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In this Dec. 5, 2010, photo, Arizona Cardinals' Alan Faneca looks to make a block during an NFL football game against the St. Louis Rams in Glendale, Ariz. On Tuesday, May 10, 2011,, the eight-time All-Pro guard announced his retirement after 13 years in the league. The former Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Jets standout played last season with the Cardinals. Faneca started every game for his last nine seasons and finished with a streak of 144 consecutive games played.

Although often overlooked, the offensive line may be the most important part of a football team.

Without strong offensive line play a team's offense is virtually ineffective. No matter how good a running back or quarterback may be, it is next to impossible to be effective on the ground, or through the air, if there is no one blocking.

According to a report by ProFootballFocus.com, the Arizona Cardinals had the No. 21 ranked pass protection unit in the NFL last season.

This may be hard for some Cardinals fans to fathom as they watched a 5-11 team struggle week after week and probably assumed that their line was a lot worse than the numbers suggest.

While the pass protection rankings may be surprising to some, Levi Brown gave up 70 total pressures last season and finished with a pass blocking grade worse than any other player in the NFL.

In addition to the pass protection ratings, the Cardinals also ranked No. 22 in pressure allowed per play, No. 28 in sack percentage and No. 18 in average number of blockers per play.

It is a bit strange to see the Cardinals in the middle of the pack as far as blockers per play, yet towards the bottom in sacks and pressure. That is what happens when a team has a few inefficient players on the line. Having a lot of people blocking does no good if they do not actually block.

It may be discouraging to some to see where the Cardinals' offensive line ranks, but the Pittsburgh Steelers did rank last in the league in pass protection. Even with such poor line play, they reached the Super Bowl proving it is possible to overcome such struggles.

Then again, the Steelers do have Roethlisberger, a big quarterback that can fend off defenders, while the Cardinals are still without a quarterback.

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