Today CBSSports.com revealed its list of the top 20 offensive linemen entering 2020. Or more specifically, the top 10 offensive tackles and top 10 interior offensive linemen.
As for the criteria used to determine the rankings, author Tyler Sullivan advises that considerations included: Pro Football Focus statistics, as well as age, durability, and how the player’s O-line performed as a group.
David ‘Perfect Attendance’ DeCastro Amongst the Best Guards in the NFL
Two Pittsburgh Steelers linemen are among those honored with David DeCastro identified as the sixth best offensive guard in the NFL. Usually “perfect attendance” isn’t the lead when talking about great performances, but author Tyler Sullivan leads with the fact the DeCastro played in all of the team’s 995 snaps last season, before noting he made a fifth-straight trip to the Pro Bowl in 2019, putting him on a Hall of Fame path.
“According to PFF’s grading system, DeCastro is only one of four guards”—the others being Zack Martin, Brandon Brooks, and Marshal Yanda—“who have top 10 grades in both pass-blocking and run-blocking since 2016,” Sullivan relates, before expressing optimism about even better performance from the Steelers’ offensive line in 2020.
“As a unit, Pittsburgh ranked just outside the top 10 in adjusted sack rate [in 2019], but the entire offense should be much more efficient in 2020 with Ben Roethlisberger under center.”
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Maurkice Pouncey Earns ‘Honorable Mention’
Meanwhile, Steelers’ center Maurkice Pouncey also got a “tip of the cap” for “just miss[ing] the [top 10] list,” earning honorable mention among the interior offensive linemen along with Shaq Mason and Brandon Brooks.
It’s a minor snub that may rankle Pouncey though, at least if recent behavior is any indication. Earlier this month Pouncey fired back on Twitter at one NFL analyst who referred to him as “overrated,” this in the wake of also being included on that analyst’s All-Average Team.
During that same PFF NFL Podcast co-host Sam Monson said:
“When you watch Maurkice Pouncey, he doesn’t kill people—he doesn’t crush people in the run game—he makes reasonable blocks, he moves fairly well, and he gets beaten in pass protection in the middle-class of centers when it comes to pass protection and giving up pressures in a given year. Maurkice Pouncey might be the all-average center despite his Hall of Fame path when it comes to perception [emphasis added].”
Monson and podcast co-host Steve Palazzolo go on to discuss how it will be “an injustice” when Pouncey gets elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, saying: “He was average for ten years and we’re going to throw him in the Hall of Fame but we’re going to do it because he had ten Pro Bowls because nobody knew any better.”
In that same podcast episode, Monson and Palazzolo also identify Steelers’ left tackle Alejandro Villanueva as perhaps the NFL’s quintessentially average left tackle. Villanueva is expected to be one of the Steelers’ top 5 unrestricted free agents in 2021.