The Line On 2013 Steelers

Mike Prisuta puts it all on the offensive line, again.

It's about to begin again, which means we can once and for all put last season to bed.

"I think we're all a little tired of talking about last year," Brett Keisel lamented this week.

The opening of the 2013 campaign affords the perfect opportunity to finally turn the page.

Or does it?

Part of the problem last season was the Steelers lost to teams of Tennessee's caliber far too often.

Thus, Tennessee's presence at Heinz Field to open this season – I'm guessing the Titans aren't going to be very good this year, either – offers the perfect barometer as to the Steelers' progress since last season.

Or, the lack thereof.

So, in that respect, the Steelers aren't going to get past 8-8 until they turn it into 9-7 or 10-6 or something even better.

For starters, they'll take the field convinced all those prognosticating gloom and doom have it all wrong.

"Obviously we have one of the best quarterbacks in the league," Heath Miller said. "That's a good place to start."

The Steelers also have a defense that finished No. 1 overall a season ago and returns, for the most part, intent on generating more pressure and more turnovers this season.

But what the Steelers have going for them most of all – potentially – is an offensive line that's been carefully crafted and constructed to play the type of game the Steelers intend to play under offensive coordinator Todd Haley.

That would be one that establishes the run and occasionally hits home runs while doing so, one that sets up play-action and one that protects that quarterback Miller thinks so highly of at all times. If all of that happens, this can work.

The leader of that unit has maintained all preseason that the offensive line knows its responsibilities toward that end, as does the rest of the team. Maurkice Pouncey insisted after the preseason game against the Redskins on Aug. 19 that it was mostly up to the offensive line to lead the Steelers where they intend to go this season, and that everyone else knows as much. He elaborated this week.

"They can tell the way that practice goes," Pouncey said. "Whether we have a bad practice or a great practice they know the offensive line was carrying the tempo and keeping everybody going at practice.

"It's understood, really. It doesn't need to be talked about."

What's worth discussing is the way Pouncey and the guys up front intend to carry out the responsibilities they've embraced individually and collectively heading into 2013.

"Just being where we were at right now," Pouncey said, "putting in the work each and every day and not thinking abut the future.

"We're perfectly fine, man. We're all on the right track, we're all positive, we've been really honing in. Even in (Wednesday's) meeting we were all into it, asking questions, learning more about it. I think we'll be ready."

Pouncey's inclusion among this season's quartet of captains suggests that's an opinion that's shared in the Steelers' locker room.

The Steelers' offensive line having signed off on what's being demanded from it this season will be obvious, Pouncey said, by "the way we finish, the way we go out there and play and let defenses know our offensive line is going to come to play."

Perhaps when that starts happening on a regular basis we'll finally be able to put 2012 in the rearview mirror.

"We're not last year's team," Keisel insisted. "We're the 2013 Steelers and that's how we need to take the field, like a team that understands what it takes to go out and win."

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