They’re some of the best defensive linemen in the game. They know how to get after the quarterback. They stop the run and pressure the quarterback. They have a lot of high-energy guys with high-motors. It’s a big challenge for us as an offense and for our offensive line.
It was bad enough that the Steelers lost Maurkice Pouncey to a knee injury last weekend. Now the largely untested offensive line must to head to Cincinnati on Monday night to face what is arguably the most talented defensive line in all of football according to Ben Roethlisberger.
In terms of what the Bengals bring to the table on the interior, they have arguably the best 4-3 defensive tackle in the game in the form of Geno Atkins. Despite his squat frame (6’1″ 286 lbs.), Atkins has been quite the formidable pass-rusher since he entered the league in 2010. Geno had a career-year last fall when he named 1st-Team All-Pro after he racked up 12.5 sacks and 54 tackles.
When he isn’t creating havoc as a pass-rusher though, Atkins and Domata Peko are shoring up the interior against opposing running games. Last fall, Peko chipped in 53 tackles and even notched 2.0 sacks of his own while he helped draw double-teams away from the rest of Cincinnati’s talented defensive linemen.
With Pouncey out, it will be up to David DeCastro, Kelvin Beachum, and Ramon Foster to hold Peko and Atkins in check. Unfortunately for the Steelers’ offensive line, the middle is not the only area they need to worry about when they square off against the Bengals.
As far as 4-3 defensive end rotations are concerned, Cincinnati probably has the deepest in the league right now. Although Atkins garners most of the accolades, this group of four have proved to be tremendously adept at attacking opposing quarterbacks and supplying constant pressure from the edges.
In 2012, the Bengals’ top four defensive ends combined to record 26.5 sacks. Michael Johnson led the way with 11.5, Carlos Dunlap added 6.0, backup Wallace Gilberry logged 6.5, and Robert Geathers contributed 3.0. Of course, this is terrible news for the Steelers who have some of the youngest, inexperienced, and ineffective tackle-duos in the entire game at the moment in the forms of Mike Adams and Marcus Gilbert.
I will admit it, I personally do not care if the Steelers win or lose this game. The only thing I care about is Roethlisberger escaping Monday’s slug-fest injury-free with what he has protecting him right now.
I am also sure that Pittsburgh’s lack of talent along their offensive line is not lost on Cincinnati’s defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer. The Bengals defensive linemen will have a “field day” attacking Pittsburgh’s signal-caller when the running game stalls and stalls early.
Ben understands what the caliber of defensive linemen he is set to face, and I am sure that he understands that he will have to “Houdini” himself out of plenty of jams when he drops back to pass on Monday night.
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