They say there are only two things that ‘givens’ in life and those would be death and taxes. There may be a third however and it deals with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Ask anyone with decent knowledge of this team how they think the Steelers will do and the most common answer usually starts with something about the offensive line.
I’m guilty of it and many others I know are as well, but maybe we are neglecting something. There’s significant evidence that the line on the other side of the ball may be just as important as the offensive one.
Think about this for a minute…
At nose tackle is Steve McLendon who replaces a Steelers’ legend in Casey Hampton. McLendon has shown all the signs of being the next great nose tackle in Pittsburgh but has yet to prove it over an entire season. Now is his chance.
At one defensive end position is 35-year old Brett Keisel. In his 12th season, Keisel comes off a rather average season where he was more often a non-factor than a factor in games.
Keisel knows the end is near as this is the final year of his contract. That doesn’t mean of course that he can’t return to the pass-batting and disruptive force he was a few years back. We haven’t seen enough of that that last two years to be sure.
Opposite Keisel will more than likely be Ziggy Hood. In his fourth year out of Missouri, Hood has been about as average as a guy in his position can get. Some times he looks good while other times he looks terrible.
To say that Hood hasn’t lived up to his first round pedigree would rank as a serious understatement. With this being his contract year, will his play step up? For the Steelers to retain their number one defensive ranking, it must.
Third year man Cam Heyward also has the pressure of a first round draft pick haunting him as well. So far in camp, he has played both the right and left DE spots. Much like Hood, Heyward still has a lot to prove. Whether any of the guys fighting do a roster spot can make a difference is unknown right now.
Regardless of who is playing the three line spots, they set the table for the linebackers and set the tone for the defense.
While most of us focus on the health of the offensive line in 2013 we can’t overlook the importance of the defensive line either.
Marc Uhlmann writes for and Co-owns steelcityblitz.com. He can be heard Mondays at 4pm on Trib-Live Radio talking Steelers.