At times throughout the 2022 season, the Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line has shown flashes of improved play. Then, there are times they revert to being that work in progress that was rather disheartening to watch in the preseason.
In Week 11 Sunday at Acrisure Stadium against the Cincinnati Bengals, the first half showed great signs of improvement and the potential to be a solid group up front moving forward. Then, the second half saw the offensive line collapse wit the rest of the offense, allowing far too many pressures and being unable to run the football, leading to a dismal showing offensively in a 37-30 loss in the final 30 minutes of play.
That performance Sunday against the Bengals led to the Steelers remaining in the bottom half of the NFL on Wednesday in the latest offensive line rankings from Pro Football Focus’ Sam Monson.
Against Cincinnati, Kevin Dotson was the highest-graded Steelers offensive linemen via PFF with a grade of 73.0, including a pass blocking grade of 82.7. J.C. Hassenauer, who came in to relieve Mason Cole due to injury, posted a grade of 67.2 overall, while right guard James Daniels graded out at 66.1 overall.
Cole, prior to exiting with the injury, recorded a grade of 59.2, while Chukwuma Okorafor (55.4) and Dan Moore Jr. (51.5) brought up the rear along the offensive line. In total, the Steelers offensive line allowed 11 pressures and seven hurries in the loss, including three quarterback hits and a sack. Moore Jr. was credited with five pressures, three hurries, one quarterback hit and the sack in a dreadful second half.
“Dan Moore Jr. struggled with Trey Hendrickson and the Bengals this past week, allowing five pressures and garnering a penalty,” Monson writes regarding the Steelers offensive line. Still, Monson is impressed with the stability of the group up front, allowing it to try and continue gelling. “The stability of this line has been remarkable. All five starters have played in all 10 games, with Mason Cole missing the most time (46 snaps).”
Stability is nice and all, but it has to matter on the field in terms of improving the play. Too often it’s a few steps forward for the offensive line, but then one significant step back for the group under first-year position coach Pat Meyer.
That’s exactly what played out Sunday against the Bengals. Pittsburgh looked really good in the first half. They were able to consistently run the football against the Bengals and gave rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett ample time to pick apart Cincinnati’s secondary, holding up well against the blitz overall.
Then, in the second half the Bengals stopped blitzing and starting winning more up front with Trey Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard off the edges. The struggles in the trenches led to the Steelers having just 52 yards of total offense in the second half on 27 plays before the final scoring drive.
Moore Jr. and Okorafor remain concerns as the bookends, as does Dotson at left guard, though he is playing better. It’s time to find some consistency though for the Steelers in the trenches, and fast, starting in Week 12 against a stout Indianapolis front seven.
The Colts will roll out names like DeForest Buckner, Yannick Ngakoue, Grover Stewart and Kwity Paye in the trenches this week, making it another difficult matchup for the Steelers.