It's all up front

When Kevin Colbert arrived as Pittsburgh Steelers General Manager, he was asked what he thought the Steelers' "biggest problems" were. "I don't think the lines are very good" was his reply. That statement could be echoed today.

It's been a long time since I have seen the middle of an offensive line become as porous as the current Steelers product. All too frequently, defensive lines have been visiting Steelers running-backs before they can approach the line of scrimmage, much less look for a hole to shoot. It's become a common sight, and something OC Mike Mularkey has been forced into game planning around.

Before we go through the Mularkey hanging proceedings it would be mindful to take into account that the Steelers can't punch out a third-and-one with their offensive line. Mularkey knows that and has been trying to do anything to leverage an advantage. We've seen everything but protective coloration employed. Bettis acting like Zereoue, versa-visa, visa-versa, wide receivers posing as quarterbacks and running backs, reverses, double reverses, statues of liberty, and most recently "The water cooler meeting of death" which seems to be a good way to back up ten yards.

The only things left are: the no-huddle full spread (all game) and Hail Mary's with real prayers.

Alan Faneca is pulling so much opposing teams swear we have two of him, and though we get the periodic benefit of the "virtual Faneca", when it's all said and done he is still only one player. The future is and should be in question when the "linemen of the future" are summarily IR'd when injured or unable to contribute after being fed the system for three years. Three years? When UDFA's are making the squad by virtue of their girth, you should be pondering the location of the beef. As much hand wringing as you see about the OT's, it is still the middle of the Steelers' offensive line that's failing their running game. No bout-a-doubt-it.

Any fan will tell you it's all won and lost in the trenches, (nudge-nudge, wink-wink) only to serenade you in the next breath with, "Eli's Coming".

Team Colbert did not respect the value of depth in the offensive line because they underestimated the value of winning the trench war. Ironically, all of the high priced peripherals are useless because of that.

The same applies to the defensive line.

This 3-4 defense can't function against any of the better offensive lines. Annoyance has been substituted for disruption on the most fortunate of occasion. The infusion of talent to the Steelers defensive line has reached anemic proportions, meanwhile offensive linemen continue to get larger. Without any disruption, the linebackers are hung out to dry and are now thoroughly dehydrated in a cruel arid environment. Cornerbacks are getting fitted with NASA's re-entry tiles. The Steelers could draft Deoine Woodson, the mythical cornerback with size and great speed (who grew up rabbit herding on the Falkland Islands), and he too would feel a hare warm before long.

After attrition steps in and Kendrick Clancy is left to attempt the 290-pound plateau on his own, the Steelers will have only one defensive lineman chosen on the first day of any NFL draft. Any sort of rotation for the defensive line involves the use of undersized UDFAs or 6th round draft picks who wish they were Orpheus Roye (fans included).

Any fan will tell you it's all won and lost in the trenches, (nudge-nudge, wink-wink) only to proclaim that CB Chris "not such a" Gamble is necessary for this defense to survive. Team Colbert, Steelers fans, and any NFL scout have no respect for the depth of Pittsburgh's defensive line, and should not. Rotation is futile, and the defense collapses toward the end of every contest.

The Steelers have forged their way from, "I don't think the lines are very good" to "Several players are overpaid, and I don't think the lines are very good". Like it or not the game is still won and lost in the trenches. Failed investments must be replaced with known commodities? We may never know because it all starts up front, our weak spot.


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