View Full Version : Time line: off-field time aiding Steelers' O-line

01-09-2009, 05:44 AM
Time line: off-field time aiding Steelers' O-line
By ALAN ROBINSON,AP Sports Writer AP - 2 hours 7 minutes ago

PITTSBURGH - They spend as many as eight hours a day together for at least five months, practicing three to four times a week. They lift weights. Watch film. Break down game plans. Not surprisingly, they occasionally get tired of seeing one another's faces.

For a Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line that often seemed like anything but a cohesive unit this season, they decided all that time wasn't enough.

After losing longtime All-Pro guard Alan Faneca to free agency, followed by starters Marvel Smith and Kendall Simmons to early season injuries, the Steelers' linemen felt so many personnel changes merited a change in their work habits.

So, about midseason, the linemen began hanging out regularly after practice. Sometimes they'll go to a player's house and watch film, doing their own self-analysis rather than letting offensive line coach Larry Zierlein do it.

Sometimes it's nothing more than a night munching wings and sipping beers, just as NFL linemen did back in the 1950s and 1960s when the pay was a fraction of what it is now and the NFL was a buddy-filled extension of college football.

"There's always food involved," right tackle Willie Colon said. "Always a lot of food."

As the Steelers move into the playoffs with a divisional game against San Diego on Sunday, the linemen think the time was well spent.

"We got tired of hearing, `You're not on the same page,' we got tired of all the criticism, so as a unit we took it upon ourselves," Colon said. "If we've got to take an hour outside of this place to get on the same page, that's what we've chosen to do and it's been successful so far."

Their on-field results told them something different was needed. Traditionally one of the NFL's best rushing offenses, the Steelers slipped to 23rd this season _ partly because Willie Parker, who gained at least 1,200 yards in each of the previous three seasons, fought through knee and shoulder injuries.

Ben Roethlisberger also was sacked 46 times, an unusually high number for a quarterback good enough to have won a Super Bowl.

"Sometimes there's not enough time in the day to get into details with stuff, so we wanted to make sure to cover all our bases," said Colon, the only Steelers lineman starting at the same position as last year. "We kind of started in the middle of the season. Someone just came up with the bright idea."

With four different starters, and tight end Sean McHugh effectively serving as the fullback, this is the most changed Steelers offensive line in years.

Chris Kemoeatu moved in for Faneca at left guard. Max Starks shifted to left tackle to replace Smith. Darnell Stapleton, a non-drafted lineman from Rutgers, replaced Simmons at right guard. Justin Hartwig took over at center after a one-year experiment with Sean Mahan at a position once manned by All-Pros Mike Webster, Dermontti Dawson and Jeff Hartings.

With new players, and players at new positions, there is bound to be disorder when so much is happening along the line of scrimmage at the snap.

"Justin being the guy who makes most of the calls, we had to understand the reason why he's saying this," Colon said. "We understand if this happens, we might have to go to this. It all takes time. Sometimes you don't get that (in practice), because the coaches have to go over so much. We kind of backtracked and made sure everybody is on the same page."

The injuries meant the line's overhaul didn't stop when the season started.

"We definitely have had our highs and our lows running the ball, but this is the time that we have to step up and get it done," Hartwig said.

Roethlisberger also sought to build chemistry with the players who protect him, taking the linemen to Chicago to celebrate Hartwig's birthday the weekend after their Thursday night game against Cincinnati on Nov. 20.

"They have come a long way. I still remind people that you have to remember that Max Starks and Darnell Stapleton are fill-ins," Roethlisberger said. "They have gotten so much better. They have played against some phenomenal defenses. I wish people would understand what kind of defenses they played against and how good they are. They have done a great job. I am fine. I am up walking around. I will always have their back and I know they will always have mine."

Strong praise from a player who could have been angry after being sacked so often _ 23 times in the first eight games _ and sustaining a concussion while being sacked late in the first half against Cleveland on Dec. 28.

Roethlisberger is cleared to play against the Chargers, though it remains uncertain how much the concussion will affect him.

The Steelers are encouraged going into this game because Parker ran for 115 yards during their 11-10 victory over San Diego on Nov. 16. His only other 100-yard game during the second half of the season was a 116-yard effort in the meaningless game against Cleveland.

Meaningless except to the linemen, who felt it was a major step toward coming together for the playoffs. So does Parker, who said opponents still don't properly fear Pittsburgh's once-formidable run game.

With Parker out with a broken leg, the Steelers found out last season what not having a running game in the playoffs meant when they were limited to 46 yards in a 31-29 loss to Jacksonville.

"If I was on the defensive side of the ball, I wouldn't respect the running game because we haven't been that special this year," Parker said. "So we've just got to make our own respect."

01-09-2009, 10:32 AM
Let's hope the run game is firing this sunday. Glad to see the Steelers utilizing the FB position again, as Willie in my opinion isn't a single back type player.....he's a great RB, don't get me wrong, but having a full back to spring him I think works much better.

01-09-2009, 02:25 PM
They could spend ever min of ever day together but if your not good your just not good

01-09-2009, 02:31 PM
They should have had sleepovers and pillow fights...maybe that woulda helped...

01-09-2009, 02:32 PM
They should have had sleepovers and pillow fights...maybe that woulda helped...

they should of done that instead of "Hampton" Inviting the boys over after games for BBQ. lol :toofunny:

01-09-2009, 05:51 PM
I give them alot of credit for going the extra mile to improve in any way they can. Maybe that explains the fact that they HAVE played better the second half of the season.

And if they are having sleepovers........I don't want to know about it.

01-09-2009, 06:23 PM
I give them alot of credit for going the extra mile to improve in any way they can. Maybe that explains the fact that they HAVE played better the second half of the season.

And if they are having sleepovers........I don't want to know about it.

I agree with you, while the sack totat is roughly the same, you can see a noticeable difference in their play. It's by no means perfect, but it's better than what it was at the beginning of the season.

I've been hard on the OL all year, but like Ben said, nobody seems to think about what kind of defenses this green OL has had to face all season, half of the games played have been against top 10 defenses and not utilizing a FB in the run game, having our first round draft pick RB put on IR in week 4 and an injured WP for most of the season hasn't helped much either.

Throw in the fact that some of the sacks Ben takes are his own fault for holding the ball too long and trying to extend a play (which granted, sometimes works out, but can lead to sacks as well) and all the times WR's have dropped passes that should have been caught and you have our offense for the year. They aren't pretty, but with a lot of help from the defense they've been able to make things happen when they need to.

Kudos to them for taking the time to get together and study and work on their faults, it shows a true desire to execute better and I don't think we could ask for anything more out of them right now.

01-09-2009, 08:06 PM
Well here's to the OL being able to spend time together next week chowing down on food and watching film of our next playoff opponent. No doubt their play on Sunday will be a big key for us winning or losing.

01-10-2009, 07:28 AM