In today's fantasy-obsessed football world, it's easy to overlook the contributions of one position group: offensive line. Well, NFL Network analyst and former Pro Bowl center Shaun O'Hara is here to fix that. Following each week's games, O'Hara will revisit the O-line performances of all the teams that played and ultimately select a Built Ford Tough Offensive Line of the Week. And the Week 16 winner is ...
For the fourth time this season, the Pittsburgh Steelers are the winners of the Offensive Line of the Week award -- and for good reason. In what is always an extremely physical game -- a rivalry bout that was elevated with playoff implications for both sides -- the Steelers' offensive line continued to play at an elite level. Pro Football Focus had the unit ranked No. 1 in pass blocking and No. 6 in run blocking for Week 16. Notable performers along the line were Alejandro Villanueva and Ramon Foster, who played well against the Ravens' D-line. Villanueva, Pittsburgh's left tackle, didn't give up a sack, QB hit or hurry to Ravens game-wrecker Terrell Suggs.
The Steelers have won six straight games and are one of the hottest offenses right now, in part because of the O-line's ability to block for Le'Veon Bell and keep Ben Roethlisberger clean. This time around, Bell had 20 carries for 122 rushing yards and a touchdown against the NFL's second-best run defense, compared to 32 rushing yards in their Week 9 meeting. Roethlisberger was able to shake off a couple of bad interceptions Sunday and, behind some stellar blocking and protection, he orchestrated two huge drives in the fourth quarter. In the two-minute offense, the O-line kept Big Ben upright and the QB was able to earn his 39th game-winning drive -- most in the NFL since 2004. Roethlisberger has a 20:5 touchdown-to-interception ratio and an NFL-best 116.7 passer rating at home this season. All of the success on Sunday, which ended with the Steelers clinching the AFC North, was quite impressive, given the defense they faced.
Other notable O-line units in Week 16
Kansas City Chiefs: While facing one of the best defenses in the NFL, the Chiefs jumped out to an early lead with a 21-point first quarter and were able to grind down the Broncos' defense. The O-line helped the offense total 484 yards, including 238 yards on the ground. The rushing yards were sprinkled around between Spencer Ware (62 yards), Charcandrick West (35), Tyreek Hill (95) and Alex Smith (46). Hill's big night included a 70-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, while Smith, after Sunday's effort, now has 1,296 rushing yards in his career with Kansas City -- the most by any QB in franchise history.
The offensive line did a great job protecting Smith, allowing three hurries, one QB hit and zero sacks. Former No. 1 overall pick and tackle Eric Fisher had a solid game despite giving up one QB hit and two hurries. Mitchell Schwartz played much better against Von Miller than in the first meeting of the year, as Miller didn't have a single hit or sack this time around. Left guard Zach Fulton and right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif played some of their best football all season -- and it came at a good time, with playoffs right around the corner.
Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins emphatically clinched a playoff spot -- with the Broncos' help -- in a huge win at Buffalo. The Dolphins racked up 494 yards of total offense with Matt Moore under center. And while Miami's ground game hasn't been great on the road this season, Jay Ajayi busted the narrative with 206 rushing yards. He might not have the best run-blocking offensive line, but Ajayi's running harder than any back in the league, racking up 143 yards after contact Saturday. The big day marked Ajayi's third 200-yard rushing game this season (and his second against the Bills).
The O-line kept Moore upright, allowing five hurries but no sacks or QB hits -- a successful outing, considering the Bills' defense ranks fifth in the league in sacks. The O-line has played a big role in both the run and pass this year, and for just the second time in franchise history, Miami has a 1,000-yard rusher (Ajayi) and 1,000-yard receiver (Jarvis Landry) in a season.
Oakland Raiders: What a bummer. I agree with Bruce Irvin. The sack that led to Derek Carr's injury was the first one Donald Penn has given up all season. There were no other sacks or QB hits in the game, but it's a shame the injury came at this crucial time because the offensive line has done a great job. Quarterback injuries aside, the Raiders had a solid performance against the Colts. They rushed for 210 yards with their running back trio. DeAndre Washington had a big day with 12 carries for 99 yards and two touchdowns, while Jalen Richard and Latavius Murray chipped in 66 and 40 yards, respectively.
New Orleans Saints The Saints' offensive line was PFF's third-best pass blocking unit in Week 16, fueling Mark Ingram's two-touchdown day. In the pass game, Drew Brees threw for 299 yards and a touchdown but was sacked twice, which is what kept this unit out of the top spot in this list. Andrus Peat has done a great job filling in for the injured Terron Armstead at left tackle, and right tackle Zach Strief has continued to play at an elite level for the Saints.