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Insider Only Biggest Disappointments in 0-3 Start: James Conner, Offensive Line

Conner, O-Line Top List of the Most surprise disappointments in 0-3 start

There’s a number of reasons the Pittsburgh Steelers are off to an 0-3 start.

The week 1 debacle vs New England highlighted glaring issues with this roster from the lack of playmakers on offense that is going to be a season long problem, to a talented defense that is a group of misfits from executing a complexed scheme with coaching that has shown no ability in elevating the group.

Those two areas continued to be problems in the losses to Seattle and San Francisco, but what has been the most surprising development with the Steelers 0-3 start is the dreadful play of the offensive line and running back James Conner.

If there was one position that was well down the list of worries going into the season, the offensive line topped the list.

But, almost one quarter through the season, the o-line has come up small and it begs the question whether the group is just getting old.

Six quarters with Ben Roethlisberger they were bad, six quarters with Mason Rudolph they have been bad thus far.

Alejandro Villanueva who turned 31 years old on Sunday is struggling mightily with speed rushers. Ramon Foster, 33, might be the classic case of keeping a great guy one year too long.

Maurkice Pouncey is entering his 10th season and looking like a player whose heading out of his prime. David DeCastro remains a stud whose heading towards a hall-of-famer career, but this love in the organization for journeyman RT Matt Feiler might be back-firing.

Mike Munchak is a phenomenal O-line coach but I just won’t buy that Munchak leaving is the reason for such a drop-off where this unit is getting off the ball slow, getting physically man-handled and failing to create open running lanes.

The unit unfortunately might just be getting old in NFL terms.

And James Conner’s dreadful start has just added to the surprise disappointments. For all the Monday Quarterbacking, Conner fumbled the game away in the 4th quarter vs the 49ers. If that fumble doesn’t happen, the Steelers are 1-2 and at least have a glimmer of hope still alive. Just in-excusable in that situation even with the multiple blown blocking assignments.

Conner in training camp just looked primed for stardom and through three games that’s been farther from the truth. What stood out at Latrobe was how in sync the O-line and Conner looked together and that seems so long ago now.

Outside of the lack of open running lanes, Conner is struggling to make defenders miss and get to the outside. There’s no explosiveness/power running game combo from Conner and it’s on the coaching staff to start scheming better to get Conner more involved in the passing game.

The Steelers WR depth is just awful from a playmaking standpoint.

Conner’s struggles have opened the door for Jaylen Samuels to be a strong consideration to be a big part of the game plan vs the Bengals but Conner is also the Steelers second best offensive player behind Juju Smith-Schuster. This coaching staff has to start scheming much more creatively, such as using Conner like Le’Veon Bell in putting him out wide with Samuels at running back.

Pittsburgh doesn’t have the athletes on offense to just go out and beat the opposition anymore. The coaching staff have to start putting together more creative schemes to combat the eight-men in the box as this O-line might no longer be up to the task of carrying their own weight. Using Conner as a receiving threat and try to get the ball to him in space has to become more of a focus. Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at wdepaoli@insidepittsburghsports.com

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