One of the great things about the Pittsburgh Steelers is they expect to play in the Super Bowl every season. It’s a hallmark to their organization and is exemplified in everything they do from the draft to marketing to personnel decisions to game-day execution. There’s only a handful of franchises that can carry the same expectations year-to-year with some amount of validity.
Prior to training camp, Pittsburgh thought it had an offensive line worthy of getting it to the Super Bowl in tackles Max Starks and Wilie Colon, guards Chris Kemoeatu and Trai Essex, and center Maurkice Pouncey to steer it all at center.
Instead, the Steelers go into Sunday’s game with only one of those projected starters – Kemoeatu – actually in the starting lineup. He’ll join tackles Jonathan Scott and Flozell Adams on the ends, Ramon Foster at right guard, and Doug Legursky at center. Quality players all, but not the names the Steelers had on the board when planning the season.
Injuries foiled those plans. Colon ruptured an Achilles’ tendon, a season-ending injury, before training camp even started. Essex’s high ankle sprain took this out in the second week of the season, and despite only missing four weeks, hasn’t been at full strength since. He’ll be suited up in the Super Bowl, but as a reserve.
In the eighth week, Starks went to the injured reserve list with a neck injury. Pouncey suffered a high ankle sprain and a broken bone in his foot in the AFC Championship game, and despite a valiant attempt to play Sunday, won’t make it back.
Pittsburgh offensive line coach Sean Kugler has pieced it all together, working what seemed to be a new set of linemen into a cohesive unit every week. That’s in stark contrast to the Steelers’ defense who core starters have been together for four-plus years, an eon on NFL clocks.
If there’s a mismatch to the units in the Super Bowl, this is it – Pittsburgh’s offensive line vs. Green Bay’s defensive front.
Among the Super Bowl starters, Scott signed with Pittsburgh in March in time for off-season work. Besides Kemoeatu, he’s the experienced veteran with 18 games wearing the black and gold. Foster came to Pittsburgh as an undrafted free agent out of college two years ago, and will be making a 15th career start. Adams, who had a distinguished Pro Bowl career in Dallas before the Cowboys released him, signed the day before training camp started. The Super Bowl will be only Legursky’s fifth career start, but his first at center.
They face a Green Bay front featuring four first-round draft picks and an overall defense that finished fifth in the NFL in yards given up and second in sacks. The advantage goes to Green Bay, but you don’t count the Steelers’ front out. Pittsburgh’s starting line is not the picture it painted at the season’s start, but the colors have mixed well enough to look good in its final frame.
About the Author
Written by Scott Farrell
Scott Farrell is the publisher of ScotSports.com in Dallas, Texas. He is a former sports writer for The Dallas Morning News, and also works as a freelance statistician for TV sports productions, most recently for ESPN at the 2011 BCS National Championship Game. Farrell has covered high school sports in Dallas for 21 years, and has also worked in athletic media relations at SMU, Fresno State and Texas-Arlington. He won Best Sports Coverage Awards from the Texas Press Association three times and Best Sports Writing once. He is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and the U.S. Basketball Writers Association.