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Steelers vs. Texans: Pittsburgh Has NFL's Worst Offensive Line

And it might not even be close!

It brings me no joy to point out the ineptitude of the Steelers' offensive front. And it provides little comfort to remind myself that a rash of injuries has forced the unit to play musical chairs with its starting lineup, including throwing a rookie right tackle into the fire (Marcus Gilbert).

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who has nine turnovers in four games after Sunday's 17-10 loss to the Houston Texans, has played pretty poorly, but it misses the point to lay too much blame on the guy. Sure, he holds onto the ball too long and lets the play clock run down on nearly every third and long, giving opposing pass rushers a jump on the snap count ... but more often than not, Roethlisberger simply doesn't have a chance to do anything before defenders have sliced through Pittsburgh's swiss cheese pocket and are hitting him right in the mouth.

Houston's revamped defensive front under new coordinator Wade Phillips sacked Roethlisberger five times on Sunday and knocked him to the ground on too many other dropbacks to count. (Former defensive end Mario Williams has adjusted to the 3-4 and is still a beast at outside linebacker.) Although Pittsburgh surprisingly averaged 5.4 yards per carry on Sunday—thanks to strong efforts by halfbacks Mewelde Moore and Isaac Redman—it's difficult to imagine them maintaining a consistent ground attack, given what we've seen so far.

In short, this is not a fun offense to watch if you're a Steelers fan, and it's mostly the line's fault. (In my fantasy football leagues, I may just start streaming whichever defense is playing Pittsburgh!)

Perhaps it's time to revamp this offense? Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians has preferred a two-tight end base offense, but given the team's crazy depth at wide receiver, maybe the best way to protect Roethlisberger is to line up with...

  • 3 WRs, 1 TE & 1 RB,
  • 3 WRs & 2 RBs,
  • 4 WRs & 1 RB,
  • 4 WRs & 1 TE, or
  • 5 WRs
  • ...and rely primarily on quick timing routes and screen passes. Maybe this would even create more holes for Rashard Mendenhall (3.0 ypc), who seems to bounce it outside on every play due to a complete lack of interior rushing lanes. 

    I'm just spitballing, of course, and I'm no NFL coach—but I think you've got to play to your strengths and try to minimize your liabilities. So far, Pittsburgh has shown an inability to protect Roethlisberger for more than two seconds or so, so why not feature the wideouts more, spread the defense out, and make them pay on blitz packages?

    After getting dismantled up front by the Texans, we'll have to see what adjustments Pittsburgh makes in Week 5 against the Tennessee Titans.

    Photographs by dizfunk used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.