View Full Version : 2 young OTs due to make first start Sunday

12-21-2006, 09:45 AM
Thursday, December 21, 2006
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

First NFL starts, like first kisses, can be memorable, either for the splendor or for the awkward messiness.

Starting for the first time at tackle against the defenses of the Baltimore Ravens or Steelers increases the chances for messy. It could happen for two players Sunday at Heinz Field, one on each team.

With offensive right tackle Max Starks out after knee surgery, rookie Willie Colon could dress for his first game and make his first start for the Steelers.

Baltimore's Adam Terry, a second-year player, will try to replace the legendary Jonathan Ogden by making his first NFL start at offensive left tackle against the Steelers.

"I imagine their guys are going to be a little energized by that as well," Ravens coach Brian Billick said.

Pass rushers, start your engines.

"Our game plan isn't going to change because they're missing an offensive lineman," said linebacker Joey Porter, who leads the Steelers with seven sacks and would line up across from Terry. "[Ogden's] probably a big part of their offensive line, but it's not like [Steve] McNair's out or Jamaal Lewis is out. I've never seen Ogden carry the ball or anything like that."

Willie Colon -- Will make his first start for Steelers at right tackle.

Every starting offensive lineman for the Steelers was healthy when they played the Ravens in Baltimore Nov. 26, and they came home limping. The Ravens sacked Ben Roethlisberger nine times, the most against a Steelers quarterback in 23 years.

"The whole team was embarrassed. We just got spit out of the stadium," said Colon, a tough guy from the Bronx. "What's understood, we don't back down from anybody. We do what we do and we go home. We got sent home pretty bad."

Steelers coaches will view Colon at right tackle in practice this week before they determine whether he or second-year man Trai Essex will start. Colon has been Starks' backup, and Essex has played on the left side, where he started four games last season for the injured Marvel Smith.

Both watched as the Ravens devoured the Steelers last month, although it was not merely a problem in the offensive line. Coach Bill Cowher cited Roethlisberger for not getting rid of the ball quickly on blitzes, and Willie Parker blew a blocking assignment that led to a sack that day.

"We don't want to get embarrassed like that again," Essex said.

Either he or Colon will be part of the solution, if there is to be one, Sunday against the Ravens. They're second in the NFL with 52 sacks, a Baltimore record.

"We've added to that number quite a bit," Cowher said.

Colon assumes that if he starts, the Ravens will target him in some way with their exotic defenses and pass rushes.

Adam Terry -- Will make his first start for Ravens at left tackle.

"If I was a defensive coordinator, I would. How can you not? You have to expect them to come after you."

That could come in many forms. Baltimore plays a 3-4 defense, but can morph into other alignments in a flash. Terrell Suggs, who has eight sacks and was named to the Pro Bowl Tuesday, plays the left outside linebacker. There's also left defensive tackle (listed as an end in the Steelers' 3-4 depth chart) Trevor Pryce, who ranks fourth in the AFC with 12 sacks.

"Those are real men out there, and I have to step up to the challenge," Colon said. "I'm excited to go out and get it done. Terrell Suggs is one of the best in the game. You have Ray Lewis out there. They have a real stout defense. My goal is just to go out there and perform and try my best to shut them down."

That's what Essex was thinking Nov. 20, 2005, when he made his first NFL start as a rookie in Baltimore at left tackle for the injured Smith.

"It was a tough day," Essex recalled. "It's a tough defense to make your first start against."

Roethlisberger is the man who would pay if his protection suffers. Since the assault in Baltimore, he has been sacked just four times in the past three games, all Steelers victories.

"Any time you lose one of your offensive linemen, it's not a good thing," Roethlisberger said. "But we've got a lot of confidence in whoever that's going to be, whether it's Trai or Willie. I know those guys will step up and do a great job."