Steelers Surprises: Offensive Line

Steelers offensive line nice surprise
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line through three games has outperformed expectations. After a terrible showing in the preseason, many were wondering if this would be the worst offensive line in the NFL. It wouldn’t be a surprise. The group was fairly weak last year and underwent a lot of change this off-season. With two new starters, a new coach, and a new scheme it was always going to be a tough road.

Before the preseason many believed the upgrade in talent would be enough. Mason Cole should be an average center – much better than what the Steelers offensive line got from Kendrick Green last season. A young, promising James Daniels would fare well compared to an aging Trai Turner. Kevin Dotson would finally be healthy, and Dan Moore Jr. would be in his second season. Things were looking up.

But after a rough preseason that was filled with no running lanes, miscommunication, and quarterbacks under fire, Pittsburgh fans were having flashbacks. But as it turns out… things aren’t that bad. In fact, they’re pretty good. Let’s look at how the Steelers’ offensive line is doing through three games.

Pass Blocking

The Pittsburgh offensive line is holding up in pass protection. Per PFF they have not been charged with any of the five sacks Quarterback Mitch Trubisky has taken this season. This matches what Alex Kozora of Steelers Depot has tracked as well.

In fact, not only are they not giving up sacks. They are hardly letting Trubisky get pressured. Check out these stats from Sports Info Solutions.

Run Blocking

The Steelers’ offensive line might be even more impressive in the running game. Firstly, the difference is so clear in-game and watching back on film. There are running lanes to hit, and the running backs aren’t getting met in the backfield like they were last year. Per Football Outsiders the Steelers offensive line ranks fourth in “stuffed percentage” which measures the number of runs the ball carrier is tackled at or behind the line of scrimmage (LOS).

Pittsburgh also ranks in the top 13 in Football Outsiders’ “Adjusted Line Yards” and “Power Success” standings. The Steelers are also having particular success running up the middle. They are seventh in the NFL in Adjusted Line Yards when running between the guards.

Individual Grades

PFF Grades aren’t the end-all-be-all for player evaluation – but it is an interesting piece of the puzzle and one that is very easy to look at.

Right Tackle Chukwuma Okorafor might be the most surprising ranking here. “Chuks” has always been solid – a guy you would rather have as your fourth or fifth best lineman rather than first or second. I’ve seen more plays on his side however where a pass rusher beats him, but he does just enough to give Trubisky time. He’s also a little more stout than Moore Jr. in the run game because of his strength.

Cole is the player who flashes on screen the most. He uses his size and length so well to create a quick anchor out of the snap. Something Green struggled with in his switch to the position last year. Cole also has the ability to get a good push and seal in the running game. Cole is still just 26 and just signed a three-year contract this offseason. Considering he went to Michigan you would think the Steelers have had interest in him for a while.

Daniels and Dotson seem to be settling in more and more each week. Daniels coming from the Chicago Bears, and Dotson after dealing with an injury last year and this summer. Moore Jr. is picking up right where he left off last year improving his hand usage and utilizing his quick feet. More anchor in pass pro and push in the run game are still necessary for him to work on though.

Pittsburgh is certainly having its struggles this season. But the Steelers offensive line has been a nice surprise for the team (and fans) so far!

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