PITTSBURGH – Some of Ben Roethlisberger’s first words after winning his most recent Super Bowl with the Pittsburgh Steelers were to pay tribute to his offensive line.
“Who’s laughing now, O-line?” Roethlisberger proudly exclaimed two years ago.
Big Ben has kept a tight relationship with his linemen over the years, even though the unit was maligned during the 2008 season. There have been similar whispers throughout this season, but here Pittsburgh is again, preparing to play the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.
Only one starter will be the same from that win over Arizona two years ago. Both starting tackles have gone down this season and guys with a combined three starts have locked down center and right guard. Still, the Steelers’ linemen are laughing all the way to Cowboys Stadium.
“Just the way this group’s all come together and bought into our philosophy since the beginning of training camp, it’s nice to now see all that hard work pay off,” said Max Starks, who began the season at left tackle but suffered a season-ending neck injury Nov. 8.
Starks joined right tackle Willie Colon on injured reserve. Colon injured his right Achilles tendon while working out in June and missed the season.
Maurkice Pouncey entered the season with credentials as a first-round pick out of Florida, but was only a rookie. At right guard, Ramon Foster took over at midseason after being an undrafted free agent in 2009 with only three previous starts as an injury replacement.
Signed as a free agent over the offseason from Buffalo, Jonathan Scott started the final eight games at left tackle. Veteran Flozell Adams was signed on the eve of training camp, and the 13-year veteran has been one of the few constants after having been plugged in at right tackle.
Left guard Chris Kemoeatu is the only leftover from the ’08 team. He started 15 games this season, missing one with a knee injury.
Throw in a new offensive line coach this season in Sean Kugler after Larry Zierlein was let go, only added to the constant state of change.
“It seems like we’ve had significant change on the offensive line every time we’ve been to the Super Bowl,” Starks said. “I wouldn’t say that this season was the wildest ride of them all, but I’d say it’s been the most exciting.”
The Steelers might face their biggest challenge in terms of offensive line continuity at the Super Bowl, with the status of the unit’s lone Pro Bowler in doubt. Pouncey left the AFC championship game during the opening drive with a sprained left ankle.
Pouncey did not practice all last week and was spotted at the team’s practice facility with a cast on. He is listed as questionable.