When you lose three games in a row, it’s fair to say that there’s a good chance nothing, or just about nothing, has been good enough to contribute successfully to wins. The Pittsburgh Steelers are in the midst of a three-game losing streak to begin their campaign, and while the injury to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger looms large over that, it’s hard to pinpoint any one position group and say that they have been consistently above the line, with perhaps the defensive line coming the closest.
In spite of the fact that 60 percent of the group is made up of Pro Bowlers, not even the offensive line can hold up to that distinction, according to head coach Mike Tomlin, who was asked roughly that question during his pre-game press conference yesterday:
I don’t think any of us have been providing us with enough of what we need, because we haven’t been handling our business. You can seek comfort by eliminating some of us from that equation, or you can assign blame by highlighting others, but the bottom line is, there’s more meat on the bone for all of us, and we’ve all got to look within and really analyze what we’re doing and the quality to which we’re doing it. And the offensive line is no different than anyone else, player or coach, in that regard.
The biggest issues so far have come on the bookends, with both tackles Alejandro Villanueva and Matt Feiler getting off to a rough start in 2019. Both of them had perhaps their worst games as starters, respectively, at least in a good while, on Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers. Villanueva in particular spent a good deal of time on his backside, and that’s a long fall for a 6’9” frame.
While the interior offensive line has perhaps been solid overall, as Tomlin said, in situations such as the one the Steelers fine themselves in, you’re not looking to single anybody out for positive performances that are not resulting in changing the outcome on the scoreboard.
The overall performance of the offense has done the line no favors, either. While their blocking is a contributing factor in that, the inability of the passing game to move the ball—wide receivers not creating separation, inaccuracy and poor decisions being made from the quarterback position—have resulted in deficits.
And while the running backs have had their own struggles in picking up yards after contact, amid their relatively few touches, the team has been rendered largely one-dimensional as a passing offense, with the 30th-most rushing attempts. Any time the defense can pretty safely predict what you’re going to do, your job is going to be harder.