The Steelers might want to continue to throw short passes to guys like Heath Miller until the offensive line gets healthy.
It seems like every Sunday, the music stops and a different set of offensive linemen grab a seat and get their chance to start for the Steelers. This Sunday will be no different. Marcus Gilbert was declared out of this week’s game versus the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Steeler offensive line will look like this from left to right:
Max Starks, Doug Legursky, Maurkice Pouncey, Ramon Foster, Jonathan Scott
Mewelde Moore, Aaron Smith and James Harrison will also ride the pine this weekend. Casey Hampton looks doubtful right now so expect the defensive line to look like this:
Brett Keisel, Chris Hoke, Ziggy Hood with Steve McLendon and Cam Heyward seeing significant playing time.
It has been interesting to see the change coming at defensive line. Smith, Hampton and Keisel have relied mostly on a power/bull pass rush where they literally shove the offensive linemen into the backfield and QB. Ziggy Hood and Cam Heyward have that kind of power but they also have a lot more quickness. Ziggy was literally all over the field last Sunday in pursuit of running backs running the ball and wide receivers catching short passes. Heyward was unstoppable on multiple plays getting into the backfield and forcing Matt Hasselbeck to throw the ball before he wanted to.
There were several plays last week which featured inside linebacker Chris Carter, the Steelers 5th round draft pick out of Fresno State. As the season rolls on, expect to see more of him and possibly Stevenson Sylvester in the lineup spelling James Farrior and Larry Foote. Both Foote and Farrior are in their 30’s which means “old” in the NFL (to Warren Sapp it means “finished as well).
Big Ben will continue to wear his boot to protect his left foot (wasn’t that the name of a movie?) and hopefully he will be as accurate as he was last week (sans the last pass before halftime). Rashard Mendenhall will be back in the lineup and Bruce Arians, the Steeler offensive coordinator, stated that Mendy is his man. This coming even though the Steelers had their best running output of the season last week via Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer. Arians never disappoints. When something is going right, he immediately stops doing it. I still expect Redman to get several touches and, if Mendy struggles, Redman could get half or more of the carries.
The Jacksonville Jaguars used to be a strong and intimidating team. They had huge and nasty defensive linemen like John Henderson and Marcus Stroud. Now, they are rebuilding that defense and, in the process, are giving up 23 points per game. Now that’s not bad (12th in the league) but when your offense only scores 11.8 points per game, it could hurt your chances of making the playoffs.
The offense is “led” by rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert. Gabbert was thrown into this debacle after the Jags unexpectedly cut their starting QB David Garrard and Luke McCown displayed his best Luke McCown impression during weeks 1 and 2. Now I don’t have all of the details but the story goes like this. The Jags said that they expected to have Garrard as their starting QB this season. One morning, less than a week before the start of the regular season, Garrard was making an appearance in downtown Jacksonville to encourage fans to buy season tickets. Just a few hours later, the Jags cut Garrard and sent him packing. Now if you knew you were going to cut your star QB, why would you send him on a public relations campaign to generate season ticket sales? All I can say is CLASSLESS. That’s what this organization always has been and it always will be as long as Wayne Weaver is the owner of the franchise. There are other incidents with this franchise like when they signed a former Steeler backup QB for the week they played the Steelers. They pumped him for as much knowledge about the Steelers as they could get, then cut him the day after the game. JAGOFFS, I tell you!
The best player on the team, without question, is Maurice Jones-Drew AKA pocket Hercules. He can run, he can catch and he can knock your teeth out with a block—right Shawne Merriman? Is Merriman still suspended for juicing?
At any rate, I’m not going to mince words here. Even though the Steelers have a bunch of guys banged up or just plain injured, this should be a reasonably routine win. I know my fellow superstitious Steeler fans, I just jinxed us. But if the Steelers can’t play as well this week as they did last week against a much better opponent, then maybe the Steelers aren’t that good this year.
I would love to hear your thoughts on the game and the team. Feel free to leave comments on the blog. Thanks for reading! And remember, no matter where you go in this world, you’re ALWAYS in Steeler Country!
Photo courtesy of the AP