Pittsburgh Steelers: An Offensive Line Away from an Elite Team

Taylor O'BrochtaContributor IOctober 29, 2008

I was sitting here the night before the Giants-Steelers game, getting ready to write an article about how the Steelers never receive any respect for what they do and are never seen as an "elite" team in the NFL. For some reason, I stopped writing the article and decided that I should wait to see the game before I jumped to any conclusions.

Thankfully, I did.

As a huge Pittsburgh fan, I have been wondering why the Steelers never receive any talk about being an elite team. They have done everything that is needed to be called one: constant winning seasons, a Super Bowl in the past three years, and multiple Pro Bowlers. Yet, they are never really mentioned.

Then I watched the Steelers vs. Giants game on Sunday.

I was going to write this article about how the Steelers are an offense away from being an elite team, but that's not true. The Steelers' offense is a powerhouse waiting to bloom.

They have all the makings of a powerhouse offense: an All-Pro running back in Willie, the up and coming, highly-touted rookie in Mendenhall, a great backup and third-down back in Mewelde, and the bruiser in Najeh.

They have a quarterback that is slowly inching his way into the top tier of quarterbacks—a tier that is currently occupied by just two.

They also have a Pro Bowl wide receiver in Hines Ward, another Pro Bowl caliber in Santonio, Nate Washington could be a starter on a lot of teams in the NFL, plus they have Limas, their soon to be tall red-zone wide receiver. And one of the best all-around tight-ends in the league.

We all know the defense is "elite," as they flexed that muscle against the Giants on Sunday. So, the only thing holding this team back from being the powerhouse they look so destined to become is the O-line.

I actually thought the O-line was going to perform rather well at the beginning of the season. I was one of the Steelers fans who thought they didn't really need to make any big splashes in free agency or the draft to solidify the O-line. I was wrong! This line is downright awful!

Now, don't throw all the blame on the O-line; Ben is credited with a lot of the sacks. The only thing that is keeping Ben out of that top tier of quarterbacks is that he can't distinguish between when he should get the ball out quickly, when to throw it away, and when to be the Ben he is now and hold onto the ball and make amazing plays like he can.

But with that said, this line has been the weak spot of the Steelers for about two years now. It's been obvious that we need to do something, and it's a crying shame, because this team is made up of All Pro players at almost every position except for the O-line. I have faith that the Steelers will make some changes this offseason to solidify this line, or at least take steps towards doing so.

I am also not ruling them out of Super Bowl contention. Back in 2006 the Steelers had one of the most worthless showings against the Colts in the regular season and then met them again and won the war on that one. But it's hard to watch a team hold the No. 2 offense in the league to a total of one touchdown and watch as our offense can't even get a first down.

I don't know if I am the only one that has noticed it, but ever since Jeff Hartings, our Pro Bowl center retired, for good reason, the O-line has been poor. Even with Alan Faneca on the line it was still pitiful. If you are a Steelers fan, you know the names of the centers on the great teams of the past. It's been a position that the Steelers had made a priority for good reason.

The center is the "quarterback" of the offensive line. Think back to the 1995 season. Who was the center? Dermonti Dawson, a constant Pro Bowler. Who was the center in 2006 when they won the Super Bowl? Jeff Hartings. Even back in the '70s, who was the center behind whom the Steelers won four Super Bowls? Mike Webster, the Hall of Fame center and arguably one of the best ever to play the game.

In the past two seasons we have had two starting centers and I have a sneaking feeling that next year we might be introduced to another. This line can't be fixed with just a center, but it's a huge step forward. Trust me, the Steelers know this.

The Steelers will shore up this offensive line in the offseason. They have showed, time in and time out, that they know what they are doing as an organization. The most recent example of this is letting Joey Porter go because they had a guy in the name of James Harrison behind him.

So I don't doubt them, and I am not giving up on the season—far from it. We are 5-2, have only lost to the NFC East, and we have a chance to beat one of them this next week.

But to ever see this Steelers offense flourish like I know they can, we have the makings of a top three offense, and to be considered an elite team, we need an offensive line.