We have been spoiled over the last five years or so. Followers of the Pittsburgh Steelers have taken for granted the team’s offensive line will be it’s usual elite self. However, there has been a slow erosion recently with this unit that could lead to it becoming a huge problem in 2020. Considering protecting Ben Roehtlisberger will be as important as ever, it doesn’t bode well for the Steelers’ upcoming season. Let’s take a closer look at what the offensive line problems might look like in 2020.
Three of the Steelers five projected starters will be over thirty when the upcoming season begins. Those player are Maurkice Pouncey (31), David DeCastro (31), and Alejandro Villanueva (32). While David DeCastro remains in his prime, there has been some concern with Pouncey and Villanueva.
The most troubling of this group is Pouncey who’s play has been on a decline over the past few seasons. His overall PFF grade for 2019 was a pedestrian 51.5. That’s down significantly from the 71.3 score he managed in 2018. https://www.pff.com/nfl/players/maurkice-pouncey/5543
Pouncey is about to enter his tenth season, having logged 121 career NFL games not including playoffs. There is significant tread on these tires here. The Steelers will be keeping their fingers crossed for at least one more serviceable season from their veteran center. There is no capable backup on the roster at this time, so it is Pouncey or bust this season.
While age might be a concern with the offensive line, inexperience will be the bigger concern with this group. Mike Tomlin recently announce that Matt Feiler will be first in line for the left guard positoin. https://triblive.com/sports/matt-feiler-to-get-1st-snaps-for-steelers-at-left-guard-tomlin-provides-update-on-ben-roethlisberger/
What this means is there will be an open competition for the key right tackle spot. The so far underwhelming Chuks Okorafor will be battling fan favorite Zach Banner for this position. Both have precious little starting experience in the NFL. This is very concerning when considering it is as important as ever to keep quarterback Ben Roehtlisberger upright.
Don’t be surprised if Matt Feiler finds his way back to the right tackle spot. He may not have been flashy, but Feiler was a steady presence on the outside of the line. The team signed veteran guard Steve Wisneiwski and drafted Kevin Dotson making guard a much deeper position.
Let’s face it, we would all feel a little better about this offensive line if Mike Munchak were still guiding this group. It’s no slight to current coach Shaun Sarrett, but Munchack was a coaching wizard for this unit. His talent for transforming unknown talent into quality producers would sure come in handy this season.
This is an opportunity for Sarrett to establish himself as the kind of top notch offensive line coach the Steelers believe he is. He certainly has his work cut out for him this season.
This offensive line is still a talented group. Anchored by perennial Pro-Bowler David DeCastro, the team has a lot to like here. There is however more uncertainty than there has been in many years with the Steelers line. The right tackle spot is of particular concern heading into the season. The team is depending on the inexperienced duo of either Chuks Okorafor or Zach Banner to win the job. Then the Steelers have to hope that their aging veterans at the other line spots don’t have a serious decline in 2020. It’s a lot to have to go right in order to have a successful season. If the Steelers are to reach their goal of winning one more Super Bowl with Ben Roehtlisberger as their quarterback, they will be keeping fingers crossed everything falls into place for this offensive line. One more Super Bowl win would put Ben Roehtlisberger in elite company