The offensive line has really come together for the Pittsburgh Steelers over the last month. Measuring an offensive line’s performance can be difficult because of the number of factors at play, but it is pretty black and white if you look at the Steelers’ progression in sacks taken and rushing yards gained. Over the first six games of the season, the Steelers allowed 16 sacks and rushed for 488 yards. Over the last five games, just 9 sacks and 766 yards. One of the main talking points has been the addition of Broderick Jones into the lineup at right tackle, but the rest of the line has performed better, too. It isn’t a one man show.
The player in focus in this film room is LG Isaac Seumalo. He was added in free agency after playing his first seven years with the Philadelphia Eagles. Assistant GM Andy Weidl helped bring a couple of his Eagles players over to the Steelers and Seumalo was the Steelers’ biggest splash signing in free agency. Seumalo’s old teammate in Philadelphia, Jason Kelce, called him the “smartest player” he has ever been around, and said the Steelers got a steal back when he was signed.
Similarly to James Daniels the year before him, Seumalo struggled a bit early on. It was his first time on a new NFL team in his career. Again, offensive lines are complex and it isn’t always as simple as copy and pasting a player from one system to another. Different coaches teach different techniques and different offensive systems call for different play styles. With all that being said, let’s take a look at some film from the Week Twelve game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
One thing that stood out about how the Steelers used Seumalo against the Bengals was having him pull. Normally a pulling guard means some form of a power run where the pulling guard kicks out the defender at the end of the line, but a majority of the time they had Seumalo pulling he was pulling to pick up the free man off the edge in pass protection. That is normally going to be an outside linebacker or someone generally much quicker than a guard, so if the guard isn’t able to execute the pull cleanly that could mean a free path to the quarterback. In each of these clips, he has a quick first step off the line and shows off his athleticism to not only get to his spot on time, but break his feet down and come in under control.
He shows off more of his athleticism on this play with a defensive tackle aligned inside shade of him. He has to reach block and get around that DT in order to free up Mason Cole to the second level. Just watch his powerful first step out of his stance and how he squares his feet back up to steer the DT away from the play. He also does a nice job keeping a wide base throughout the play. Some linemen will get their feet crossed up when executing a reach block which a good defensive lineman will take advantage of. Seumalo takes a powerful first step and then moves laterally while keeping a wide base.
One thing you always like to see from an offensive lineman is them looking for work at the end of a play. Is your guy no longer a threat? Great, go find someone else. On this play, Seumalo has DJ Reader aligned outside shade across from him. Reader tries to go inside, so Seumalo lands a punch with his inside arm to pass him off to Mason Cole. You can see Seumalo’s eyes immediately looking for work to see if anyone needs help out on the edge. Trey Hendrickson just started to advance towards the quarterback off the edge and Seumalo comes in to prevent what could have been a quarterback hit on Kenny Pickett.
Seumalo is really good at using a defender’s momentum against them. On all three of these plays, he senses a defender getting off balance, delivers his punch, and shoves the defender towards help or out of the play altogether. On the third play of the clip, Reader and Sam Hubbard try to execute a twist with Reader crashing down and Hubbard looping around. Seumalo tosses Reader inside towards help and transitions right into picking up the twist.
On this play, Zach Carter delivers a strong punch to Seumalo’s chest (and maybe some of his facemask) which knocks him back onto his heels. That is a compromising position for an offensive lineman with a defensive tackle coming right at him, but Seumalo sinks his hips and continued into his pass set to salvage the rep. His balance and body control are very impressive.
Seumalo has taken to the teachings of OL coach Pat Meyer well. On these three plays, he executes the hop-step that Meyer teaches. The goal is to give up ground and attempt to re-anchor. If you are going to lose, lose slowly so the quarterback has time to get the ball out. That is exactly what Seumalo does on all three of these reps.
Seumalo is becoming the player that the Steelers paid $24 million for in free agency. The start to his season wasn’t pretty, just check out this film room from his Steelers debut, but he is improving along with the rest of the offensive line and has taken well to some of Pat Meyer’s coaching points. He is assignment sound and backs it up with sneaky athleticism and excellent body control. There is a reason he has not allowed a sack since early in the 2022 season, per Pro Football Focus.