Offensive line is the key to success for the Pittsburgh Steelers

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, left, celebrates with teammate offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert after defeating Indianapolis Colts in an NFL football game Thursday, Nov. 24, 2016, in Indianapolis. Pittsburgh won the game 28-7. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, left, celebrates with teammate offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert after defeating Indianapolis Colts in an NFL football game Thursday, Nov. 24, 2016, in Indianapolis. Pittsburgh won the game 28-7. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

PITTSBURGH — Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell doesn’t feel his offensive line receives the credit it deserves.

The headlines are usually reserved for Bell, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and wide receiver Antonio Brown, the three stars who spearhead the Steelers’ dangerous offense. Bell believes the line is behind the Steelers’ recent offensive resurgence and helped snap a four-game losing streak. Pittsburgh has consecutive road victories against Cleveland and Indianapolis.

“They’re playing superb,” Bell said. “Those guys give me a lot of room and space to make things happen and they allow me to get to the second level pretty much untouched. They deserve all the credit.”

The Steelers (6-5) host the Giants on Sunday. The Steelers and Baltimore Ravens are tied atop the AFC North and have a head-to-head Christmas Day matchup in Pittsburgh. The Steelers feel their offensive line will be critical to their success.

“We need to just stay consistent and keep doing our job,” center Maurkice Pouncey said.

One of the top priorities is keeping Roethlisberger upright. The line has allowed one sack in the last three games and 14 this season, tied for the second fewest in the league among quarterbacks with 10 starts.

“Ben is the key to the franchise moving forward,” guard Ramon Foster said. “Keeping him on the field is goal No. 1. That has to be our job.”

Roethlisberger, who missed a game in October after meniscus surgery in his left knee, has completed 73 percent of his passes during his last three games for 796 yards with six touchdowns and zero interceptions. He is tied for fifth in the league with 23 touchdowns and has thrown just seven interceptions.

“Any team, when you have a quarterback like that, you have to keep him healthy, so he can throw it down the field,” Pouncey said. “We’ve been doing a good job and hopefully we can build off of that.”

Brown has reaped the benefits, most recently Thursday against Indianapolis when he set a single-game high with three touchdown receptions. Brown leads the NFL with 82 catches and 10 touchdowns, while ranking third in the league with 998 yards.

“It’s not surprising with all the talent they both have,” guard David DeCastro said. “It’s a special connection.”

Bell brings it all together, as his unique skill set makes him a threat in the backfield and as a receiver. He has 477 yards from scrimmage in the previous three games, including 201 against the Browns and 130-plus each against Dallas and Indianapolis.

“We’ve been doing what we need to do to win games,” Bell said. “Whether it’s running or catching the ball out of the backfield, we just want to make sure we win the game.”

Bell, among NFL leaders in yards from scrimmage, has rushing touchdowns in each of his last three games. He also rushed for more than 100 yards in back-to-back games for the second time in his career. Bell, despite missing three games because of a suspension, leads all running backs with 57 catches and is just outside the top 10 in the AFC in overall receptions.

“It’s hard to defend that type of player,” Pouncey said. “When he’s heating up and scoring touchdowns, it’s good for everybody.”

Particularly good for the Steelers, who have settled into a groove offensively, thanks in large part to their offensive line.

“This is what we expect and we have to keep it going,” DeCastro said. “If we play like this, we’re going to have a lot of chances to win games.”

COMMENTS