Dunlap: Steelers Will Go As Far As O-Line Takes Them

PITTSBURGH (93-7 The Fan) – Talk about those flashy skill guys all you like – the speedy receivers and shifty running backs.

The strong-armed quarterback, yep, chat about him too.

There is that arbitrary points per game threshold seemingly everyone has. What is it for you? Thirty points a game? Thirty-five? A little more or a little less? It is somewhere right around there for Todd Haley’s bunch, though, right?

Anyhow, no matter how you want to try to figure this thing out, there is one glaring certainty for me for the 2017 Pittsburgh Steelers offense — they are only going to go as far as the line will take them.

But there is something else. All of that pressure is merited. Know why? This just might be the best offensive line in the history of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ franchise.

That isn’t hyperbole or embellishment.

This offensive line might be the best to ever wear the black and gold. Think about that and come up with a better one.

With Alejandro Villanueva, Ramon Foster, Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro and Marcus Gilbert offering that muscle up front, it is more than fair to expect as much from this crew as any line of the past — and maybe even more so.

Hell, they are getting paid enough.

But, besides that, back to the point — which line in Steelers history has been better?

Certainly the 1972 Steelers line was magnificent. When you take Jon Kolb, Sam Davis, Ray Mansfield, Bruce Van Dyke and Moon Mullins, you really have something. But were they better than these guys? That is up for debate. In ’72 — and throughout his career — Mansfield was dynamite. He was that anchor in the middle and even as that line, in total, got out and moved more, I don’t think to a man they were better than this one. They also kept Terry Bradshaw relatively clean that season, as he was sacked 29 times.

Some look at 1979 as a great line. And they were. Kolb, Sam Davis, Mike Webster, Steve Courson and Larry Brown won a Super Bowl and really widened a path for that running game, but I just don’t know if they were as strong on the right side as these current guys can be.

The one group that I think was really lights-out was the 2005 line of Marvel Smith, Alan Faneca, Jeff Hartings, Kendall Simmons and Max Starks. There is no question Faneca is a hall of fame talent and Simmons, for my money, is like Ramon Foster on this line — one of the most underrated players in the entire NFL at his position. Hartings, Smith and Starks were as dependable as they come and that’s probably why the offense that season felt the need to run the ball more than any in the NFL.

In my estimation, if there is one line in Steelers history that could have the edge over this current group, it is that Super Bowl winning line from 2005. But that’s all up for debate.

It is also yet to be decided, really. If the line this season, with its pedigree and pressure to match, goes on to achieve great things, it probably will be looked at by many as the greatest in franchise history. I know one thing that that isn’t up for examination: Villanueva, Foster, Pouncey, DeCastro and Gilbert will ultimately decide if this offense has the expected potency or if it falls flat.

Colin Dunlap is a featured columnist at CBSPittsburgh.com. He can also be heard weekdays from 5:40 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Sports Radio 93-7 “The Fan.” You can e-mail him at colin.dunlap@cbsradio.com. Check out his bio here.

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