With most people agreeing that the Bengals 2009 season will be decided by the success of the Offensive line, James Walker from ESPN's AFC North Blog asks his readers to decide which line in the AFC North is worse, Steelers or Bengals.
There are too many reasons for me to say the Bengals have the better line. For one I am a Bengals, and I'm drunk from the offseason Kool-aid, and somebody made it a double when the Bengals offensive line played very well last Friday vs the Saints. But in reality do the Bengals have the worst line in the AFC north? Not at all. and im a "stat" guy so heres my case for the Bengals.
Bengals: In the 65 games the Carson Palmer has been under center. the Bengals have allowed 101 sacks. thats an average of 1.55 sacks per game. But since 2004 ( point the finger at the 2008 line, and Fitzpatrick) The Bengals have allowed a total of 156 sacks. 2.0 sacks a game. Palmer gets sacked every 22.8 dropbacks. Last season with Fitzpatrick at QB, they allowed a sack every 10.1 dropbacks. In 2007 the Palmer was only sacked every 33.8 dropbacks. When it comes to running the ball, Cincinnati hasnt had a full time RB in the past 2 years, and it shows in the stat sheet. The last 2 seasons the Bengals average 96.1 yards per game. From 2004-2006, when Rudi Johnson was the lead back, Cincinnati averaged 113.3 yards per game. 3.88 per carry over the past 5 seasons.
Steelers: In the 72 games that Big Ben has played. He's been sacked 192 times. Average of 2.56 sacks per game. Since 2004 Pittsburgh has given up a total of 213 sacks. The Steelers allow a sack every 10.7 dropbacks. The most in the AFC North by far. When it comes to run blocking, the Steelers are the best. Through the last 78 games, they averaged 131.7 yards per game, and 4.0 yards per rush.
Browns: Cleveland has given up 184 sacks. 2.36 per game. And a sack every 16 dropbacks. But since the Browns drafted Joe Thomas, and signed Stienbach they have been giving up only 1.34 sacks per game. and a Sack every 24.5 dropbacks. Best in the AFC North. The running game has the same trend as the passing game. The past 2 seasons, Cleveland has been solid at Run Blocking. They averaged 109.3 yards per game with J. Thomas and Stienbach. But before then they averaged 93.6 yards per game, and in the 78 game span, the Browns average 3.88 yards per carry. (same as the Bengals)
Ravens: Baltimore has given up 166 sacks in the same 78 game span, and are allowing 2.12 sacks a game. Thats a sacks per 16.9 dropbacks. The Ravens actually pass more than you would expect. They have passed the ball the 2nd most in the AFCN. and in 2006 they allowed a sack in only every 30.8 dropbacks. The Ravens have been very consistant in the run game, averaging 148.5 yards per game last season. and 118.5 over the past 5 seasons. To my suprise, Baltimore has the lowest yards per carry in the AFCN, with a 3.84 average.
In the Passing game it looks like the Browns have sured up thier pass protection the past 2 seasons, thanks to Joe Thomas and Eric Stienbach. I would say they have the best pass protecting Offensive Line in the AFC North. But the Bengals come in 2nd place. With Carson under center, the Bengals pass protection is just that much better. The Ravens are in 3rd based on how much they pass the ball and the talent they have on the line. Steelers come in last place. Even though I don't believe its all their offensive line's fault. Big Ben gets sacked because he holds the ball for too long and is always looking to make plays. he does avoid maybe 15 sacks a year though. So maybe it evens itself out.
When it comes to the running game, The Steelers are by far the best run blocking team. I used the same stretch of time. 2004-2008, and Pittsburgh has been one of the best rushing teams in the entire league. Pittsburgh has a great yards per carry average, and they stick with the run game. Baltimore comes in 2nd, even though thier average isnt the highest in the division. They stick with running the ball and it shows. Im going with the Bengals as the 3rd best run blocking offensive line. Even though the Browns have been solid the past 2 seasons. I dont like their RBs anymore than i like the Bengals. So with Clevelands lack of passing game, it should also hurt their ability to run the football. Much like the Bengals last season.