Offensive line settles down, produces against Jets
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was able to throw for 264 yards and a touchdown Sunday behind an improving offensive line.
Ben Roethlisberger was nearly sacked by New York Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson on this first quarter play Sunday, but the Steelers quarterback said he was impressed by the improvement of his offensive line.
The start was shaky, but it was the end result that had the Steelers happy about the play of their offensive line following Sunday’s 19-6 victory over the New York Jets.
Pittsburgh narrowly avoided a safety on its second possession and didn’t record a first down until the third time it had the football. But the line settled down against a defense that entered the game ranked second in the league and performed well enough for the Steelers to get their first victory of the season.
“I really just said, ‘settle down,’” said quarterback Ben Roethlisberger of his message to the line after a pair of three-and-outs to open the game.
“You come in early after a bye week, and you have to get settled in. It was (Kelvin) Beachum’s first time being out there, so he had some nerves and jitters. ... I thought the offensive line did a good job, especially against such a good defense.”
After the slow start, the Steelers scored points on five of their next six possessions, though only one was a touchdown, a 55-yard bomb from Roethlisberger to Emmanuel Sanders early in the third quarter that came off of play-action.
The play-action worked not so much because the Steelers were all that successful in the running game – gaining 73 yards on 26 attempts – but because they were willing to stick with it despite the Jets (3-3) loading up extra defenders at the line of scrimmage.
“It was a physical game,” said guard Ramon Foster. “But that was OK. We needed to be physical and nasty.”
Beachum made his first start this season at left tackle in place of Mike Adams, who was benched after an uneven performance in the first four games.
Adams was inactive against the Jets, and Levi Brown, acquired two weeks ago in a trade with Arizona, was slated to be the backup at right and left tackle. That plan was scrapped, however, when Brown suffered a triceps injury – something that forced him to miss the entire 2012 season – in warmups.
Because the injury occurred in warmups and the Steelers had already submitted their inactive list, they were forced to play the game with just one lineman – Guy Whimper – in reserve.
“We found out when we came back in after warmups,” said Foster. “We were already focused on what we needed to do. When you’re dealing with a team like (the Jets), you have to be on top of everything. Playing on the offensive line, you’ve got to just keep chipping away. Sooner or later, it will break.”
Now, the Steelers need to finish some of those drives with touchdowns, not just field goals. That will be especially important this week as they get ready to play a critical game against Baltimore (3-3).
If the Steelers hope to get back into the race in the AFC North, winning games against division opponents are of the utmost importance.
“We’ve been getting better every week,” said Roethlisberger. “The disappointing part for us is that we want to score touchdowns. As good as (the Jets defense) is, we have to score touchdowns. We can’t be relying on (Shaun) Suisham to get us three, even though we know he will get us three. We want to put seven on the board, because that is so much better for us as an offense and as a team.”
Odds and end zones
The Steelers could be forced to make roster moves today to replace Brown and tight end David Johnson. Johnson has a dislocated wrist that will keep him out several weeks. ... The Steelers are 6-1 coming out of a bye week under Tomlin. ... Receiver Antonio Brown is tied for second in the NFL behind New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham and Houston receiver Andre Johnson with 41 receptions. Graham and Johnson have 44 catches.