One of the reasons the Pittsburgh Steelers didn’t pursue to re-sign Max Starks during the offseason was their switch (not entirely) to zone blocking schemes instead of the power-blocking they’ve been using up until now, which requires quicker and more athletic offensive linemen than Starks.
One of the changes the Steelers made this season was bringing over offensive line coach Jack Bicknell Jr, who has worked as an O-line coach almost exclusively since 1986. He did have eight years with the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs as a head coach in between (1999-2006).
The Steelers won’t forget about their power blocking schemes and double teaming when necessary, but it’s going to look very different than what it’s been like in the past. The Steelers have struggled in the running game for the last couple of seasons, not to mention keeping Ben Roethlisberger unhurt, and change had to be coming, along with the drafting of Le’Veon Bell, hoping he brings in some new blood, speed, power and yards.
Bell actually didn’t enjoy the most healthy or efficient of offensive lines last season at Michigan State, so the group he is now going to run behind, which the Steelers believe is big and athletic enough to perform well in both blocking schemes, should be a treat to play with for Bell and the rest of the running backs, including Redman and Dwyer, who were very disappointing last season.
Health has been an issue for the Steelers offensive line for quite a while, but if David DeCastro and Marukice Pouncey don’t run into any injury trouble, the Steelers’ unit is going to be creating a lot of running lanes to a running back stock many believe can do much better than in 2012.
Zone blocking works well for the teams that have used it consistently, perfecting it. The Denver Broncos have been about it for years, and they always have someone putting up 1000 yards, even if no one heard of him before. Mike Shanahan is using the same system in Washington, enjoying the fact that he has Alfred Morris in the backfield. The Steelers are hoping they have the same mix of talent in the O-Line and the backfield to propel their running game back to where it used to be.