While the Pittsburgh Steelers continue to blow off any serious concerns on the offensive line, the majority of Pittsburgh sees them as a huge concern, bordering on crisis. With three more linemen going down with injuries last week, Mike Tomlin announced the team would look for some linemen to add as backups. And who can blame them? At this point in the season, there aren't any talented veterans sitting at home waiting for a phone call. And if any were, the Baltimore Ravens signed them already. But the fact remains, the Steelers did not do enough to bolster the offensive line in the offseason. While they drafted Maurkice Pouncey in the first round last year and Marcus Gilbert in the second round this past April, the glaring holes were still heavily noticeable. With Jonathan Scott starting at left tackle, the Steelers tried to build off their winning formula of building a championship team and getting by with a terrible O-line. Will this work again? We'll have to see. But for the health of their franchise quarterback, things need to change.

As the Steelers' strength moves from defense to offense, Ben Roethlisberger needs a great offensive line. Not just from a team standpoint but from a "we need our franchise player to last more than the next three years" standpoint. Everyone talks about football age opposed to real age when grading football players. How many times have you heard James Harrison is 33 but his football age is 28 because he started playing later in his career? If that's true, then Roethlisberger's football age must be 35 in response to the pounding he has taken over his career thus far.

In the 101 games Roethlisberger has started in his career, he has been sacked 283 times. This does not take into account the amount of times he's been pounded after a pass or during a run. The inordinate amount of hits has resulted in injuries to both knees, a separated shoulder, sprained thumb, broken foot, broken nose and multiple concussions over eight seasons. He was also knocked unconscious and carted off the field in 2008, and punched in the face by Haloti Ngata and Richard Seymour in 2010. Oh, and don't forget he was nearly killed by a car when his body was launched from a motorcycle in 2007. Even by football standards, that's a beating.

By comparison Peyton Manning, in 208 career starts, has been sacked 231 times and now faces the potential of retirement due to neck spasms that eventually led to a cervical fusion. In 12 NFL seasons, Troy Aikman was sacked 259 times and was eventually forced into retirement due to multiple concussions. While Brett Favre has been sacked the most times in NFL history (525), another stat proves that number misleading. So far, Roethlisberger (2.77) is averaging more than one sack per game than Brett Favre (1.73). At this current pace, if Ben were to play as many games as Favre (302), he would be sacked 837 times. However, this point is moot if the Steelers don't improve their protection because Ben will never sniff 300 games in his career.

Obviously, many of the hits Ben takes are due to his double-edged sword competitiveness to make every play on the field. But at some point he will not have the physical ability to make some of the amazing plays we see today. When it comes time for Ben to survive, more or less, as a pocket passer, will the Steelers have the pieces up front to protect him? Also, will they have the right gameplan in mind to build an offense with a solid ground game and short, quick passes?

For right now, the Steelers need to focus on winning games with the same familiar formula of solid defense and above average offense with a terrible offensive line. In the next few years, as the defense starts to soften, the Steelers will need to invest more money on the offensive line. The idea should be to protect the offense and the offense's second oldest player. While Ben is in his prime, he will continue to scramble, improvise and make plays, all the while getting pounded into the turf. As he gets older, the offensive line needs to be significantly better. Ben Roethlisberger is the franchise quarterback who has delivered two Super Bowls to a town that had last seen a title in 1979-1980 before his arrival. His continued success will only help the franchise and it should be the franchise's goal to find suitable players to protect him.

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