(Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
The Steelers' offensive line was below the line in 2020, especially when it came to run blocking. They looked old and tired. They couldn't get a yard for a first down in crucial short-yardage situations. The abysmal play upfront is why offensive line coach Shaun Sarrett didn't have his contract renewed after the season. The same could be said for offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner.
Maurkice Pouncey and David DeCastro somehow made the Pro Bowl, but both of those nominations were more based on their names than how they played. Pouncey is reportedly expected to retire soon and judging off how he played in the wild-card games loss to the Browns, it would probably be a wise decision. He just didn't look like the same Pouncey that were accustomed to seeing last year. DeCastro wasn't much better and he probably has a few more years left at best. Alejandro Villanueva had another down year and is set to become an unrestricted free agent in March and most likely won't be re-signed. Villanueva turns 33 years old in September and he might retire this offseason as well and get on with his life's work.
Pro Football Focus released their final offensive line rankings for the 2020 season, and they ranked the Steelers' offensive line at No. 17. The Steelers were a lot better at pass blocking compared to run blocking and gave up the fewest sacks in the league, allowing just 14. But a lot of that had to do with Roethlisberger getting the ball out quick in the Steelers' dink-and-dunk offense. PFF nailed it by ranking the Steelers as the 31st ranked run-blocking unit. There wasn't much to overanalyze. The Steelers ranked dead last in rushing yards per game (82.5) and yards per carry (3.6) in 2020. Also, the Steelers 82.5 yards rushing per game this past year was their fewest average since 1966 when they averaged 78.0 yards rushing per game. The 1,351 rushing yards compiled by the Steelers in 2020 was the fewest in franchise history.
Below is the excerpt by PFF on why they ranked the Steelers' offensive line at No. 17.
"The Steelers’ offensive line has been an interesting case this season. Going purely off pressure rate allowed, they’ve been the best pass-protecting unit in the NFL, with Ben Roethlisberger being pressured on a league-low 21% of his dropbacks this season. The important footnote there is that Roethlisberger is also getting rid of the football quicker than any quarterback we’ve charted since 2012 (2.17 seconds on average). The PFF grades are built to factor that in, however, and Pittsburgh’s offensive line still finished the regular season ranked fourth in pass-blocking grade. A 31st-ranked run-blocking unit is what drops them to 17th on this list.
The only starting offensive lineman with a run-blocking grade north of 60.0 is Alejandro Villanueva at 60.9, and that shows in their rushing success on the year. No team averaged fewer yards per run play (3.6) than the Steelers did this year. It’s a group that could use an injection of youth and talent this offseason."