The Pittsburgh Steelers‘ offensive line is a contradiction. While the struggles in the run game are undeniable, the pass blocking has been decent. That will be tested against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.
Pro Football Focus does a great job illustrating this by pointing out that the Steelers had good pass-blocking grades against the New Orleans Saints but pointing out a big weakness that can’t be ignored.
“As an offense, the Steelers are generating just 1.1 yards before contact on average in the run game, 25th in the league,” writes Sam Monson on his weekly OL rankings for PFF.
Sunday’s game against the Bengals will be all about Kenny Pickett being asked to throw the football, though. At least if things go the way Cincinnati wants them to go.
If so, the Bengals will be able to unleash one of their strengths on defense. The pass rush.
Although their pressure rate ranks around league average, the Steelers know things are different when D.J. Reader is on the field. The defensive tackle is returning this weekend and should have a huge effect on the trenches.
Reader has become one of the very best pass-rushing defensive tackles in the NFL with numbers comparable to Aaron Donald and Chris Jones. He’s an elite player at his position and will be put in favorable positions against Pittsburgh’s interior offensive linemen.
According to PFF, DJ Reader’s pass rush grade before he got hurt was 85.8.— Charlie Goldsmith (@CharlieG__) November 15, 2022
Here are the only defensive tackles in the NFL who have rushed the passer better on a per-snap basis than Reader this year: Chris Jones, Dexter Lawrence, Javon Hargrave, Jeffery Simmons and Aaron Donald.
Then there’s the topic of Trey Hendrickson lining up against Dan Moore Jr. The Steelers’ left tackle will be tested by one of the most productive pass rushers this season. The Bengals’ edge rusher has 10 QB hits, the seventh most in the NFL, and has the fourth-highest pass-rush win rate as measured by ESPN.
Through nine games this season, Moore Jr. has allowed 23 QB Pressures (23rd-most among offensive tackles). In “true pass sets,” he ranks 69th in the NFL in Pro Football Focus’ pass-blocking grade.
It’s going to be a tough test for the Steelers offensive line and one that must be won if Mike Tomlin’s team is going to keep winning against the Bengals as underdogs, a remarkable trend over the years.
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