Despite the loss to Baltimore in the AFC Playoffs, the 2014 season for the Pittsburgh Steelers was more successful than most of us had anticipated. I certainly didn’t see an 11-5 record and division title coming but I am just fine being wrong.
One area that I believe was a bit over-hyped was the offensive line. For starters, the good faith we had in the unit after allowing less than 10 sacks over the final half of 2013 disappeared in 2014. The Steelers gave up 33 sacks which was the second most in the league behind Indianapolis’ 42 sacks.
The rushing attack lacked consistency all season. The last four regular season games saw the Steelers rush for an average of 109.5 yards per game. Doesn’t sound too bad does it?
Consider however that in their 13th game, they ran for 193 yards at Cincinnati. In the next three weeks they ran for a grand total of 142 against the Falcons, Chiefs and Bengals combined.
I’m not suggesting that I expect 150 yards rushing every week but consistency was sorely lacking in 2014.
So is there room for improvement by Mike Munchak’s unit in 2015? I believe there is and I think you might see it in the form of some changes.
Center Maurkice Pouncey had another Pro Bowl season and his play is difficult to critique. I think he struggles against bigger, stronger defensive linemen but he’ll likely stay put.
The only other certainty on the line is David DeCastro who will remain at right guard. There’s no question that he needs to get stronger physically because he was overpowered way too much despite his success in run blocking.
Where I think change is coming is on the edges. Kelvin Beachum has in many ways been a godsend at left tackle but he remains the smallest left tackle in pro football. Will the Steelers want to pay him “starting left tackle money” when his rookie deal ends in 2016?
I don’t think so and I also think they’d like him to slide down and replace Ramon Foster at left guard. Foster has been solid but is a better reserve player than he is a starter. He was exposed often in pass protection as being too slow and often was just flat-out beaten.
My theory also assumes the Steelers bring in a starting left tackle through either free agency or in the draft, but I really feel like the Steelers want to move Beachum down inside.
The other tackle spot is not as set in stone as we might think. Marcus Gilbert started horribly in 2014, picked up his play a bit and then regressed. I’ve never found him to be very tough and I hear Munchak isn’t overly thrilled with him either.
This doesn’t assume that Mike Adams will slide into that spot either. In fact, if the Steelers do their work in free agency and in the draft, Adams could be cut during the summer or in training camp.
Much of what I’m suggesting is pure guess-work but it’s also based on talking with people I trust. Not everything here may come to fruition but I’ll be stunned not to see some serious movement along the line in 2015.