Mandatory Credit: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

Offensive Line Must Keep Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson at Bay


Pete Prisco of CBS Sports had this to say when it came to the game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New York Jets this weekend:


The Jets impressed with their victory over the Falcons Monday night. But that means they are on a short week with the Steelers coming off a bye. I still think this will come down to the Jets defensive front against that Steelers line. Geno Smith wins again.


As he stated above, Prisco picked the Jets to win (17-14) because of their stout pass-rush and I for one cannot blame him. In fact, I am struggling to believe that Pittsburgh’s offensive line can keep the stout interior pass-rush of Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson at bay this weekend.

As potent as New York’s pass-rush has been this fall (16.0 sacks, t-fifth), Wilkerson (6’4″ 315 lbs.) and Richardson (6’3″ 294 lbs.) have been quite the formidable duo along the Jets’ defensive front.

Wilkerson leads the team with 4.0 sacks during the first five regular season games, which is impressive when one considers that he is mainly a down-lineman in New York’s 3-4 defensive scheme. Wilkerson’s long arms and versatility to line up and pass-rush effectively from different areas along the line of scrimmage are what have made the former Temple Owl a very dangerous pass-rusher.

New York’s first round pick from the 2011 NFL Draft put those skills on display on Monday night versus Atlanta, and his threat to attack Ben Roethlisberger as a one-technique, three-technique, or five-technique will definitely make him a challenge for Pittsburgh’s offensive line to handle.

Richardson is more of a quicker and gap-shooting defensive lineman than Wilkerson, but his skill-set could make him a tough customer for Pittsburgh’s slower offensive linemen to deal with this weekend.

The rookie from the University of Missouri has been almost as potent as Wilkerson as a pass-rushing threat in the trenches, and Richardson currently ranks second on the team with 2.5 sacks. Armed with a solid combination of speed and agility, Fernando Velasco, David DeCastro and whomever lines up at left guard must be prepared to stop Richardson from blasting through the B-gaps in passing situations.


Final Thoughts

Pittsburgh’s offensive line has allowed 15 sacks during their first four games, and they have had trouble maintaining clean pockets for Ben Roethlisberger when he has not been dropped for losses.

I am sure that Rex Ryan and New York’s defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman know how porous the Steelers’ offensive line has been this year, and they know that they have the appropriate weapons along their defensive line (as well as at the linebacker positions) to attack one of Pittsburgh’s biggest weaknesses this weekend.

As much as I hope that Pittsburgh’s passing attack can flourish this weekend, to do so will require them to keep Wilkerson and Richardson in check. Unfortunately, that task is much easier said than actually done.





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Tags: David DeCastro Fernando Velasco Guy Whimper Muhammad Wilkerson New York Jets Pittsburgh Steelers Ramon Foster Sheldon Richardson

  • Joe Longo

    this can get ugly quick..unless geno turns it over, and over again.

    • Dom DiTolla

      I know, right? Wilkerson particularly scares the crap out of me because he can be a pass-rushing threat from almost anywhere in the trenches and should be able to exploit each one of Pittsburgh’s offensive linemen. The only chance the Steelers have is if Smith turns it over, as you stated, or if Bell can get something going in the running game.

      If Big Ben has to throw the ball 35+ times, he might not make it through the entire game in one piece.

  • Redd Mahoney

    This guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about! The offensive line hasn’t given up ALL 15 sacks! Some were Ben’s fault for holding the ball too long. Some were the receivers fault for not getting open quickly enough. They had virtually 1 tight end to begin the season and his blocking left a lot to be desired and that’s being nice! The backs also missed a few blocks along the way. This is the ultimate TEAM game…those 15 sacks were a total TEAM effort. If the offense executes as a TEAM on Sunday…the Steelers will have more than a decent chance against the Jets.

    • Dom DiTolla

      Point taken.

      Yet I’m pretty sure it’s at least on the offensive line to keep defensive tackles and five-techniques at bay in passing situations. I would hate to see how many sacks the offense would have given up had Big Ben not “Houdini’d” himself out of the types of jams he already has so far.

      • Redd Mahoney

        What you and the rest of Steeler Nation have witnessed so far is an incomplete/struggling engine at work. Ben/Haley had a plan for this offense before the season. Remember that they consulted with each other in the summer? But the offensive machine was missing parts of it’s engine critically affecting it’s overall performance. Let’s be logical. Look at the facts. Heath missing that’s 1 part. Then Plaxico goes down…there’s another part. Then Le’veon is out( You think all this didn’t affect the RED ZONE offense?)so another part of the engine is missing. Then Pouncy…..then Stephens Howling. They all were to play crucial roles within the engine of this machine. The Steelers had to come up with a plan B almost every other week. The key to the rest of the season for the offense will be Bell. This man has feet like the Bus used to have! A good/CONSISTENT threat of running game will be the BEST protection for Ben. Remember his rookie season? This will cut down on his attempts protect both him and the still chemistry developing offensive line while also extending Ben’s chances of playing a FULL season for a change. With the early bye…the Steelers have been granted a 2nd wind.
        Steeler Nation take notice of how efficiently the offensive machine executes. The full parts of the engine will be back in effect! Everyone stay positive…GO STEELERS!

        • Dom DiTolla

          Yeah, a 36 year old receiver would have made a world of difference. He probably would have rode the pine even if he had beaten out Derek Moye and Justin Brown during the summer.

          Mark Kaboly actually said earlier this offseason that Burress was less of an offensive threat, particularly in the red zone, than Will Johnson.

          Also, if Bell was healthy, I’m not sure how much Stephens-Howling would have affected the offense.

          Plus, this unit’s run-blocking was nothing special with Pouncey in the lineup last year either. I’m sure you’re aware that running backs need holes to run through to be successful, right?

          Too bad the “2nd wind” came too late for this team. Then again, they’ll probably challenge the ’88 team (5-11) for the single-season worst record since the merger.

          • Redd Mahoney

            Not sure if your a Steeeler fan or not cuz boy you sure sound like Petey Pessimist. Sure Plax is 36 but he was also 6″5″ and age doesn’t matter if you only have to only run 5 – 10 yard fade routes. How old is Wes Welker/ Tony Gonzales again? Now I’m not saying that Plax was going to be a Gronk like touchdown machine….but I’m sure that he would’ve been some type of role with this team. As for riding the has Wheaton and Moye has been inactive the past 2 games…so who knows the value of ANYONE of these receivers at this point. As far as Pouncy goes…wasn’t he the same center for the offensive line that had 3 straight 100 yard games last season? Not his fault ALL of the backs got hurt and developed fumbleitis(ALL OF THEM FUMBLED IN CLEVELAND) for crying out loud! That’s right I said 2nd wind you can go and give up on the season but I remember that 89 team that lost it’s first 2 games 92-10 and had a winning season! The Steelers have been in EVERY game as far as I’m concerned. They just haven’t made enough plays offensively, defensively and special teams wise to win. You want to give up on the season fine…but true Steeler fans can see right through your negative comments and will keep the faith. Do you really think the Bengal, Ravens, Browns are that MUCH better than the Steelers!?…PLEASE! There’s gonna be plenty of opportunities to catch all of them when division play starts.
            Worst single season since 88?….NOT!

          • Dom DiTolla

            Awww…is the Steelers’ biggest cheerleader riled up?

            Yeah, I actually think the Bengals, Ravens and Browns are much better than the Steelers. Their records indicate that they are. In fact, Cincinnati beat Pittsburgh in Week 2, but I’m sure a “true” Steeler fan like yourself knew that, RIGHT? (see I can use caps lock too).

            As far as Burress is concerned, you can play the “what if” game all you want, but guess what? It doesn’t matter, he’s not in the lineup and neither is Pouncey. You can play the “what if” game all you want, but this team is destined for 10+ losses.


          • Redd Mahoney

            Not the biggest cheerleader my friend. The Steelers don’t have cheerleaders(in case you haven’t heard). I just recognize the fraud “Steeler Fans” hating on the team when things don’ turn out their way. Ryan Clark was right, some of you “Steeler Fans” are just spoiled. Nothing lasts forever. Your a fan in name only. You call it “criticism”, I call it a slanted opinion. And it’s slanted towards Cleveland. Finally, So you believe Daulton(Cin),Flacco(Bal) and whoever the hell Cleveland’s QB is makes them better than the Steelers after just 4 games. You believe that the Steelers have no chance against these guys when they play them another 5 times. You believe that the season is over. Sure glad your not a player on the team, better yet I doubt you’d say that to NAY Steeler player to the face! So, maybe it is YOU that should go grab some pom poms and go cheer for the Ravens, Browns, Bengals. A “Steeler Fan”? …YOU?….naww.

          • Dom DiTolla

            Well one might say your opinion is “slanted” towards the Steelers, right fanboy?

            Also, are you the “mayor” of Steeler Nation? What gives you the right to classify who is a “fan” and who isn’t?

          • Redd Mahoney

            I’ll be the 1st to say that the Steelers have played like straight doo doo so far this season, frankly because they have. But to say that the season is over and the Bengals, Ravens,Browns with Daulton, Flacco, & Weeden are MUCH better than the Steelers with Big Ben. I just don’t see it. Your making the Jets defense sound like the 85 Bears and I know that Commisioner “God” dell simply will NEVER allow a great defense in this league ever again. BTW, the Jets only have 1 interception this season….Just Say’n :)

          • Dom DiTolla

            How did I compare the Jets’ defense to the ’85 Bears? In fact, where did I do that?

            Please illustrate to me where I stated that New York’s secondary is amazing in this post? Where did I discuss the linebackers as well?

            All I stated is that the offensive linemen must bring their collective “A Game” to face two stout defensive linemen in the forms of Wilkerson and Richardson. In fact, that was the point of this entire post, to illustrate how effective those two players have been this fall.

            Also, where did I say that “Dalton, Flacco, and Weeden” are better than “Big Ben?” No, in fact Ben is eons better than those three jagoffs and has proved that during his nine-plus years in the league.

            What “Dalton, Flacco, and Weeden” do have is more complete and talented teams around them, and it shows exactly that in the standings.

            Putting words in my mouth to simply make your flimsy argument hold water makes nobody look good.

          • Redd Mahoney

            It is you that has said that the O’line is like “turnstiles” so

            If it’s a QB driven league, then as long as Ben is in this division….the season is still alive.

            It is you that has said that the O’line is like “turnstiles” correct Mr. Editor.
            They’re gonna have 1 of their worst seasons in history due in part to the O’lines “incompetence”.

            Well,the Steelers face Atkins and the Cincy D’line, Suggs/Nata, and Kruger/Sheard and those bad boys in Cleveland twice a year. I believe they’ll be ready.
            Who would you say has the best defense in the division by the way?

          • Dom DiTolla

            So what is your point?

            The Steelers still have to face three extremely talented pass-rushing teams five more times and they were eaten alive by Cincinnati’s front in Week Two. Unless there is a drastic improvement on the O-Line’s part, nothing will change.

            I would say that either Cincinnati or Cleveland have the best defenses in division due to the pressure that they can create and the fact that they can at least record takeaways on a consistent basis.

            I do hope that you enjoy watching other teams in January and February after the season ends though. :)

          • Redd Mahoney

            I actually agree with you on this one. Both defenses can put tremendous pressure on the QB’s mind as well as body.

            I can remember not too long ago when the Steelers used to wreck havoc that way.

            Troy’s back to buzz’n around but something is different…something is missing.

            Tell me…do you believe that the rest of the league has figured Le Beau’s schemes out?

            Enjoy the games.

    • Craig

      Though a QB can help avoid a sack – I do not believe for a moment that it’s the QB’s fault when one happens. That’s not his job. That’s the offensive line’s job. And while Redman, or Dwyer, or Johnson, or someone else on the far end (who’s not a lineman) may have given up a sack or two this season – mind you AFTER the defender penetrated through the initial block from the offensive line – well over 3/4′s of them have been a direct result of the line letting defenders through. Plain and simple. If every sack was a total TEAM effort, then I’m sure Mike Adams would still be at LT and the rest of the line would be ridiculed for allowing Adams to let a defender through. As for receivers not getting open in time – that’s actually on the OC then for not calling offensive plays that gets them open, protects the QB, and moves the ball down field.

      • Redd Mahoney

        Craig, do you NOT watch football at all? While an offensive lineman beaten on a 1 on 1 block is definitely on that lineman…. The QB is CRITICAL when it comes to protection in the passing game. Next time you watch a game and the offense breaks the huddle on 3rd/long, listen for the QB calling for the “Mike” to the offensive line. What he is doing is helping the center call out the protection. If the defense bring more defenders than the offensive line can block….then it is up to the QB to recognize this and adjust. THAT’S HIS JOB!! Exhibit A….Peyton Manning.

        • Dom DiTolla

          Peyton Manning also has competent linemen blocking for him in Denver too. All the pre-snap preparation can’t prepare the signal-caller to get mauled when his offensive tackles are turnstiles. :)

          • Redd Mahoney

            If the ball is getting away in 3 seconds or less…it doesn’t matter what the offensive tackles are doing. Haven’t you ever heard the belief great player is one that makes OTHERS better? Did you see Peyton play last week against Dallas without his ALL PRO left tackle against De Marcus Ware? Did you notice who was playing left tackle?…NO! Did Demarcus Ware do anything worth a darn for a defense that gave up over 40 points?….NO! Hmmm, let me guess why…BECAUSE PEYTON GOT RID OF THAT DARN BALL! That Dallas defense was GASSED out there! EVERY QB gets sacked. It’s the ones that can limit not only the sacks but the pressures that excel not to mention play EVERY game of the season for crying out loud! BTW..Gilbert has been playing much better as of late.

          • Dom DiTolla

            Chris Clark is actually a solid tackle, better than anybody the Steelers have on their roster right now. And Manning got rid of the ball because he had ample time to throw because his linemen know how to block.

          • Redd Mahoney

            Sure…you knew that Chris Clark was the tackle’s name…bet you Googled that one. As for his lineman knowing how to block…a high school kid can block for 2-3 seconds if he knows that that the QB is actually gonna get rid of the ball on time. You just wanna dog the Steelers O’line for your article. Ben’s been playing and WINNING behind bad/average O’lines for years now. There’s a fine line between talent/technique. If coach Tomlin believes a 24yr old kid like Adams can get it right…who are any of us to say any different? Ben’s getting older and can’t play “schoolyard ball” forever. The Rooney’s were right to change the offense. It’s Ben that needs to acknowledge this was a judicious move and it better be soon before his body gives out a play, a season, a career too soon!

          • Dom DiTolla

            Actually I knew who Chris Clark was because I watch other NFL games that the Steelers aren’t involved in. Nice try, douchebag.

          • Redd Mahoney

            Douchebag?. My, don’t you get your panties in a bunch when a little criticism is thrown your way. Sure you knew who Chris Clark was smart guy….there’s a reason why he’s a BACKUP lineman. Granted Mike Adams doesn’t have a stink’n clue what he’s doing out there, but you fail to mention to your limited readers that the 85 Jets have actually given up more sacks this season than the worst season ever Steelers 19-15? Hmmm, so what would you say is the key to this? Maybe ALL of these sacks belong to the “turnstile” offensive line with 2 Pro Bowl members on it? Yeah, I guess they’re all “incompetent” too. Or maybe it’s because of the rookie dare I say it…..QB….that still doesn’t have a clue yet causing him hold the ball WAY too long ? Nawww, according to you it’s “NEVER” the QB’s fault(only the incompetence of others) so it couldn’t be that. Wait, I know…..IT’S WOODY JOHNSON’S FAULT! HeHe

          • Dom DiTolla

            Yeah, Clark’s a backup lineman because he plays behind one of the best offensive tackles in the game in the form of Ryan Clady. He’s far more talented than any of the offensive tackles on Pittsburgh’s roster right now.

            Also, knowing players on other teams doesn’t make one “smart,” it just makes them well-informed.

            New York’s offensive line might have two Pro Bowlers on it, but last time I checked, Willie Colon, Vladimir Ducasse, and the turnstile like Austin Howard at right tackle as well. Then again, I’m sure you knew who those guys were, right?

            Where did I actually say that some of the fault didn’t lie with the quarterback? I actually agreed with you in part below below.

            Again, the point of this post was to illustrate that Pittsburgh’s offensive line would have to bring their collective “A game” to face off against these two dangerous pass rushers.

            I just hope your “Terrible Towel” sops up plenty of tears when you’re watching this team at home in January and February. :)

          • Redd Mahoney

            Wow, so now your a talent evaluator as well?

            Man, did the Rooney’s hire the wrong guy in Colbert.
            They could’ve just hired you from off your couch!
            How stupid of them….

            Mr.Dom Know it All’s expertise could have avoided this whole mess!

            Now you keep those negative articles come’n when the Steelers get back in the race.

            Keep On Hate’n! (:

  • Carl Eagan

    This offensive line was heralded as fast and athletic. Now they are slow? Of course the offensive line gave up the sacks. Ben hasn’t had the chance to hold the ball too long. The last second and a half before he goes down he’s fighting for his life against defensive linemen and linebackers while Adams and Gilbert watch. The only time Ben moves the ball and the pocket is clean is when he’s in the hurry up. He is not a predictable play caller and he keeps the defense on it’s heels.Unfortunately neither Tomlin nor Haley like the hurry up.

    • Dom DiTolla

      I really hope that the offense can incorporate some screens and draws to at least slow down the Jets’ pass-rush. Takes pressure off of the offensive line too and gets the ball in Bell’s hands. Of course, Haley and Tomlin would decide against that as well.

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