PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Steelers’ offensive line didn’t keep its promise to Ben Roethlisberger. Worse still, the revamped line didn’t do much to keep the Philadelphia Eagles off their quarterback, and with predictable results.
The Steelers (2-1) began on Monday a long week of preparation for their game against AFC North rival Baltimore (2-0) next Monday night, an extended period that may seem longer given their inability to calm the Eagles’ incessant pass rush.
Roethlisberger, the NFL’s most-sacked player with 93 sacks in 2006 and 2007, was dropped eight times — and also drew a safety when he couldn’t escape the rush — and Byron Leftwich was sacked once during the 15-6 loss Sunday.
The nine sacks were three off the team record of 12 allowed against Dallas in 1966, but the line’s performance was likely no better than that forgettable game 42 years ago.
Roethlisberger also had four plays in which he was pressured out of the pocket and gained only 1 or 2 yards — technically not sacks, but plays a defense will take in any situation other than a short-yardage QB sneak.
“It’s a problem that we have, it’s obvious,” coach Mike Tomlin said.
The across-the-board protection breakdown magnifies what was considered the Steelers’ biggest worry going into the regular season, a line that allowed 47 sacks last season and now is without All-Pro left guard Alan Faneca.
Roethlisberger has been sacked 12 times in three games, one off the league lead, and he already has a slight shoulder separation and a sore right hand. No quarterback can take a pounding like this for a full season, yet the Steelers know they’re going to keep seeing pressure until they prove they can handle it.
“I try and stand there as much as I can and just keep trying to get back up,” Roethlisberger said.
That wasn’t easy. During one first-half stretch of eight plays, Roethlisberger was sacked five times, fumbled and threw an interception.
Wasn’t it only last week that the offensive linemen, intent on protecting their $102 million quarterback, vowed all this pressure would stop?
“I think this was about as frustrating a game as it could be,” said wide receiver Hines Ward, who shared in the blame. “I think sometimes you do not want to press the issues too much this early in the season, but we really had a lot of guys that were not on the same page.”
With Faneca now playing for the Jets, the Steelers have two new offensive starters in left guard Chris Kemoeatu and center Justin Hartwig.