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Steelers’ Offensive Line Near Bottom Of NFL In Pass Blocking, According To Analytics


The Pittsburgh Steelers’ offensive line has often taken the backseat to former offensive coordinator Matt Canada and QB Kenny Pickett as a talking point of Pittsburgh’s offensive success or failure this season, but their play has made just as big of an impact. After signing LG Isaac Seumalo in free agency and drafting OT Broderick Jones in the first round of the NFL Draft, many thought Pittsburgh had completed the overhaul of its offensive line, adding them to the likes of C Mason Cole, RG James Daniels, and RT Chukwuma Okorafor.

However, the offensive line flat on its face to start the year, getting overwhelmed by the San Francisco 49ers’ defensive front. The unit struggled to protect Pickett in pass protection while also failing to generate much traction in the running game for RBs Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren.

When looking at the raw data of Pittsburgh’s offensive line performance in pass protection, it’s doesn’t bode well in comparison to the rest of the league. According to a tweet from Computer Cowboy, the Steelers rank 28th in the NFL in offensive line pass-block grade. The rank is a composite of three major offensive line pass-block grading scales, including Pro Football Focus (40%), Sports Info Solutions (40%), and ESPN pass-block win rate (20%) Each source is re-scaled on a curve with the highest score coming out to 100 and the lowest score coming out to a 0.

The only teams below the Steelers in the pass protection rankings are the New England Patriots, who they play tomorrow night, the Seattle Seahawks, the New York Jets, and the New York Giants, who rank last in football. As far as the AFC North goes, the Steelers rank last with the Cincinnati Bengals ranking 25th in the league while the Baltimore Ravens and the Cleveland Browns rank eighth and sixth, respectively.

As for run blocking, the Steelers fared a little better, ranking 20th in the league just in front of the Green Bay Packers at 21st and just behind the Los Angeles Rams at 19th. The Rams have former Steelers G Kevin Dotson representing himself quite nicely for their offensive line.

Pittsburgh’s offensive line has allowed 25 sacks through 12 games in 2023 with Pickett getting sacked three times of more in three of Pittsburgh’s first five games. The unit has played better as of late but pass protection has still been the weaker of the two areas for Pittsburgh’s offensive front. In comparison, the running game was poor to start the season as Pittsburgh eclipsed 100 yards rushing only twice in its first seven games. However, Pittsburgh’s running game has been on a tear since then, averaging over 165 rushing yards per over the last five weeks. That includes a 205-yard performance against the Green Bay Packers in Week 10 to help boost their ranking from the bottom of the barrel to start the year.

PFF’s latest offensive line rankings pegged the Steelers at 17th in the league after Week 13. Heading into their game on Thursday night against the New England Patriots, the opposition boasts the league’s third-best run defense, setting up a strength-on-strength battle between Pittsburgh’s red-hot rushing attack and New England’s stout rush defense. The Patriots will also look to get after QB Mitch Trubisky with Pickett already ruled out because of a high ankle sprain. That means Pittsburgh must look to have a strong performance in pass protection against New England’s exotic defensive front on passing downs.

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