Smith Will Be Key For Steelers
Tuesday July 15, 2008
Posted by Robert Rousseau
Last season, the Pittsburgh Steelers tried to step up their passing game. It was a smart idea, borne from the fact that their current starting quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, is one of the best in the game. On one hand, Roethlisberger played very well and the team succeeded, to an extent, in its efforts. On the other hand, it sure is a good thing that Roethlisberger is an underrated scrambler, because he had to use his wheels far too often.
Enter the Pittsburgh Steelers' offensive line, usually a strength for the club. The unit struggled when it came to pass blocking in 2007, though. For reinforcement, check out the box score of the team's Week 11 game against the New York Jets. During that contest the line gave up a whopping seven sacks and generally left its quarterback running for his life on every play.
Now, with guard Alan Faneca gone to those same Jets, several Steelers linemen need to step up in a big way. None as much as left tackle Marvel Smith, perhaps, a second-round pick of the Steelers in the 2000 draft.
Smith, an ex-Arizona State standout, has started 103 games during his Steelers career.
Things were looking up for Smith when he made the Pro Bowl in 2005 after allowing only 3.75 sacks through 12 starts. However, his play has fallen off since, with the lineman having surrendered 17.75 total sacks in his last 26 games. Part of the reason for the drop-off appears to be a nagging back injury, which required surgery at the end of last season and forced Smith to miss the Steelers' opening-round playoff loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Ultimately, because of his surgery and otherwise up-and-down career, Smith is a big question mark for the Steelers. If he can come through this year and play somewhere near his 2005 form, the team may be able to make up for Faneca’s absence. If not, there could be trouble.
Without question, Smith -- although unheralded -- will be a key to Pittsburgh's success in '08.