Originally written on The Sports Headquarters  |  Last updated 8/22/12

Pittsburgh by all accounts should have had a major decline on Defense in 2011 but the “old” guys just keep being a resilient bunch.  Pittsburgh has had  a mantra that every team should have..”next man up.”  Whenever the Steelers had an injury or issue that should have impacted them immensely, they just plugged another well trained man into the spot of the man who went down and it seemed to go off without a hitch. (take note of this Indianapolis)  On the other side of the ball, the Steelers Offensive Line has a striking similarity to old Crazy Legs Hirsch in that it may not look pretty but it gets the job done.  Year in and year out, the Steelers have had a Offensive Line that is nasty enough to fend off defensive pressures and create gaping holes for it’s running backs to explode through, but they are markedly weaker in pass protection.  Charged with keeping QB Ben Roethlisberger on the field are LT Max Starks, LG Willie Colon, C Maurkice Pouncey, RG Ramon Foster and RT Marcus Gilbert.

Left Tackle Max Starks was selected in the 3rd round of the 2004 NFL Draft by the Steelers.  He is one of the largest players in the NFL at 6’8 and 345 pounds and wears a size 19 shoe.  He is the prototypical plug and play player as he has been a Left Tackle and Right Tackle at various times throughout his career.  2012 Draftee Mike Adams was expected to be the Left Tackle but has struggled in camp.


Left Guard Willie Colon was a 4th round Draft Pick of the Steelers in 2006.  He has dealt with a ton of injuries lately that have limited his playing time but when he out there, he is a difference maker.  He has decent size for the Guard position and block well for the running backs.  Colon will be replacing Chris Kemoeatu who was penalized at inopportune times last year.


Center Maurkice Pouncey was a 1st round selection of the Steelers in 2011.  Instantly he has become heir to the Steelers throne of producing Hall of Fame Centers, such as Mike Webster and Dermontti Dawson.  Pouncey is extremely mobile with great size and long reach.  He is explosive at the snap and creates holes easily to run through.  He will be a cornerstone of the Steelers foundation for years to come.


Right Guard Ramon Foster was an undrafted Free Agent selected by the Steelers in 2009.  The position of Right Guard has been a point of concern for Pittsburgh, so they chose the best college Guard prospect in the country, David Decastro this year.  Decastro hasn’t developed as well as intended so far so Foster holds the starters title.


Right Tackle Marcus Gilbert was taken in the 2nd round of the 2011 NFL Draft by the Steelers.  The Steelers love their giant bookends and at 6’6 and 330 pounds Gilbert fills the bill.  He kicks out well and gets quick penetration into the second level.  As a Rookie he was one of the most effective run blocking Right Tackles in the NFL but needs to bring up his pass protection effectiveness.


Now to analyze the numbers…..


The Steelers ranked 3rd in the NFL in Total Run Blocking allowing their stable of Rashard Mendenhall, Isaac Redman, Mewelde Moore and Jonathan Dwyer to average 4.48 yards per carry which exceeded the NFL average of 4.31.  They were stopped at/or behind the line of scrimmage on 20% of their attempts which was below the NFL average of 19%.  They achieved 1st downs on 3rd/4th down runs only 57% of the time which was well worse than the NFL average of 62%.  If you are paying attention, the Steelers struggle at times but break off large chunks at other times.  Pittsburgh ran the ball 386 times in 2011 and found that they were very ineffective running off the Left Tackle spot as they only gained 0.65 yards per carry which was far and away the worst yards per carry average in the NFL.  They had much better results running directly behind the Left Tackle position as they averaged 4.87 yards per carry which was 4th best in the NFL.  From a Fantasy perspective, Rashard Mendenhall was a serviceable RB2 until a knee injury has sidelined him until now.  I would stash him on my bench until you see how his injury has progressed.  In early Drafts, I noticed a pile of Owners drafting Isaac Redman but he is hampered with a groin injury.  Jonathan Dwyer and newly drafted Chris Rainey will also see limited action.  Important to note that Todd Haley is the new Offensive Coordinator and he loves to frustrate Fantasy Owners with committees in the RB position.  I would place the Steelers backfield in the same class as the Redskins backfield and avoid them both.


The Steelers ranked 20th in Pass Protection in 2011 allowing Big Ben to be sacked on 7.2% of his dropbacks which was above the NFL average of 6.7%.  Ben’s go for broke style adds to his overall sackability so the Offensive Line should not have to shoulder all the blame.  The Steelers have a decent arsenal to lob the ball to, so if Roethlisberger is afforded the time to throw, he may be a Top 10 QB.  Antonio Brown should be the first Steeler off the Fantasy Draft Boards in 2012.  He is versatile and is a handful for defensive players.  He is a low end WR1 and an excellent WR2.  His counterpart Mike Wallace will be drafted higher on name recognition but is either a stud or is a non-factor.  He will give you Flex value every week but he has WR2 weeks so draft him accordingly.  Emmanuel Sanders is intriguing in that he has lots of tools but can’t put them to use on an every week basis.  At Tight End, Heath Miller has been chronically underutilized in the Steelers offensive schemes, but Haley has a soft spot for TE’s so monitor his value.


Thanks to www.footballoutsiders.com for the statistics


Next team is the San Diego Chargers

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