Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Offseason Colonoscopy

Hold your horses folks. As I'm sure you've heard by now, RT Willie Colon suffered a torn Achilles and is out for the season.

Time to hit the panic button? I say not yet.

Maybe you think I'm crazy.

Our starting quarterback is out 4-6 games because he's a jackass.

Our starting right tackle is out for the season.

One of our top wide receivers is gone via trade.

Gerry Dulac of the Post-Gazette (a newspaper quickly turning their "sports" page into the Homeland Security Terrorism color chart), went as far as to call Willie Colon the Steelers "best offensive lineman"

Apparently Gerry was watching a different offensive line than what we all saw over the last few years. In his 3 years as a starter, Colon has routinely been beat by speed rushers on the outside. To make matters worse, he is almost guaranteed to take at least 1 false start penalty per game (or so it seems).

The folks over at Steelers Depot put together a stat sheet for the Steelers offensive line in 2009.

By their count, Colon was responsible for 40 penalty yards and 8 sacks for 38 yards.

According to ProFootball Focus, Colon's line looks something like this:
2009: 6 sacks, 4 hits, 5 pressures, 9 false starts, 2 holds
2008: 7 sacks, 1 hit, 20 pressures, 16 false starts, 2 holds

Um...yeah. Considering the piss-poor play by the rest of the line last year, Colon's stats don't look that bad in comparison. However, to say he is our best lineman is still a stretch. He's not even the best tackle on the team. Yes, Max Starks struggled last year, but the job he put in against Jared Allen, Elvis Dumervil, and others can't be overlooked.

The Steelers brought in former Cowboys tackle Flozell Adams (whose 2009 stat line isn't much better - 12 penalties, 8 sacks, 34 pressures) for a visit this week. Personally, I'd rather see us give some of the younger guys on our roster a chance to prove themselves rather than signing another guy over 30 who has problems on the edge.

We have some options on our roster. Trai Essex, who played RG last year has played tackle in the past and could slide out. The Steelers picked up Jonathan Scott from Buffalo during the offseason. Scott is obviously someone that new O-line coach Sean Kugler knew well from his time in Buffalo.

One has to believe this is make-or-break time for Tony Hills. The Steelers invested a 4th round pick in him 2 years ago and he has yet to play in a regular season game. If Hills has NFL talent, this is his time to show it.

The guy we would like to see given a chance on the starting line is Ramon Foster. He played well at guard last year when he had to step in for Chris Kemoeatu and he played tackle at Tennessee and could well move back there.

If we had our way, the Steelers starting line on opening day would be Max Starks, Chris Kemoeatu, Justin Hartwig, Maurkice Pouncey, and Trai Essex. Ramon Foster would be the #1 backup for both tackle positions with last year's 3rd round pick Kraig Urbik as the #1 backup at guard. Doug Legursky will be the #1 backup at center and #2 backup at guard. Jonathan Scott will be the #2 backup at tackle. Obviously, this isn't enough linemen to start the season with, but other options exist, including bringing back G Darnell Stapleton who played RG during the Super Bowl XLIII run.

So what are we saying?

That while losing Colon might not be the most ideal scenario during the offseason, but the Steelers have enough options on the roster that they don't need to go out and sign a guy like Flozell Adams. If they are that desperate for a player, they could bring back depth guys like Jeremy Parquet, who has spent time on the Steelers roster in the past.

Drafting Pouncey was one step in the right direction towards moving the Steelers offensive line back to the grinders and pounders we all grew up watching. With a potential backfield of Mendenhall and Dwyer, we can build a line that can pound the snot out of teams, much in the same way the Jets did this past season.

Are the Steelers going to turn around their subpar offensive line play in one offseason? Absolutely not. However, they can take steps to make the line better. The line will had additional responsibility placed on them as the running game gets increased attention this season.

However it all goes down, it's not time to head out for the bridges just yet, as much as the local media wants to encourage that kind of attitude in the fanbase.

Go Steelers.

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