Cook: Offensive line a little off center
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The final numbers were absolutely gruesome. They tell you plenty about how poorly the Steelers' offensive line played in the 23-13 loss Sunday night at San Diego. The five sacks allowed. The 68 rushing yards on 18 attempts. The 10 running plays for 2 or fewer yards, including six for minus yardage. The nearly 3-to-1 edge in possession time for the Chargers in the second half.
But one play best summed up the lame effort. On third-and-1 at the Chargers' 20 in the second quarter, running back Najeh Davenport took a handoff and started toward right tackle. Problem was, he never got there. Chargers nose tackle Jamal Williams drove center Jeff Hartings back into guard Alan Faneca who ended up in Davenport's way. The Chargers smothered Davenport for a 1-yard loss, forcing the Steelers to settle for a deflating field goal.Peter Diana, Post-Gazette
Steelers fans should expect more out of Pro Bowl guard Alan Faneca and the offensive line.
Click photo for larger image.
Take a moment to tip your cap to that San Diego defense. "Amazing" is the word Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger used to describe the front seven. Williams, in particular, is a big-time player. You can't give him a better compliment than to say he had a Casey Hampton-like game. He's the big reason, literally and figuratively, the Chargers have hit the trifecta in the NFL's defensive rankings -- No. 1 in rush, pass and overall defense.
The Jacksonville front seven that dominated the Steelers' line Sept. 18 also is terrific. Everybody blames that 9-0 loss on Roethlisberger's rust, but his linemen abandoned him. Willie Parker was able to run for just 20 yards on 11 carries. The Steelers aren't going to win running the ball that ineffectively.
Of course, you have to give the other guys credit.
They get paid, too.
But don't we expect so much more from the Steelers' offensive linemen? They've been such a strong unit. Hartings and Faneca made the Pro Bowl last season and tackle Marvel Smith would have joined them if not for an ankle injury. The line deserves much of the credit for the Super Bowl success. But now? It gets the vote here as the most disappointing group on an underachieving team that has received lousy play from its quarterback, wide receivers and secondary.
"That's as fair as fair can be," Faneca said before practice yesterday. "We're not holding up our end of the bargain. Our offense goes how the O-line goes. We know that. The offense sits on our shoulders."
It's easy to blame Roethlisberger for the Steelers' three-game losing streak and 1-3 start. He's not just the face of the team. He has made bad decisions and done a horrible job protecting the football, as evidenced by his seven interceptions.
But the fools who are saying it's time to consider benching Big Ben in favor of Charlie Batch need to realize Roethlisberger hasn't gotten much help. The dumb interception he threw late against the Chargers was largely the result of linebacker Shaun Phillips coming in on him cleanly. In the third quarter, after the Steelers had a first down at their 47, Roethlisberger was sacked on consecutive plays. That's no way to sustain a drive.
The Steelers rank 25th in the league in sacks per pass play. They rank 25th in total offense. They rank 22nd in rush offense. They rank 28th in yards per play. That's no way to win games.
In the losses to the Chargers and Jaguars, Roethlisberger had 31 and 32 pass attempts. That's too many. When he's at his best, he's throwing 17-22 times.
"When we're clicking, we're running the ball more, passing when we want to pass and eating up the clock," Faneca said. "When we do that, we're helping our defense just as much as we're helping ourselves. We're keeping our defense off the field."
The Steelers' offense needs to do that Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs. The Steelers' defense isn't just coming off an awful second half against the Chargers. Linebacker Joey Porter (hamstring) won't play and will be replaced by Arnold Harrison, who will make his first start. Cornerback Deshea Townsend (hamstring) didn't practice yesterday and is questionable.
You bet the Steelers' offense has to keep the defense off the field.
It's nice to think Hartings will have a better game, if only because the Chiefs don't have anyone of Williams' caliber on their defensive front. Just to be safe, Steelers coach Bill Cowher might want to threaten guard Kendall Simmons with a loss of playing time. He did that about this time last season -- backup Chris Kemoeatu began taking a few more snaps in practice -- and Simmons' game took off. Simmons needs to find that same resolve now.
All of the Steelers' linemen do.
"A lot of people are panicking way too much," Simmons said. "I think if you ask any of the five of us, we'll tell you none of us is panicking. We know what we have to do. We're going to be fine."
That sounds nice, but you know what they say about talk.
It's time for the Steelers' big fellas to start playing.
First Published October 13, 2006 12:00 am