Sure, the New England Patriots offensive line did not have to face injured star pass rusher T.J. Watt in Week 2 but it still delivered an impressive performance against the Pittsburgh Steelers: one week after it sacked the Cincinnati Bengals’ Joe Burrow seven times, the Steelers defense was shut out in the quarterback takedown department.
Additionally, the Patriots’ blocking also opened up some sizable gaps in the running game especially during the game-clinching four-minute drill late in the fourth quarter. Unsurprisingly, the unit drew some positive reviews after the 17-14 victory on Sunday.
“Those guys, they work their butts off every single day up front,” said running back Damien Harris. “That’s the anchor of our offense. Whenever we are going to be on offense it starts with those guys. Whether it’s run, pass, trick play, triple reverse pass, it doesn’t matter. It starts with those guys up front and they show up to work every single day, and they just continue to improve. As they go, the rest of our offense goes.
“Huge shoutout to those guys today, they blocked their tails off in the run game, in the pass game, and they made our jobs as skill players a lot easer.”
The group featuring left tackle Trent Brown, left guard Cole Strange, center David Andrews, right guard Michael Onwenu and right tackle Isaiah Wynn has faced its fair share of criticism throughout training camp and into the regular season. Against the Steelers, however, it played a strong game.
Not only was quarterback Mac Jones not sacked once, the group also paved the way for the rushing game to gain 133 yards on 28 rushing attempts; it also allowed Harris to score a touchdown. New England gained 4.8 yards on an average run play versus a stout Pittsburgh front.
While not all went swimmingly — the unit was on the wrong end of four penalty flags — the overall outing was a step in the right direction.
“Offensive line played amazing, didn’t really get hit,” said Mac Jones. “Hats off to them. Run game, pass game, they made it work. That’s something I was really proud of.”
One player in particular saw some praise come his way after the game: rookie left guard Cole Strange, who had the unenviable task of going up against a stout interior defensive line led by veterans Cameron Hayward and Larry Ogunjobi. Strange’s performance was an encouraging one.
A closer look at some of his plays illustrates this:
So so impressed with Pats rookie Cole Strange today… Some big boy 1-on-1 reps vs Cam Heyward pic.twitter.com/4AjFrupT8i— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) September 18, 2022
After the game, his quarterback found some praise the first-round draft choice out of Division I school UT-Chattanooga.
“He’s very stoic but very competitive in his own way,” Mac Jones said. “He’s always hustling to the ball and doing a great job learning the offense. He’s really done a great job; it’s hard coming in as a rookie and starting, and he’s done a great job. He just has to continue to grow and improve what he wants to improve on.”
Just like the rest of the New England’s offensive line, Strange appears to be trending into the right direction. If the unit can keep up the development it has shown from Week 1 to Week 2, the Patriots offense as a whole — just like Damien Harris mentioned — should continue to improve as well.