O-line's progress encourages Steelers aide

PITTSBURGH -- The Steelers identified left tackle as a problem that needs to be fixed. The biggest help they can provide whoever lines up there when they visit the New York Jets on Oct. 13 is to stop playing from behind.

They had to do that in each of their past two losses, and Ben Roethlisberger threw an average of 46 passes against the Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings.

What was more of a problem than Roethlisberger’s sheer number of attempts were the circumstances under which he dropped back to pass.

That was particularly true in the 34-27 loss to the Vikings.

“What makes it harder is once you fall behind like that and you take the run game and the run play-action out of it, which we had a little bit success doing, now it’s just, 'Hey, we’re going to tee off and go get him,'” Steelers offensive line coach Jack Bicknell Jr. said. “In the NFL that’s a bad place to be because then you start getting all of the twists and all of the different blitz schemes. So you never want to be in that situation, and we got in that situation.”

That situation clearly overwhelmed left tackle Mike Adams, and the Steelers couldn’t help him by using a tight end or running back to help block Vikings defensive end Jared Allen since they needed to give Roethlisberger as many options as possible when he threw the ball.

Adams appears to be headed to the bench, though Levi Brown is anything but a guarantee to shore up left tackle even if he picks up the Steelers’ playbook quickly enough to start against the Jets.

The Arizona Cardinals were all too eager to jettison Brown, which still leaves the Steelers with a super-sized question at left tackle. And Kelvin Beachum is still an option there if left guard Ramon Foster (pectoral strain) is healthy enough to play against the Jets.

Despite the Steelers’ problems at left tackle, Bicknell remains encouraged about the overall progress the offensive line has made.

And he gave the group a vote of confidence following the Steelers’ final practice this week.

“I’ve had teams where you look at our offensive line and say, ‘We’re in big trouble.’” Bicknell said. “We don’t have that feeling. We’ve got this feeling like, ‘Hey, we’ve got to fix some things.’

“It’s not all bad, I promise you that. They’ve done some real good things, but we also understand we’ve got to rise up and take care of the things that have been hurting us so we can start winning.”