For a number of years the Pittsburgh Steelers have had one of the better offensive lines in the NFL, and this year should be no different.
According to new rankings released by Pro Football Focus, Pittsburgh has the ninth-best offensive line in the league entering 2020, largely on the strength of its pass-blocking prowess.
For starters, PFF likes left tackle Alejandro Villanueva for his dependability, though it now regards last year’s right tackle, Matt Feiler, a little more highly.
On the inside, “right guard David DeCastro has seen his run-blocking grades take a hit over the past two years,” notes writer Steve Palazzolo, “but he remains one of the better pass protectors in the league….” (CBS Sports HQ agrees with this assessment, rating DeCastro as the sixth-best guard in the NFL.)
As for left guard, Palazzolo describes free-agent acquisition Stefen Wisniewski as a “viable replacement” for now-retired Ramon Foster, but encourages fans to “keep an eye on fourth-round rookie Kevin Dotson—a powerful run blocker who finished with the top [college] grade among draft-class guards last season.”
Center Maurkice Pouncey
PFF does have some concerns about the career arc of center Maurkice Pouncey, noting that he didn’t grade out among the top 32 centers in the NFL last season—with a fairly pronounced drop-off in performance compared to earlier seasons.
Palazzolo does note, however, that “Pouncey takes on much more than most centers in pass protection—last season, he had the most one-on-one matchups in the league for the third time in five years.”
Pouncey is under contract with the Steelers for two more seasons. Per OvertheCap.com he is scheduled to earn $1,050,000 in salary and count $7,525,000 against Pittsburgh’s salary cap. Next season he is slated to earn $8 million in salary, with a cap hit of $14,475,000.
It’s a similar story for DeCastro, who is scheduled to earn a salary of $8.75 million in each of the next two years, and then hit unrestricted free agency after the 2021 season.
For his part, Villanueva will be a free agent after this season, making him one of the team’s top 5 unrestricted free agents entering 2021. And Matt Feiler is likely headed for unrestricted free agency after this season as well. He recently signed his second-round tender as a restricted free agent and will earn $3.259 million this year.
The Rest of the AFC North
As for the other teams in the AFC North, it’s worth noting perhaps, that Pittsburgh has only the third-highest rated offensive line in the division, with PFF ranking the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns higher at fifth and sixth in the NFL, respectively.
Meanwhile, the Cincinnati Bengals’ offensive line is ranked second to last in the NFL, ahead of just one team—the Miami Dolphins.
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