Steelers' O-line appears to be jelling

Players and coaches agree that the Steelers' fifth different starting offensive line this season played its best game against the Jets.

PITTSBURGH – Except for allowing a safety – the play more than any other that caused the Steelers to lose to the New York Jets on Sunday – the Steelers' offensive line played one of its best games of the season.

Except for the safety.

Except for the loss.

"I was very pleased," said offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, "except the one play Jon [Scott] didn't get him cut off, and it's a shame because he might've played his best game ever."

Yes, except for the safety that gave the Jets a late 22-17 lead and forced the Steelers to score a touchdown instead of kicking a short, tying field goal, the Steelers' line played well.

It can be argued the line played better in Week 3 in the romp over Tampa Bay. There, the Steelers didn't allow a sack and rushed for 201 yards at a 6.3 clip. But the Steelers also had the services of left tackle Max Stark in that game, which was against lesser competition. The Bucs rank 20th in total defense.

The Jets are the league's No. 5 defense, and the Steelers did not have Starks, who's been on injured reserve the last six games. The line played its best game without him in allowing only 3 sacks in 47 dropbacks while rushing for 147 yards at a 5.9 clip.

"They controlled the line of scrimmage and gave us grass all day," said Rashard Mendenhall, who rushed for 100 yards on only 17 carries. "It was man on man and they drove them back. They did a really good job."

Guards Ramon Foster and Chris Kemoeatu both said they played their best individual games of the season, and both cited improved communications up and down the line. That's also the element Arians cited.

"I was extremely pleased with the communication because that was probably the most complicated blitz team that we have seen all year," Arians said. "With the confusion, plus the solid pass-rushers that they had, I'm really pleased. But more than anything I was really pleased with the running game. I felt we blocked a really good front the majority of the night."

"From the center over, we have real good communication right now," said Foster, who replaced Trai Essex at right guard five games ago. "When I first was in there, I didn't really know how to communicate with Flo [Adams], as far as talking to him and stuff. But now we have it down pretty good."

The Steelers have become a true right-handed running team with the acquisition of Adams. He's taken to the switch to right tackle extremely well, particularly in the running game.

"Especially the Baltimore game against [Haloti] Ngata," said Foster. "Flo's one of the only people I've seen just move him like he did."

Arians said Adams has more ability left in his 35-year-old body than he'd expected.

"Oh, totally," Arians said. "But I might be more impressed with him as a guy, because I had him totally pegged wrong. He's the hardest working guy we've got. He's got unbelievable pride. I go back to that first preseason game when he gave up a sack. He must've stayed out after practice for 45 minutes every night in training camp making defensive backs rush against him so he could block speed-rushers. That showed me right there that he had what it was going to take to play on the right side. He just brings some toughness and some savvy old veteran leadership to help these young guys."

The group that started against the Jets was the fifth different starting configuration this season. By comparison, only two different configurations started for the Steelers last season. But in its fifth game, this configuration appears to be jelling in time for the playoffs.

"I like the improvement we made," Arians said before proceeding with caution. "We've still got a long way to go, but I like the fact we could play fast [no-huddle] ball again. We hadn't played much of it this year and we were able to do that and still run the football well.

"There were some good signs. We needed to finish that game off and I would've been really happy."

Right. Except for the safety.

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