Titans toy with Steelers' offensive line
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger grimaced as he knelt beside his ailing center, Maurkice Pouncey, just 3 minutes, 58 seconds into the season opener Sunday against the Titans at Heinz Field.
Roethlisberger knew before the team's medical staff phoned for the cart that Pouncey had seriously injured his right knee. It was sobering, in part, because an oft-maligned offensive line had lost its anchor, if not its pulse.
Pouncey's injury was one in a series of blows for an embattled offense that couldn't find a rhythm or identity in the Steelers' 16-9 loss before a crowd of 61,585.
Coach Mike Tomlin said Pouncey injured his MCL and ACL. The Pro Bowler will need surgery and be sidelined indefinitely.
Pouncey's absence was significant, mostly because the offensive line couldn't generate a big enough push to create even the narrowest of seams for running backs to exploit. The ground game squeezed out only 32 yards, including 8 yards on 10 carries in the first half.
“It's going to be tough,” said running back Isaac Redman, who averaged 1.1 yards on eight carries. “Pouncey is the heart of our offensive line.”
The offensive front looked more like a house of cards against the Titans' defense.
“We just weren't executing,” tackle Mike Adams said. “They didn't do anything. It was all us.”
While the run game faltered, Roethlisberger — except for a meaningless fourth-quarter scoring drive — spent much of the afternoon under duress. He was sacked five times and hit on six other occasions by the Titans, who largely pressured Roethlisberger without blitzing.
The Steelers arrived at training camp bubbling with enthusiasm about their new zone-blocking schemes. The Titans made a mockery of it by pinning down the edges and overwhelming the offensive front in the trenches.
“They forced us away from what we wanted to do, and we weren't good enough, period,” guard Ramon Foster said. “We can't make any excuses because it all starts up front.
“We have to be way better. We all know we're capable of being better. We will be better.”
But things went from bad to worse for the offensive line after second-year guard David DeCastro got tangled up with Pouncey. DeCastro shouldered the blame for Pouncey's injury, but insisted the offensive line has to smooth out the rough edges before traveling to Cincinnati next Monday.
“We've got to get on the same page,” DeCastro said. “(Pouncey) is our leader, but the next guy has to step up.”
The next man up is Kelvin Beachum, who played every position on the offensive line during the preseason and started the game at tight end, mostly because fullback Will Johnson was sidelined with a hamstring injury. Now he's likely to be the starting center unless the Steelers explore an alternate route to fix a broken offensive line.
Tomlin appears comfortable with Beachum stepping into the lineup.
“He did an admirable job under the circumstances,” Tomlin said.
Simply speaking, the offensive line didn't hold up. The numbers are revealing, but so was the atmosphere in the locker room where the befuddled linemen tried to explain what went wrong.
“We didn't play well, and they did — that's a bad combination,” DeCastro said. “They (coaches) tell us what plays to run, and we run them. I don't care what the calls are, we have to execute.”
Ralph N. Paulk is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @RalphPaulk_Trib.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pittsburgh rallies for second year of Pirates magic
- Steelers film session: Harrison on the field often
- Tomlin: Penalties only one factor in Steelers’ loss
- Pitt joins national team looking to unravel traumatic brain injuries
- Police: Charges unwarranted for Yough shop class project
- Steelers are vowing to fix the costly penalties, lack of self-discipline
- Women sues over injuries she blames on Pittsburgh EMS
- Authorities accuse South Fayette commissioner of insurance fraud
- Prosecutors float possibility of jail time for former Justice Melvin
- No one way to fix Western Pennsylvania’s heroin problem, report says
- Judge OKs alternative for 2 turnpike corruption case defendants