Steelers Today - A Pittsburgh Steelers blog


Super Bowl XLV Preview: The Offensive Lines

January 29, 2011 By: Admin Category: Pre-Game Analyses

This is Part 3 of our 9-part Super Bowl XLV Preview series.  In this installment, we’re going to take a look at the offensive lines of the two teams.

To read the other parts of this series, click the appropriate link below:

Part 1:  Super Bowl XLV Preview -  Team overviews

Part 2:  Super Bowl XLV Preview - The quarterbacks

Part 3:  Super Bowl XLV Preview - The Offensive Lines

Part 4:  Super Bowl XLV Preview - The Receivers

Part 5:  Super Bowl XLV Preview - The Running Backs

Part 6:  Super Bowl XLV Preview - The Defensive Lines

Part 7:  Super Bowl XLV Preview - The Linebackers

Part 8:  Super Bowl XLV Preview - The Defensive Backs

Part 9:  Super Bowl XLV Preview - Putting it all together

The offensive line isn’t a tremendous strength for either team.  Green Bay’s offensive line gave up 51  sacks in 2009 and had nowhere to go but up.  They decreased that number to 31 in 2010, so they seem to be moving in the right direction.

The Packers best offensive lineman is probably veteran left tackle Chad Clifton.  Clifton is 34 years old, but he’s still a very effective blocker.  His feet aren’t quite as quick as they once were, and he’s battled knee problems for the last few years.  I anticipate that he’s going to have problems blocking James Harrison.  But of course that puts him in good company, since no other tackle in the NFL seems to be able to block Harrison without holding him.

Daryn Colledge is their left guard, and he’s definitely the weak link on their offensive line (picture Trai Essex or Sean Mahan playing for the Packers).  He struggles against strong rushers.

Their center is Scott Wells.  Wells is not the most fearsome looking center in the NFL.  His short arms make him look like he’s going to be easy to get by.  But looks can be deceptive.  He’s not going to get a great push, but he can hold his ground quite effectively, even against larger nose tackles.

Josh Sitton plays right guard for the Packers.  He’s probably the Packers’ most physical blocker.  Despite the injury problems that have plagued the Packers offensive line over the past few years, Sitton can always be depended on to suit up and play.  He has solid technique and is very dependable at his position.

Right tackle Bryan Bulaga’s name should be very familiar to Steelers fans.  Most mock drafts projected that the Steelers were going to select him in the 1st round of last year’s draft.  Bulaga is a big, physical blocker.  Steelers fans should watch him battling LaMarr Woodley, and think about how close he came to being a Steeler.

Overall, the Packers’ offensive line is not going to instill fear in their opponents.  They’re competent, but not outstanding.  They’re not in the same class as the New York Jets offensive line that the Steelers just faced.  That’s part of the reason why they have so much difficulty running the ball.  But Aaron Rodgers’ mobility help to offset some of the shortcomings in the Packers’  offensive line.

On the opposite side of the ball, the Steelers’ offensive line is no better than the Packers.  They’ve been a M.A.S.H. unit all season long.  Injuries on the Steelers’ offensive line seem to be the norm, rather than the exception.

Starting left tackle Max Starks was placed on the injured reserve (IR) list due to a neck injury.  Jonathan Scott has been filling in for him since then.  Scott is a veteran player who is competent, but not outstanding.  He won’t be the Steelers’ starting left tackle next season.

Left guard Chris Kemoeatu is the only Steelers’ starting offensive lineman from 2009 who maintained his position in 2010.  It would be great if all of the changes came because younger players beat out the incumbents.  But instead, it has been injuries that have pushed most of them out of the line-up.

“Kemo” is a big, physical blocker who can also make blocks at the second level.  He can be a bit emotional, and he is prone to getting silly penalties at the most inopportune times.  But if he can play a smart mental game, he is a very good left guard.

Center Doug Legursky was thrust into the line-up in the AFC Championship game when All-Pro rookie center Maurkice Pouncey suffered a high ankle sprain.  Legursky is a 2nd year veteran who has been shuffled in and out of the Steelers’ offensive line as multiple players have gotten hurt this year.  So while it will be tough to replace Pouncey, Legursky has shown that he can fill in well when called upon.

Right guard Ramon Foster is a big (6’6″, 325 lbs.) second year man out of Tennessee.  I liked him last year when I first saw him at Steelers Training Camp.  He filled in well for Chris Kemoeatu at left guard last year, and he beat out Trai Essex for the right guard position this year.

Right guard has been a position that’s been in flux for the Steelers for the last 3 years.  Since Kendall Simmons left, nobody has been able to grab the position and hold onto it long-term.  Foster, Essex, Legursky, and Darnell Stapleton have all filled in at the position, but many believe that the Steelers will draft a guard in the upcoming draft in hopes of finding a permanent solution for the position.

Finally, right tackle Flozell Adams was also a last minute replacement.  The Steelers signed the long-time Cowboys’ tackle to replace Willie Colon when he was placed on IR.  Adams had a hard time adjusting to the right tackle position after playing left tackle for most of his career.  He struggled at first, but he has been pretty consistent lately.  He isn’t as quick-footed as he once was.  I fear that he will struggle against Clay Matthews in pass protection.  But in run blocking, he is still a brute of a blocker.

Neither unit would have been expected to take their team to the Super Bowl, yet here they both are.  And the unit that plays the best may well be responsible for their team hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.

The Steelers’ offensive line that played in Super Bowl XLIII may have been one of the worst offensive lines to ever win a Super Bowl.  Perhaps history will repeat itself, and one of these mediocre units will prove that you don’t need Pro Bowl players on the offensive line to win an NFL Championship.  All you need is a bunch of guys who are willing to give it their all for 60 minutes.

(If you enjoyed this article, please consider leaving a comment by clicking on the square at the top right of this article. Also, please subscribe to our blog by pressing the orange button below. You can also follow us on Twitter by clicking the bird doohicky below. Also consider following us on Facebook. Thanks.)

Subscribe in a reader

Top                NFL Fan Sites


7 Comments to “Super Bowl XLV Preview: The Offensive Lines”

  1. Wow….you did it again…right on

    OL EDGE: Packers (I would have given the Steelers the edge here but now that Pouncy will be out it has to go to the Packers :( )

    But hey, neither QB has seen a pocket since their college years so whats the difference! LOL

  2. Have to disagree with your assessment of Clifton. He’s a great pass blocker. In the past month he’s handled Osi Umenura, (sp?) Trent Cole, and Julius Peppers twice with nary a sack and only a handful of pressures. I’m not worried about Harrison killing AR.

    Bulaga will need help against Woodley though.

    Sitton and Wells should be able to protect the interior of the line in pass pro against any team - I don’t expect that to change. Colledge sucks. I’m worried there.

    The right side of GB’s O line actually does run block ok. Bulaga and Sitton get pretty good push. However, it’s not enough to get 4-5 ypc, so it’s really a moot point against such a good run D.

    If GB gets any yards running, it’ll be out of shotgun draws, sprints, pitches, with PIT’s D in nickel.

    Also, don’t forget that Brandon Jackson is one of the best pass blocking and blitz pickup RB’s in the league. He’ll be around to diagnose and help the O line with some of the more exotic looks PIT will send.

    On the other side of the ball, I just don’t see how Legursky is going to stop Raji. Cullen Jenkins is also a beast in pass rush, and I see CM3 eating Flozell Adams alive.

    If GB is worried about the run, they’ll go to base 3/4, where Pickett, Raji and Green are the largest 3/4 line in the last 10 years (since BAL in 00 I believe). You don’t run on GB in their base - only in nickel.

    GB stays in nickel so often because Woodson is so exceptional in the slot, and also to get Shields (who should be in the running for rookie of the year) on the field more.

    So GB has a choice on D: stay in base to stop the run or go to Nickel and let loose the combination of CM3, Jenkins, Raji, Woodson, Bishop and Walden?

    Big decisions - and daunting on both sides of the ball.

  3. just because your DL guys are big, doesn’t mean you’re good at stopping the run. they can get worn out during the game. in fact, gb has one of the worst yards/rush against in the league during the regular season.

  4. Again Tim, you gotta actually watch the games. The reason that ypc stat is so high is because GB plays almost 75% nickel throughout the year. However, go look at the games where they were more worried about the run - they played base 3/4 and were simply outstanding. They shut runners down: Peterson, NYJ, Forte, Turner, McCoy, NYG - the list goes on!

    If GB is more worried about PIT running than passing, they’ll keep the run in check. Not a doubt in my mind.

    If GB is more worried about PIT passing, they’ll stay in nickel, concede the yards, and play sack and turnover ball. (which BTW, they are pretty darn good at - ball hawks all around)

  5. I couldn’t disagree with your take more (although i admit I haven’t watched the games these stats don’t lie). a lot of the games you mentioned the runners were very successful running but the teams couldn’t stay with the run because they were getting blown out. if your argument was true then your team would let up a lot of yardage in games you won big, but very little in the closer games…but the opposite is true. there was only ONE GAME all year that was close points wise & your team didn’t let up over 100 yards rushing…and that’s cuz andy reid is an idiot and likes to throw the ball 1000 times in a game.

    here’s your rb avg yards/carry you “shut down” AP: 4.7y/c, 5.1y/c; turner:4.8y/c, 3.9y/c; mccoy: 3.8y/c; forte 4.1y/c, 6.1y/c and <3y/c. so you only actually "shut down" all those rb's ONCE all year…unless you have some weird definition of "shut down."

    maybe i'm completely wrong but i think your rush D is the weakness to your team (that and how much dependence you have on one phenomenal player on offense).

  6. Well actually, the stats do lie a little here. As I stated earlier. GB’s nickel is the best nickel D in the NFL, and so they play it. A lot. Nickel is, by definition, a smaller D unit. It’s designed to stop the pass.

    In essence, Dom Capers throughout the year has said “I’ll give up ypc if I get game changing sack/fumbles, INTs and stops when I need them.

    Go look at your stats again. GB is second in the NFL in D scoring (yes behind PIT) , and was in the top 10 of turnover differential for that reason.

  7. I think Tim has a point.

    1. GB has not been outstanding, even in the 3-4. They mostly have just forced teams to abandon the run to play catch up offense because they’re down by a lot early. During the regular season GB faced the 6th fewest rushing attempts in the league, and it wasn’t because teams were afraid to run against a team that gives up 4.7 yard/att.

    2. GB’s nickel is able to succeed against good running teams because these teams have to pass to catch up.

    Nobody is saying that GB’s run defense is a revolving door, but they can hardly claim to be able to stop anybody straight up, and with the balance the Steelers have it is unlikely that the Packers will be able to ignore the Steelers wideouts or force the Steelers to play a pass heavy offense to catch up.


Leave a Reply