Offensive line of Steelers struggles vs. Colts
INDIANAPOLIS — It probably wouldn't do much good to point out to angst-ridden Steelers fans that on a rainy Sunday night, a storm of events ganged up on an embattled offensive line.
There were injuries, Pro Bowl defensive end Dwight Freeney playing like one of the leaders of a desperate team and showing why he is one of the best pass rushers in the NFL.
There were other timing issues as well — namely the Steelers having to use a silent snap count because of the crowd noise, negating the advantage offensive lines have over defenses by knowing exactly when to fire off the ball.
"Not trying to make excuses or anything, but they did do a lot of stunting inside," center Maurkice Pouncey said after the Steelers held off the Indianapolis Colts, 23-20, at Lucas Oil Stadium. "We'll learn from it and build on it in practice."
It is tempting to ask, "Build on what?" The Steelers have run the ball effectively for exactly one half through three games and have not kept defenders from getting to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Whatever answers the Steelers search for as they prepare to play the 2-1 Texans in Houston, they will do so from within.
Max Starks isn't returning to take over left tackle, a position he manned for the previous three seasons when healthy. Flozell Adams isn't coming back either, barring another major injury along the line, and money isn't a factor when it comes to going outside the organization.
If the Steelers thought Starks or Adams were better options than the players in their locker room, one of them would have been here before Freeney abused Jonathan Scott -- and before Rashard Mendenhall continually encountered choked running lanes against a defense that has generally been a panacea to struggling ground games.
Stability has made the Steelers a model franchise. It will keep them from looking for some elixir that fans crave, but what the organization would see as a concession to panic.
There is no question that the line has to get better, and there is reason to think that it can.
A return to health by left guard Chris Kemoeatu, who still appears bothered by the left knee injury he has been nursing since before the start of training camp, would help. Pouncey is also capable of playing at a much higher level than he has shown through the first three weeks.
Rookie Marcus Gilbert has shown promise at right tackle, and for all of Scott's shortcomings the Steelers were still able to make it to the Super Bowl last season with the sixth-year veteran starting the final 11 games at left tackle.
Continuity and help from the coaches in the form of adjustments should aid in the improvement of the offensive line.
And the situation up front will have to get a lot worse before the Steelers seriously consider going outside the organization to make it better.
3 question with strong safety Troy Polamalu
What is your favorite movie?
"The Godfather I and II. As far as gangster movies, I just like the way that Don Corleone and Mike Corleone kind of handle themselves with class. They kind of went about it in a peaceful way but then they didn't succumb (when challenged)."
What is your favorite meal?
"I eat everything. I love food. The Food Channel I enjoy watching. I watch the Travel Channel more because those are like Anthony Bourdain, Andrew Zimmern, all of these travel shows that are basically based on food."
Can you cook?
"No, my wife can cook. I'm the stay-at-home taste tester."
3 players to watch
Arian Foster, RB: The NFL's leading rusher in 2010 has been limited to 10 carries through Houston's first three games because of a nagging hamstring injury. If he is unable to play Sunday, the Steelers will get a steady dose of Ben Tate, who is fifth in the NFL with 301 rushing yards.
Antonio Smith, DE: Played well against the Steelers in Super Bowl XLIII while with the Cardinals, and won't make life easy for a beleaguered offensive line. Smith has a sack in each of Houston's first three games.
Ike Taylor, CB: Playing as well as anyone on the Steelers' defense, Taylor figures to spend most or all of Sunday shadowing Andre Johnson. Arguably the best wide receiver on the planet, Johnson has caught seven passes in each of Houston's first three games.
1 — Steelers' NFL rank in passing defense (164.0 yards per game).
3.0 — Rashard Mendenhall's yards per carry, fourth-lowest among NFL running backs with at least 40 rushing attempts.
27 — Games quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has won after the Steelers trailed or were tied in the fourth quarter or overtime.
85.7 — Steelers record for completion percentage in a game (minimum of 20 pass attemtps), set by Roethlisberger in 2007.
92.9 — Roethlisberger's completion percentage (14 attempts) in 38-17 win against the Texans in 2008.
138.0 — Texans' rushing yards per game, fifth-best in the NFL.
"Did we play well• No, but we know we didn't play well. Do we have to get better• Yes, and we will get better. I like the resiliency of the guys. All of these games are a learning process that we go through during the course of the season." — Wide receiver Hines Ward on the Steelers' 23-20 win at Indianapolis Sunday night
"Every time I get it I feel I can go the distance, so I'm always excited when I get an opportunity to get it." — Kick returner Antonio Brown, who had punt returns of 37 and 25 yards against the Colts
"He's been fine. I thought he was solid all night. I thought he was very tough against the run." — Coach Mike Tomlin on outside linebacker James Harrison's health and his play against the Colts
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The Steelers defeat the Colts, 23-20, Sunday September 25, 2011 in Indianapolis.
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