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Thread: Analytics show Steelers’ offensive line might not be as impressive as you think

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    Senior Member Array title="polamalubeast has a reputation beyond repute">

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    Analytics show Steelers’ offensive line might not be as impressive as you think

    You probably liked the numbers ESPN.com’s Brian Burke gave us about the Steelers pass-rush Thursday. So you are inclined to believe them.

    You may not like what he has to say about the Steelers’ offensive line, so these stats you’ll probably want to dismiss.

    That’s usually how it works when it comes to a lot of the deep-dive analytics in sports: Give me the data that supports my preconceived theory, and I’ll trumpet your research to the masses.

    The results that disprove what I prefer to believe, though?

    Eh, they are just empty numbers that “don’t reflect the true story.”

    That seems to be how we the public react to lots of other topics like corsi in hockey, WAR in baseball, and you know … climate change.

    Now we are talking about the Steelers’ offensive line, though. So this is much more important.

    The Steelers’ offensive line was vilified in Pittsburgh as recently as 2013. Since then, the unit has been rebuilt into what has been perceived to be a constant, consistently high-performing unit beloved by the fan base.

    Le’Veon Bell became an All-Pro running back behind that unit. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s sack total dipped from 42 in 2013 to an average of 23 over the five seasons since then.

    However, according to what Burke found via the NFL’s Next Gen Stats player-tracking data, 2018 was just an average season for the Steelers’ offensive line when it came to pass protection.

    On the surface, Roethlisberger’s 24 sacks were the most since 33 in 2014. Then again, his attempts (699) were a career high. So that translates to a “sacked rate” for Roethlisberger of just 3.43%. Only the Colts’ and Patriots’ offensive lines were better in that category in 2018.

    However, receivers getting open quickly and quarterbacks releasing the ball or eluding the rush come into play heavily in that stat, too.

    According to the NFL player-tracking data, the Steelers’ offensive line was much more toward the middle of the pack when it came to winning one-on-one pass-protection battles.

    “From a scale of 1-10, the Steelers were pretty much a 5 in terms of pass blocking last year,” Burke said.

    read more

    https://triblive.com/sports/analytic...-as-you-think/

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    Senior Member Array title="El-Gonzo Jackson has a reputation beyond repute"> El-Gonzo Jackson's Avatar

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    Re: Analytics show Steelers’ offensive line might not be as impressive as you think

    This isnt shocking. As much as everybody loves the Matt Feiler story, his pass blocking wasnt that great and his skillset is better at guard. Not a big surprise that the pass blocking skills of Feiler and Foster are the lowest of the starting 5.

    Its why I honestly hope that the more athletic Hawkins or Okorafor can win the RT spot and Feiler will be the 6th O lineman on gameday with ability to play G or T. I honestly thought they let Foster go in FA and Feiler would take his LG spot in 2019, but the signed him up for 2 more.

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    Re: Analytics show Steelers’ offensive line might not be as impressive as you think

    Quote Originally Posted by El-Gonzo Jackson View Post
    This isnt shocking. As much as everybody loves the Matt Feiler story, his pass blocking wasnt that great and his skillset is better at guard. Not a big surprise that the pass blocking skills of Feiler and Foster are the lowest of the starting 5.

    Its why I honestly hope that the more athletic Hawkins or Okorafor can win the RT spot and Feiler will be the 6th O lineman on gameday with ability to play G or T. I honestly thought they let Foster go in FA and Feiler would take his LG spot in 2019, but the signed him up for 2 more.
    IMO Foster was retained based more on the perception he is a stabilizing presence in a locker room not acclaimed for stability rather than anything close to DeCastro level performance. Not aware any other teams were crushed they could not land him in free agency. The contract is structured with a base salary of $1.1 million this season (+$3.15 milllion signing bonus) and salary of $4 million in 2020.

    https://www.spotrac.com/nfl/pittsbur...n-foster-8240/

    With no AB $$$ on the books after this season maybe the plan is to try to sign Feiler to a long term deal when Feiler is a RFA in 2020 and take the dead money cap hit of $1.575 million by releasing Foster after this season

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    Re: Analytics show Steelers’ offensive line might not be as impressive as you think

    Quote Originally Posted by AtlantaDan View Post
    IMO Foster was retained based more on the perception he is a stabilizing presence in a locker room not acclaimed for stability rather than anything close to DeCastro level performance. Not aware any other teams were crushed they could not land him in free agency. The contract is structured with a base salary of $1.1 million this season (+$3.15 milllion signing bonus) and salary of $4 million in 2020.

    https://www.spotrac.com/nfl/pittsbur...n-foster-8240/

    With no AB $$$ on the books after this season maybe the plan is to try to sign Feiler to a long term deal when Feiler is a RFA in 2020 and take the dead money cap hit of $1.575 million by releasing Foster after this season
    Good point. Feiler is 27 this season and could potentially have a good 5 seasons in him at LG to replace Foster. I am still very optimistic that Okorafor will be the LT of the future if Sarrett can keep up his development. Jerald Hawkins came out with great athleticism and a strong in line run blocker, so he could be RT or G. Now, after watching Derwin Gray NFL Combine workout again, his movement skills, weight loss and long arms make me think he can play RT in a couple years as well.

    Future left side of the line could be Chukks, Feiler and right side Hawkins and/or Gray IMO.

    Again, to the point of the article, I see Feiler being a better Guard that RT, so hopefully somebody else rises to the competition in camp.

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    Re: Analytics show Steelers’ offensive line might not be as impressive as you think

    We had Mike Munchak, who was probably our best coach working with the offensive line. HUGE loss.

    Filler is big and strong. Good as a run block, okay as a pass blocker and he's signed for cheap. Soon ( 2 to 2 years ) both Pouncey and Foster will need to be replaced. We could replace Foster now with Finney with little drop off.

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    Re: Analytics show Steelers’ offensive line might not be as impressive as you think

    Quote Originally Posted by Six Rings View Post
    We had Mike Munchak, who was probably our best coach working with the offensive line. HUGE loss.

    Filler is big and strong. Good as a run block, okay as a pass blocker and he's signed for cheap. Soon ( 2 to 2 years ) both Pouncey and Foster will need to be replaced. We could replace Foster now with Finney with little drop off.
    or we could replace Pouncey with Finney, Foster with Feiler and start Okorafor at RT.

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    Re: Analytics show Steelers’ offensive line might not be as impressive as you think

    Quote Originally Posted by El-Gonzo Jackson View Post
    This isnt shocking. As much as everybody loves the Matt Feiler story, his pass blocking wasnt that great and his skillset is better at guard. Not a big surprise that the pass blocking skills of Feiler and Foster are the lowest of the starting 5.

    Its why I honestly hope that the more athletic Hawkins or Okorafor can win the RT spot and Feiler will be the 6th O lineman on gameday with ability to play G or T. I honestly thought they let Foster go in FA and Feiler would take his LG spot in 2019, but the signed him up for 2 more.
    Don't worry. Ben called them out at his pool party/boat trip in Georgia. Or were they even invited.



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    Re: Analytics show Steelers’ offensive line might not be as impressive as you think

    Quote Originally Posted by tube517 View Post
    Don't worry. Ben called them out at his pool party/boat trip in Georgia. Or were they even invited.


    That Photoshop thing is real!

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    Re: Analytics show Steelers’ offensive line might not be as impressive as you think

    Quote Originally Posted by tube517 View Post
    Don't worry. Ben called them out at his pool party/boat trip in Georgia. Or were they even invited.
    Maybe they were not invited, or maybe they didn't want to be part of the Schmidt's Gay Beer ad.

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    Re: Analytics show Steelers’ offensive line might not be as impressive as you think


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    Re: Analytics show Steelers’ offensive line might not be as impressive as you think

    Clearly Ben holds onto the ball too long.

    The offensive line's achilles heel has been short yardage situations. They play well in general, but haven't gotten it done way too often in must-have short yardage situations.

    That needs to change. Until they can consistently impose their will on defenses by running the ball when they need to, they are going to be a little overrated to me.

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    Re: Analytics show Steelers’ offensive line might not be as impressive as you think

    I never found the second half of this data set about the run blocking. But I suspect it would show that the line is far better at run blocking when they can pull or otherwise get a O lineman on the move. I think this group is far less proficient at just lining up and blowing the guy in front of them off the ball than one would initially guess.

    I think, overall, the 2019 line can be better than the 2018 version if Hawkins or Chuks can play RT on a level between Gilbert and Feiler. They helped Fieler a great deal, hid him when they could, and it did change gameplans.

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    Re: Analytics show Steelers’ offensive line might not be as impressive as you think

    Quote Originally Posted by Mojouw View Post
    I never found the second half of this data set about the run blocking. But I suspect it would show that the line is far better at run blocking when they can pull or otherwise get a O lineman on the move. I think this group is far less proficient at just lining up and blowing the guy in front of them off the ball than one would initially guess.

    I think, overall, the 2019 line can be better than the 2018 version if Hawkins or Chuks can play RT on a level between Gilbert and Feiler. They helped Fieler a great deal, hid him when they could, and it did change gameplans.
    Honestly, I don't think there are many O linemen in the league that just "blow the guy in front of them off the ball", unless the guy across from them is a 250lb Linebacker. The D linemen in the NFL are not prone to getting blown off the LOS.

    I think Feiler is the weak link in the pass game, as he has more of the guard skillset. He did very well, considering how he was pressed into duty at RT, but I agree with you that a more natural OT like Hawkins or Chuks and even Derwin Gray would improve pass protection, but I think at this point only Hawkins is a better run blocker than Feiler if he can stay healthy.

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    Re: Analytics show Steelers’ offensive line might not be as impressive as you think

    Quote Originally Posted by El-Gonzo Jackson View Post
    Honestly, I don't think there are many O linemen in the league that just "blow the guy in front of them off the ball", unless the guy across from them is a 250lb Linebacker. The D linemen in the NFL are not prone to getting blown off the LOS.

    I think Feiler is the weak link in the pass game, as he has more of the guard skillset. He did very well, considering how he was pressed into duty at RT, but I agree with you that a more natural OT like Hawkins or Chuks and even Derwin Gray would improve pass protection, but I think at this point only Hawkins is a better run blocker than Feiler if he can stay healthy.
    I dunno. There are different skill sets at OL, just like any position. From my hazy memory even the Steelers best OL (say DeCastro and Pouncey) are better run blockers when they can get on the move than when they have to just stand up a DL and move him out of the hole. Is that true to some extent for every OL? Most likely. But there are guys that are better at just moving guys around on the LOS than I feel that the Steelers OL is. I don't think that the current Steelers O line is built to line up in a power I and just blast open holes. I feel they are more built to pick up blitzes in the passing game and get interior OL out in space on smaller defenders and open up run game holes like that.

    But these posts have already gone well beyond my limited ability to really assess OL play and schemes.

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    Re: Analytics show Steelers’ offensive line might not be as impressive as you think

    I guess it’s good that my wish to keep Munch didn’t happen.

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    Re: Analytics show Steelers’ offensive line might not be as impressive as you think

    Quote Originally Posted by Mojouw View Post
    I dunno. There are different skill sets at OL, just like any position. From my hazy memory even the Steelers best OL (say DeCastro and Pouncey) are better run blockers when they can get on the move than when they have to just stand up a DL and move him out of the hole. Is that true to some extent for every OL? Most likely. But there are guys that are better at just moving guys around on the LOS than I feel that the Steelers OL is. I don't think that the current Steelers O line is built to line up in a power I and just blast open holes. I feel they are more built to pick up blitzes in the passing game and get interior OL out in space on smaller defenders and open up run game holes like that.

    But these posts have already gone well beyond my limited ability to really assess OL play and schemes.
    Agreed re: different skillsets. Pouncey and DeCastro are more athletic than the other 3 guys on the line, but that doesn't necessarily mean they aren't good inline blockers. Foster isn't as athletic as you want and if you compare to Alan Faneca who previously played at LG, he isn't that athletic at all in order to pull 3 gaps to the right on counters.

    The heavier footed guys on O line like Foster are better suited to block between the tackles and its not so much "blasting open holes", but rather they get to a shoulder and seal their opposing defender to create a seam the RB can run thru. Steelers have always sprinkled in some inside zone plays where the linemen briefly double team the down lineman and then one of the lineman, slides off to block the LB. They also ran some outside zone where the whole line takes a lateral step and then tries to get to an edge of a defender and its on the RB to read the seam and run thru it.

    IMO, the current Steelers O line uses a variety of run schemes. Some power man, some zone. But where the 2000's teams had 2 guards(Faneca and Simmons) strong enough to run power and athletic enough to pull left or right. The current line uses G-C in Decastro and Pouncey to pull either way if they run pulls or counters. I just don't think many places are going to break down statistically the run success in , Inside Zone, Outside Zone, Man blocking, Counter plays, Pulling lead plays, etc to determine proficiency in each type of play.

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    Re: Analytics show Steelers’ offensive line might not be as impressive as you think

    Quote Originally Posted by El-Gonzo Jackson View Post
    Agreed re: different skillsets. Pouncey and DeCastro are more athletic than the other 3 guys on the line, but that doesn't necessarily mean they aren't good inline blockers. Foster isn't as athletic as you want and if you compare to Alan Faneca who previously played at LG, he isn't that athletic at all in order to pull 3 gaps to the right on counters.

    The heavier footed guys on O line like Foster are better suited to block between the tackles and its not so much "blasting open holes", but rather they get to a shoulder and seal their opposing defender to create a seam the RB can run thru. Steelers have always sprinkled in some inside zone plays where the linemen briefly double team the down lineman and then one of the lineman, slides off to block the LB. They also ran some outside zone where the whole line takes a lateral step and then tries to get to an edge of a defender and its on the RB to read the seam and run thru it.

    IMO, the current Steelers O line uses a variety of run schemes. Some power man, some zone. But where the 2000's teams had 2 guards(Faneca and Simmons) strong enough to run power and athletic enough to pull left or right. The current line uses G-C in Decastro and Pouncey to pull either way if they run pulls or counters. I just don't think many places are going to break down statistically the run success in , Inside Zone, Outside Zone, Man blocking, Counter plays, Pulling lead plays, etc to determine proficiency in each type of play.
    All of that sounds exactly right. Be fascinating to see the breakdown you propose. Maybe I'll win coach for a day contest some time. Then I'll ask them.

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    Senior Member Array title="El-Gonzo Jackson has a reputation beyond repute"> El-Gonzo Jackson's Avatar

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    Re: Analytics show Steelers’ offensive line might not be as impressive as you think

    Quote Originally Posted by Mojouw View Post
    All of that sounds exactly right. Be fascinating to see the breakdown you propose. Maybe I'll win coach for a day contest some time. Then I'll ask them.
    That would be cool. Then you could come up with some kind of algorithm for deciding maybe who should or shouldn't be on the field for certain plays, but that might require dressing 7 O linemen on gameday.

    I honestly look at the evolution of O linemen as similar to that of the game of basketball and the concept of "positionless players". Just like the 7 foot center that can only post up has gone away, I don't think we see the Flozell Adams RT as much any more, or the undersized athletic LT like Jordan Gross. Current O linemen are valued if they can be athletic enough to block in zone concepts and pass protect, yet strong enough to get the tough yards inside on short yardage and anchor against a bull rush. I see Foster and Feiler as those guys that aren't really athletic enough to be excellent at pulling in space, but have footwork well enough to block in outside zone concepts, or double and get 2nd level on inside zone plays. Kind of how Al Horford is big enough to guard the big guys and does an adequate job limiting quicker guards in pick and roll switches.

    Feiler did the job he was asked and when you don't have a RT that can stay with quicker pass rushers, you either help him or give the QB routes with 3-step drops, rather than 5 or 7 step. So if advanced stats show that Feiler didn't win the 1 on 1 battles, yet Ben got the ball out before the rush could get to him for it to be recorded as a "pressure" or "hit"....that isn't some kind of statistical indication of the O line and their ability to pass protect, IMO. Its coaching staff knowing the limitation of the UDFA backup RT and gameplanning/playcalling to minimize the weakness.

    To me, stuff like this is more chess than its calculus.

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    Re: Analytics show Steelers’ offensive line might not be as impressive as you think

    Quote Originally Posted by El-Gonzo Jackson View Post
    That would be cool. Then you could come up with some kind of algorithm for deciding maybe who should or shouldn't be on the field for certain plays, but that might require dressing 7 O linemen on gameday.

    I honestly look at the evolution of O linemen as similar to that of the game of basketball and the concept of "positionless players". Just like the 7 foot center that can only post up has gone away, I don't think we see the Flozell Adams RT as much any more, or the undersized athletic LT like Jordan Gross. Current O linemen are valued if they can be athletic enough to block in zone concepts and pass protect, yet strong enough to get the tough yards inside on short yardage and anchor against a bull rush. I see Foster and Feiler as those guys that aren't really athletic enough to be excellent at pulling in space, but have footwork well enough to block in outside zone concepts, or double and get 2nd level on inside zone plays. Kind of how Al Horford is big enough to guard the big guys and does an adequate job limiting quicker guards in pick and roll switches.

    Feiler did the job he was asked and when you don't have a RT that can stay with quicker pass rushers, you either help him or give the QB routes with 3-step drops, rather than 5 or 7 step. So if advanced stats show that Feiler didn't win the 1 on 1 battles, yet Ben got the ball out before the rush could get to him for it to be recorded as a "pressure" or "hit"....that isn't some kind of statistical indication of the O line and their ability to pass protect, IMO. Its coaching staff knowing the limitation of the UDFA backup RT and gameplanning/playcalling to minimize the weakness.

    To me, stuff like this is more chess than its calculus.
    The entire offensive line position is, perhaps, the most fascinating in all of football. I have heard and read from multiple sources that NFL teams are highly concerned with the type, preparedness, and experience level of OL coming out of the NCAA ranks. Many scouts, coaches, and GM's view the lack of NFL style OL as the biggest hurdle to building a roster after the QB position.

    I think that we are going to have to see teams doing one or more things to adjust. Similar to what the Steelers and Patriots have done is get guys (from all over the draft board and UDFA pipeline) into a stable system and mold them into what is needed. The other is to identify and draft guys in early rounds on an almost annual basis to ensure the roster is stocked with "traditional" NFL lineman.

    What is going to be fascinating to see is along the lines of what you are talking about. What happens when NFL teams stop trying to find what they traditionally expect out of OL players in the draft and start adapting to what is actually available? Perhaps this is already starting in the shifts/trends in the passing game that we are seeing. While that is likely largely catered to the style of QB play that is popular in the NCAA, it also helps the OL players play similar to how they did in college.

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    Senior Member Array title="El-Gonzo Jackson has a reputation beyond repute"> El-Gonzo Jackson's Avatar

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    Re: Analytics show Steelers’ offensive line might not be as impressive as you think

    Quote Originally Posted by Mojouw View Post

    What is going to be fascinating to see is along the lines of what you are talking about. What happens when NFL teams stop trying to find what they traditionally expect out of OL players in the draft and start adapting to what is actually available? Perhaps this is already starting in the shifts/trends in the passing game that we are seeing. While that is likely largely catered to the style of QB play that is popular in the NCAA, it also helps the OL players play similar to how they did in college.
    People in the NFL are similar to people in everyday life. They can have a Fixed mindset and view college linemen as "traditional" "not NFL type"...or they can have a growth mindset and believe college linemen have a certain skillset and can then be taught how to play an NFL style of O line. Dr. Carol Dweck from Stanford wrote a good book called Mindset that explains it in detail(also some TED talks online).

    This is why I think measurables and analytics are something that just tells approx. 30% of the story of a players potential and I think scouts/coaches find guys in late rounds and UDFA, who fit the skillset, attitude, etc that they can work with and coach up in a couple years to fit what they want.

    IMO, when people evaluate players as finding a gem, like they are a finished product...they get it wrong. When they view players as something more malleable that they can shape and coach up, they can really tap into helping make that player be great at what they do.

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