LATROBE, Pa. (AP) – The Pittsburgh Steelers boasted the NFL’s second-ranked offense in 2014. Having the same five guys frequently lining up in front for Ben Roethlisberger helped.
Now a unit currently regarded as one of the best doesn’t want to settle. The group intends to put last season’s success in the past, focusing instead on even higher goals this fall.
“We just have to keep working,” center Maurkice Pouncey said. “We can’t have the mindset that last year was good enough. We have to keep grinding with it and keep pushing forward.
Pouncey said the group has a lot of mistakes to fix.
The pedigree is high on the offensive line. Pouncey, a first-round pick in 2010, is a two-time All-Pro, four-time Pro Bowler and considered one of the best centers in the league. David DeCastro, the team’s 2012 first-round pick, is on the cusp of breaking out at right guard.
Kelvin Beachum, a 6-foot-3 former seventh-round pick, is emerging as one of the better left tackles in the NFL, while right tackle Marcus Gilbert was a 2011 second-round selection. Right guard Ramon Foster, the oldest on the line at 29, is a former undrafted free agent who has started 71 games in six seasons.
The young group jelled last year under Hall of Famer Mike Munchak, back for his second season as offensive line coach, but they’re just as tight off the field.
“You push me, you’re going to see all four of those other guys coming over and getting you,” Pouncey said. “We’re pretty close.”
The offensive line allowed only 33 sacks in 2014, down from 42 in 2014. The combination of better protection and a focus on getting rid of the ball helped Roethlisberger tie for the NFL lead in yards passing.
The result? Points by the bunches. The Steelers averaged 31.2 points while going 8-2 down the stretch to capture the team’s first AFC North championship since 2010.
“You see the difference when he’s in the game,” Pouncey said. “He’s an excellent quarterback and he knows how to run the offense the right way.”
The offensive line was healthy in 2014, too, as three of the five started all 16 regular-season games. It was a long way from the previous two years when Pouncey tore his ACL during the 2013 season-opener and DeCastro and Gilbert both missed significant time in 2012.
“Hopefully, we stay blessed without any injuries again,” Pouncey said. “We’re excited about seeing how things get going.”
The five linemen want to top being the second-ranked offense in the league.
“I think we can be really good, but just saying things never works,” Pouncey said. “We have the ability and the players to do it.”
NOTES: Steelers’ second-round pick CB Senquez Golson underwent shoulder surgery Friday morning and is out indefinitely. … LB Lawrence Timmons (toe), RB Josh Harris (foot), WR David Nelson (shoulder), LB Vince Williams (hamstring) and WR C.J. Goodwin were ruled out for Sunday’s preseason game against Green Bay. … The Steelers, after holding their final training camp workout at St. Vincent College on Friday, will break camp and return to Pittsburgh.
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