to fill in for the injured Michael Robinson, but will likely be used the way the Ravens used Vonta Leach to neutralize the Steelers linebackers. Leach was very effective last week in help Rice break 100 yards on the ground once again, and look for the Seahawks to follow that same recipe.
On the offensive side of the ball the line has been through a lot but we are only one week in. They have already lost Willie Colon for the year, along with other injuries that could be huge factors for the rest of the year.
The injuries on this line are starting to remenis of the 2003 season when the Steelers were bombarded with many early season offensive line injuries that the team couldn't handle. The team finished 6-10, also finished 31st in the league in rushing that year due to the inexperienced players that had to fill in on the offensive line.
It's no secret that Haloti Ngata and the Ravens defensive line were too much for the Steelers line to handle last week, but there were a lot of times when the problems were their own doing. When they began the third quarter that botched snap that there was obvious confusion between Ben Roethlisberger and Maurkice Pouncey, which led to the timing of the play being off and Rashard Mendenhall getting crushed, which force the fumble.
The line play was also a big factor in the interceptions that were given up as Roethlisberger was under serious pressure all day long. A good way to eliminate that is to run block effectively for Mendenhall and neutralize the linebackers of the Seahawks. When the Steelers establish their running game early on teams it usually makes things easier in the passing game and helps Roethlisberger have more time to throw the football. Also with the oldest defense in the league controlling the ball and the clock has to be a strategy exhausted.
There was obvious inconsistencies on that line all day long last Sunday, and they have to be corrected because Pete Carroll is a very smart football coach and will attack those same areas. While the Seahawks defensive line isn't as notable as the Ravens, they do have a lot of young players who have done damage to good teams in recent memory. Anyone remember how they beat the New Orleans Saints on Wild Card weekend this past January? They did so by holding the Saints to 77 yards rushing, and held the Saints to being six of 13 on third down. Despite letting up 474 yards off offense, the Seahawks defense made big plays when it mattered and pulled the upset of the year.
The Steelers offensive line must come together sooner than latter and be able to get up for the challenge the Seahawks will present to them this coming week.
“We should be angry about that performance. But anger is less of an issue. It’s more about what we do moving forward and how we prepare and play. If we channel that anger properly then it can be a good thing. If we don’t it can be an increasingly frustrating thing. We are aware of that. We acknowledge that. More than anything we are focusing on the things we can control that are pertinent to winning and playing well. That at this juncture is planning and preparation,” Mike Tomlin said.
The line play of the Steelers needs to improve on both sides of the ball and if it doesn't the young Seahawks team could ruin the home opener for the Steelers this Sunday.
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