The most talked about group on the Steelers next to Ben Roethlisberger since Super Bowl XL, the offensive line again had a multitude of problems with inconsistent play and injuries in 2011. The list of players the Steelers used on their line this past season was a hodge podge of young talent and veteran backups mixed in with some bright spots for the future.
Max Starks: Without a doubt, Starks' return in early October was just what the doctor ordered for an offensive line that was man handled and already losing players to injury. If he doesn't come back there's no telling how the line would have survived the rest of the season. He signed a 1 yr. deal worth $810,000 to play for the team this year. He'll be a free agent and the Steelers would be wise to bring him back if he is able to play after the ACL injury he suffered against the Broncos.
Chris Kemoeatu: Big Juicy started out training camp and preseason with knee swelling that kept him on the sidelines on a regular basis. He also missed several games early in the year with the troublesome knee problems. He returned but was never the same player and was eventually replaced by Doug Legursky. Once injuries continued to mount Kemoeatu regained his starting job and finished out the year pretty strong. His main issue as we know, besides his knee, is his knack for bonehead personal fouls.
Maurkice Pouncey: After a pro bowl rookie year, Pouncey was never able to find his stride during the regular season. He sustained a high ankle sprain against Atlanta in the pre season and routinely was in and out of the lineup all year long. He was unable to play in the wildcard game against Denver, again giving way to Doug Legursky. If the Steelers are going to have a shot at a good offensive line in the future he has got to get healthy.
Ramon Foster: He lost his starting job in training camp and preseason but regained when Doug Legursky's play was not up to par early in the season. In my opinion he should have never lost it in the first place. Foster has been the most consistent Steelers lineman, he started in 14 of the 15 games he played this past season. The 6'6" 325 lb road grader played very well between Pouncey and Flozell Adams in 2010, and showed signs in 2011 that he can be a capable RG for the future. Stability at Center and Right Tackle will help Foster improve his game.
Marcus Gilbert: He started 13 games, played in 14, and has seemingly found a home at Right Tackle. He went through his growing pains for sure, but that's to be expected. You don't become a quality lineman in the NFL without taking your lumps. He managed to stay relatively healthy this season and gives the Steelers hope for some stability in the future.
Trai Essex: The perennial backup lineman finished his 7th year in the NFL playing literally every position on the Steelers offensive line at one point or another. Sometimes switching up positions even mid game when injuries struck. A jack of all trades, master of none, he showed his value this year especially at Center when both Pouncey and Legursky were gone with injuries. Still though, he's most likely reached the ceiling of what he'll be in his career.
Doug Legursky: The quintessential utility lineman, Legursky started 10 games this year. Sometimes at Center, Left Guard, Right Guard, wherever he was needed. He was handed the Right Guard starting job at the start of the season but was unable to keep a handle on it after sub par performances and injuries. Legs is one of those guys you absolutely must have on your team. He can play any position and is the primary backup at Center.
Jonathan Scott: He played in 12 games this year, started 5 of them. He was the whipping boy at LT for the beginning of the season until Max Starks returned. When Starks left with a neck injury in 2010 he got significant playing time and honestly got better as the year went on. That didn't continue though in 2011 where he struggled as a starter again. He did fill in nicely at Right Tackle when Gilbert was out of the lineup and is clearly better suited there than protecting Ben's blindside.
Willie Colon: When Tomlin and his staff decided not to bring back Max Starks and Flozell Adams they turned their attention to Colon. He had a deal on the table with Chicago but came running back with the Steelers offered him a new 29 million dollar contract. He started and played in all of 1 game, tore his tricep against Baltimore and was placed on IR. Colon will compete next year with Gilbert at Right Tackle. Colon still believes he is a top Tackle in the NFL and may not want to be a backup. Plus the Steelers don't normally pay reserve lineman that kind of money.
Jamon Meredith: Brought in for workouts in early September and eventually signed to the team when they needed more healthy bodies, he played in 4 games for the Steelers. At this point I'd be surprised if he's back in 2012.
Chris Scott & Trevis Turner & John Malecki: A combined 4 years NFL experience between the 3 of them, none were able to make any significant contributions to the team this year. All 3 finished on the practice squad.