View Full Version : Steelers' offensive line could be better

07-28-2008, 08:40 AM
Steelers' offensive line could be better
By Scott Brown
Monday, July 28, 2008

Casey Hampton showed up at training camp overweight Sunday, and the Steelers placed the veteran nose tackle on the physically unable to perform list.
Hampton is listed as 6-foot-1 and 325 pounds. The Steelers didn't release how much the lineman is overweight.

By contrast, Max Starks arrived at St. Vincent College looking considerably lighter than his listed weight of 345 pounds, and the right tackle excelled in the conditioning run that Hampton failed to finish.

Starks was one of several offensive linemen who reported to preseason practice in optimum shape.

The physical condition of the linemen charged with protecting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger isn't the only reason why a unit that allowed 47 sacks last season may be better in 2008.
Willie Colon said the linemen are more receptive to Larry Zierlein's coaching than they were a year ago, and that could translate into a more cohesive unit.

Colon, who will try to fend off a challenge by Starks for the starting job at right tackle, said the departure of seven-time Pro Bowl guard Alan Faneca via free agency allowed Zierlein to assert his control over the linemen.

Faneca and Zierlein had some history prior to last year, as the latter coached the former for two seasons when they were at LSU in the 1990s. And Colon said Faneca did anything but try to sabotage Zierlein in the coach's first season in charge of the Steelers' offensive line.

But Colon added, "You can't teach an old dog new tricks, and that's sometimes how it goes. Alan's gone ... coach Zierlein is the boss now, and that's the way it's going to be."

Colon declined to go into specifics regarding the differences between Zierlein and former offensive line coach Russ Grimm or why it took time for players to embrace what Zierlein has been teaching.

Said Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, "From a human nature standpoint, we're all resistant to change."

The players may have been even more resistant to the change that came when the Steelers hired Tomlin to be their head coach, considering they were only a year removed from winning the Super Bowl and were used to doing things a certain way.

"When somebody comes in and tries to change you, as a veteran guy, you want to be coachable, but at the same time, you're going to resort back to what comes natural to you," said wide receiver Hines Ward, who also had a new position coach last season.

"For the younger guys, it's who do you listen to? Do you go with the veteran guy that's been doing it for so many years, or do you go out and do what the coach is really trying to tell you to do? It comes down to really trusting your coach."

Colon said Zierlein has gained the trust of the offensive linemen and the backing of veterans such as left tackle Marvel Smith and right guard Kendall Simmons.

"They're buying into it," said Colon, who started every game at right tackle last season, "and we need them to buy into it the most because they're leading us, and we're going to follow them.

"We spent all spring and at OTAs learning what (Zierlein) wants us to do, and we've just got to come in here and perfect it."


07-28-2008, 09:54 AM
this just in:

Steelers could win the superbowl

Steelers could sign Lebron James to be a WR

Steelers could sign Terry Bradshaw to coach QBs

I can truly care less about what could happen. I dont and wont believe it until they prove to me by showing me that our o-line can get enough push to be able to run the ball when it matters. Or not allow a shit load of LB to jack up Ben. I know sometimes it is Bens fault for holding on the ball too long but I didnt see Brady get sacked 47 times last year and he holds the ball for a long time and he cant break tackles, or run away from defenders.

07-28-2008, 10:55 AM

Better than...

A stick in the eye?:chuckle:

07-28-2008, 11:31 AM
I like what I'm hearing here, though. And it sure 'splains some things if this is all on the up and up...

The Duke
07-28-2008, 11:35 AM
"You can't teach an old dog new tricks, and that's sometimes how it goes. Alan's gone ... coach Zierlein is the boss now, and that's the way it's going to be."

so he's saying the line may be better off with the young guys, interesting.

maybe what they needed after all is to get a better understanding of the system, and they should have it by now.

As long as our QB doesn't spend half of the day on the ground it's ok

El-Gonzo Jackson
07-28-2008, 11:50 AM
Kind of shows me that Faneca didn't buy in because he thought Grimm should have been the Head Coach and maybe had some history with coach Z.

So to summarize our O line was like this:
LT, Smith- injured back
LG, Faneca sulking and being difficult with the new coach
C, Mahan- constantly overpowered
RG, Simmons- got his contract and played average
RT, Colon- new starter, not sure who's lead to follow....new O line coach or veteran all pro Faneca

Pretty sure the new O line will be better if healthy.

07-28-2008, 01:23 PM
Sounds like healthy and in the right mind set now.

07-28-2008, 02:59 PM
I like what I'm hearing here, though. And it sure 'splains some things if this is all on the up and up...

Sure does...

You know... I had a sneaky suspicion that kind of thing was happening!!

07-28-2008, 04:49 PM
Was Mahan calling the signals for the line, or was Faneca? Enquiring minds want to know!

The Duke
07-28-2008, 04:55 PM
Was Mahan calling the signals for the line, or was Faneca? Enquiring minds want to know!

I thought ben was doing it

07-28-2008, 05:01 PM
Things are very complex in the NFL. Someone on the OL is designated the "QB of the line", and they examine the defense and call the blocking assignments out.

It's almost always the C, but I wondered if maybe Faneca did the job last year...

El-Gonzo Jackson
07-28-2008, 05:10 PM
I think Mahan was calling the signals for the O line. The only thing is that Coach Z may want to block things one way, while Grimm another and that is what Faneca didnt like.....change.

For instance, one may choose for the LG and C to block down on a NT, leave the LT on the RDE and have the TE block down on the OLB to execute a toss left.

The other may choose to have the C reach block the NT, send the LG to the LB at the 2nd level and either double the DE or let the TE find the SS.

There's a saying of blocking big on big, small on small. But others may like to use some of their big guys to get to the 2nd level. Coach Z from what I undersand is more particular about technique, hand placement, footwork and helmet placement, while Grimm was more of a "git er done" kind of guy. I think that's the old dog new tricks issue.

07-28-2008, 05:15 PM
Curiouser and curiouser...

The poor performance of last years line is becoming less and less of a mystery as more info leaks out.

07-30-2008, 10:49 AM
i am reading not so good things about the steelers' O-line. neither mahan or hartwig could handle hoke in practice. hills has been reported as looking too slow to play tackle. also, starks and colon aren't doing so well. kemoeatu is bothered by the injury bug again(placed on PUP list). there are rumors about lecharles bentley coming in to tryout for guard.

it's just the beginning of camp, but what if it continues into the season? will the steelers neglect the O-line in the draft again? how many years has it been now?

on a different position, bruce davis is said to be looking rather weak so far. which isn't a surprise.

sweed has been having a very good camp.

El-Gonzo Jackson
07-30-2008, 11:43 AM
Steeldude, should check out the post in the training camp section. Hartwig sounded like he performed OK.

Play #7: Hartwig picks up the blitz in the middle beautifully, and Baker makes a sweet catch on a 10 yard crossing pattern four feet over his head.

Eason tries to bull rush Hartwig, but Hartwig gets under his pads and stands him up.

Hartwig stones Ryan McBean. Doesn’t even give an inch. I’m not sure even Hartings was ever this perfect at technique. Wish Hampton was here to give Harwig a real test.

There is more there saying that Woodley handled both Starks and Colon pretty easily and yes, Hills is a project. I said that after watching the kids technique on tape. He doesnt use his hands and reach well, but that is coach Z's job to work with him.

Hear anything about Marvel Smith or Kendall Simmons yet?

07-30-2008, 11:56 AM
Steelers' offensive line 'pretty well set'
Johnstown Tribune-Democrat
July 30, 2008 12:30 pm

LATROBE — One of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ biggest questions marks of training camp might already be settled on just the third day at St. Vincent College.

Offensive line coach Larry Zierlein was asked after this morning's practice if he would like to know which players are going to be on the starting unit sooner rather than later.

“We’re pretty well set,” he said of the line, which gave up 53 sacks in 17 games last season and lost Pro Bowl guard Alan Faneca to free agency. “We’ll see what happens with the center thing once we get into preseason, but I’d say we’re pretty well set.”

One of the biggest topics heading into camp was what to do with Max Starks. The Steelers designated Starks as their transition player and are paying him $6.9 million this season, but it looks like he could end up backing up Willie Colon at right tackle and Marvel Smith at left tackle.

Zierlein was then asked if his comment that the Steelers were “pretty well set” meant that Colon would be the starter at right tackle.

“Willie’s looking pretty good,” Zierlein said. “Willie’s pretty good in the run game. He just keeps working on his protections and he’ll get better. He’s a competitor.”

That could mean that the only real position not settle yet is center. Sean Mahan started there last season, but could be replaced by Justin Hartwig, who started 15 games for Carolina a year ago.

Smith seems set at left tackle and Kendall Simmons is entrenched at right guard. Left guard Chris Kemoeatu is on the physically unable to perform list with an injured triceps and has been replaced thus far by Trai Essex.

Zierlein also downplayed the notion that Colon raised earlier in the camp, that some players didn’t know whether to follow the lead of Faneca last season or Zierlein, who was in his first season with the team.

“It has nothing to do with any individual, it has to do with the second year – talking the same language, knowing each other,” he said of the line coming together this year. “It has nothing to do with anybody that’s left or anybody that’s come. It has to do with continuity and timing.”


tony hipchest
07-30-2008, 11:59 AM
ben and mahan were both calling out blocking assignments for the first time in their careers last year.

couple that with the grizzled veteran guard (who may have turned his back on teammates -especially the young ones- when he said he no longer wanted to be captain) and the brand new old man coach (who may have lost a bit of credibility with his embarrasing porn e-mail gaffe -especially amongst the veterans-) not seeing eye to eye and it just reeks of "too many cooks in the kitchen".

i do not know to what degree coach zeirlien was taken seriously, but i can imagine all his players snickering behind his back. remember when the dodgers lasorda fell down alongside the 3rd base line, or when the yankees zimmer got the beatdown from pedro? it was hard to take either of them seriously after that and they seemed to quickly fade away.

with all that in the rear view mirror, justin hartwig has said that he always called out the blocking assignments in carolina and tennessee, and is more than ready and capable of doing the same in pittsburgh. he also took neil o'donnel's advice as a youngster and studied dermontti dawson. thats gotta be worth something :thumbsup:

07-30-2008, 12:03 PM

Hear anything about Marvel Smith or Kendall Simmons yet?

just that smith's back is healthy. i haven't heard anything on simmons. perhaps 2008 will be the year he shows something :thumbsup:

El-Gonzo Jackson
07-30-2008, 12:08 PM
Yeah, Simmons play has always been up and down like a toilet seat.

I hope the Kemo triceps is just a minor thing and he can show his value. Got high hopes for him, but healthy O line is always gonna be a question mark.