Once upon a time, a family of Bears played host to a little girl with blonde curls. The bears, always the gracious host, tried to do what they could to answer the little girls needs while she was there. Unfortunately for them, the girl was a bit finicky and despite trying to be a good guest and take things as they were, by mid-week found herself totally uncomfortable and plagued with back pains. Papa Bear had been nice and offered up his chair and bed, but the little girl found them too hard. Momma Bear then offered the little girl her bed and chair but they were just too soft for the little body. Finally it dawned on them and they decided to bite the bullet. See Baby Bear didn't like change (or sharing, for that matter), but when the adult bears realized that Baby Bears chair and bed would be a perfect fit for her, they made the littlest of the bear share his things with the darling little girl.
No, this is not about how we can distort bad fairy tales into worse ones. It's actually an analogy of how things may have to change to fit the current situation.
When Ben Roethlisberger joined the Pittsburgh Steelers and had the rookie year he did, we had heard that you could put any Quarterback behind that offensive line and be successful. All we had to do is look at Tommy Maddox to show that wasn't true. Not that Tommy Gun wasn't a good quarterback, but the Steeler oline was not one you wanted to be behind if you're a pure pocket passer. The Russ Grimm oline was one built primarily to open up lanes for the rush, and more times then naught, broke down quickly when it came to pass protection, leaving Tommy scrambling outside the pocket, something that was apparently obvious that he was not comfortable with. What made Ben successful behind that oline was that he was able to get outside the pocket and buy time to extend plays when pass protection broke down.
Prior to last season, there had been three top olines for the past 5 to 7 years in the AFC. Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Each different for their system. The Colts oline, built primarily for pass protection, along with their weapons on WR and a QB with an arm, helped build that team to a consistent playoff ready, high powered offense team. The Patriots oline not only were able to buy their QB time but were also able to open up holes for their running back to get through. The Steelers oline could open up holes and give the running backs enough time just to get through in a lane.
Indeed, the Steelers oline was known to be one of the best rushing olines in the NFL. One of the reasons Alan Faneca was a pro-bowl player was his contribution to opening and keeping open that lane for the running backs to get through. It was never an oline built to provide consistent pass protection. Last season, we saw a glaring issue with the oline in the high number of sacks that Roethlisberger took. We, as fans, looked to the offseason to get help to return that oline back to it's former glory. Question is, should we?
It's no secret that the oline that the Steelers once had was developed by Russ Grimm. However, Grimm is no longer on the team and the teams strength is no longer predominantly rushing. The Steelers now have the capabilities to have a balanced offense. They have a quarterback in Roethlisberger who improves each year, with his arm and his accuracy. (If anyone wants to dispute that, he ranked 3d in the NFL and had less interceptions then Peyton Manning). He now has quite a few good weapons to go to in the air with Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes, Nate Washington and, now, Limas Sweed (remember Brady's check downs last season?). Not to mention Heath Miller and Matt Spaeth (who will have gotten over his rookie jitters). The rushing offense now has both an outside fast runner in Willie Parker and an inside powerback in Rashard Mendenhall, along with the Najeh Davenport to work in as a receiving running back. There is no doubt that this can become an all around complete offense. So why keep the Steeler oline predominantly a rushing oline?
I guess the argument could be used that it will take Pittsburgh away from who they are, but not really. The last two seasons, teams were stacking the box to prevent the run. The run was opened up with the air game, along with Ben's ability to escape tackles and convert on 3d and longs and 4th and longs through the air. Despite Roethlisberger ending the season with 32 TDs for over 3,000 yds, Willie Parker was on course to being the leading rusher in the NFL until his injury.
Perhaps, instead of wishing we picked up draft picks and talent in free agency to shore up the oline, we should be hoping that the coaches in the Steelers organization see the need to change the style of play that the offensive line is use to, to fit the needs of this offense.