Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Bouchette: 'Not A Lot' O-Line Can Do to Improve For Steelers


There’s not a lot they [offensive line] can do at this point. We’ve seen this [improved play] a lot in the past where lines start out shaky and they come together. Well, this one hasn’t had time to come together, … There hasn’t been time for those guys to play long enough together. Not a lot they can do!

-Ed Bouchette (Radio Interview, 93-7 The Fan)


Continuity is key for any offensive line to gel and develop into a competent unit, and I for one agree with Bouchtte’s take on the Pittsburgh’s group in the offensive trenches.

Problems with injuries and poor play have ravaged this line this fall, and the effect has been noticeable to anyone with 20-20 eyesight. In fact, we could only see more struggling down the stretch if David DeCastro misses any time due to his recent ankle injury.

The Steelers have a guy better suited to play guard or center manning the left tackle spot in the form of Kelvin Beachum, their supposedly “bookend” tackles, Marcus Gilbert and Mike Adams, have lost playing time due to injuries or poor play, Levi Brown was sidelined with a triceps injury before he even played a down, Maurkice Pouncey was lost for the year due to a knee injury on opening day, and Ramon Foster has missed bits and pieces of games against the Vikings and Raiders with pectoral and head issues.

Although Fernando Velasco’s emergence as a competent center has been a pleasant surprise, he is still gelling with the rest of his interchangeable teammates up front. And while I hate to be a “Negative Nancy,” the soon-to-be free agent Velasco could head elsewhere this offseason if another team offers him a starting job and/or a more lucrative contract.

As sad as it sounds right now, if Guy Whimper, Foster, or DeCastro miss any extended time, the Steelers will be forced to look to career-backup Cody Wallace or one of their “practice squadders” (Joe Long or Chris Hubbard) for help with depth.

With so much personnel turnover, it is no wonder why Ben Roethlisberger is on pace to be sacked a career-number of times. In addition, it is no wonder why Le’Veon Bell and the rest of Pittsburgh’s backs have looked so ineffective running the football. Of course, one cannot expect much from a running back like Bell who lacks the type of speed to break runs of over 15 yards or have any extended success at the professional level as a “feature back.”

Thoughts on Bell aside, Bouchette is correct in his assessment that the amount of turnover which this unit has already undergone this year sets the stage for more struggles over the team’s final nine regular season games.

I just hope that Pittsburgh’s franchise quarterback can make it through more of the bludgeoning which he is sure to endure down the stretch.




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  • Redd Mahoney

    You are consistently focused on Bell’s speed or lack there of my friend but I don’t need to remind you that there are Hall of Famers who weren’t known for their “speed” , ie… Emmit Smith, Thurman Thomas & Curtis Martin. Speed is overrated. It’s quickness through the hole(when the O’line creates one) that counts.

    • Dom DiTolla

      Bell lacks the necessary quickness as well. Holes close much more quickly at the professional level than they did in Big 10 play, and Bell does not appear to have the speed or quickness to burst through them on a consistent basis.

      This is not to say that Bell won’t be a valuable contributor for this team in their running back rotation. I just won’t be looking for any “splash” plays from the former Spartan. Heck, I’ll be shocked if he can ever break a 20 yard run during his career, especially if the offensive line doesn’t improve.

      • Redd Mahoney

        I hope that your wrong about Bell. If just turns out to be only a “contributor” and not a “feature” back then would you call him a major bust? Would a 20 yard run change your opinion? (:The Steelers can’t afford to much more of those(Jason Woirlds) or they’ll soon resemble the Jags….YIKES!

        • Craig

          Number of rush plays over 20 yards in 2013 –> 1. Bell was not the carrier. Outlook is grim.

          • Dom DiTolla

            I called it “ill-advised” to take a running back in the second round of April’s draft in the first place. Craig remembers my disdain for the selection, and I gave the overall grade for that particular pick the worst one during my post-draft analysis.

            Should have either double-dipped with a pass-rusher, taken an inside linebacker, a safety, a wide receiver, or a cornerback instead.

            Bell’s lack of speed, agility, and inability to burst through holes does not mesh well with Pittsburgh’s makeshift offensive line. A 20 yard run wouldn’t change my opinion, but his inability to make splash plays is alarming for a guy who was taken in the Top 50 of the draft at a skill-position.

            While I hold out hope that he can be an “every down back,” I will not be surprised if and when he is relegated to a “contributor” role over the next few seasons due to his physical limitations.

          • Redd Mahoney

            Bell has only played 4 games so far so maybe give him a little more time to jell. The theme for this season should be called “makeshift”. Even though Bell hasn’t produced any “splash plays” yet, I want to see how he produces with some continuity with a consistent healthy offensive line. Is there any chance we get to see any “splash plays” from Wheaton this season?

          • Dom DiTolla

            I’ve seen enough from Bell at the college level and his short stint at the professional level to know that the Steelers will be sorely disappointed if they believe that he can produce any “splash plays” on a consistent basis. His lack of agility and quickness will cost him at the pro level, regardless of how good his offensive line is or is not.

            Also, I seem to remember Willie Parker, Mewelde Moore, and Rashard Mendenhall finding measures of success behind offensive lines which were just as untalented if not more makeshift than the one the Steelers employ now so that excuse does not apply.

            Bell a serviceable back, nothing more and nothing less. Worthy of a draft pick in the fourth round or later, but not the 48th overall. The sooner this franchise realizes this and tries to find a capable speed-back to pair with Bell long-term, the better.

            As far as Wheaton is concerned, I have no idea, nor do I care what his status is. He obviously wasn’t contributing much when he was in the lineup before his finger injury, so I’m not looking for him to do anything until next season.

          • Redd Mahoney

            Bell is going to be a good back for the Steelers….just wait and see :)