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mesaSteeler
02-01-2009, 12:14 PM
Healthy Hartwig finds form
Center who suffered through injuries while with Panthers has become the leader of Pittsburgh's offensive line.
By Charles Chandler
cchandler@charlotteobserver.com
http://www.charlotteobserver.com/panthers/story/507762.html

TAMPA, Fla. Less than a year after getting released by the Carolina Panthers, Justin Hartwig is in the Super Bowl.

He's the starting center for the Pittsburgh Steelers, hiking the ball to star quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

“It's really been a fairy tale year for me,” he said. “We're 14-4 and playing for the world championship. It doesn't get any better than this, especially after the things I dealt with in Carolina.”

Hartwig signed a five-year, $17million contract with the Panthers in 2006, joining the team as an unrestricted free agent after being a three-year starter for the Tennessee Titans.

But he suffered a torn adductor tendon, near his groin, and played in only two games in 2006. He started 15 in '07, but still wasn't at full strength.

“Leading up to the '07 season, I couldn't do a whole lot with my legs,” said Hartwig. “I just lost a lot of my mass. Physically, I just wasn't in the shape I needed to be in to be playing at the level I had been used to playing before I got to Charlotte.”

The Panthers overhauled their offensive line after the '07 season, and made '07 second-round draft pick Ryan Kalil their center of the future.

When Hartwig was released, he said he “didn't know what was going to happen or where my career was going to go.”

He was contacted by the Steelers and said he told Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin that he needed to spend the offseason working out to get healthy again.

“I worked my butt off and got my (strength) back,” he said. “I came into this season in the best shape of my life because I had that opportunity to finally recover from injury.”

Hartwig said he wasn't promised a job by the Steelers, but he quickly became the starting center.

He has started all 18 games this season, serving as a constant in an otherwise injury-riddled season for Pittsburgh's offensive line.

“He's been a great asset to us,” Roethlisberger said of Hartwig. “He's really picked up the offense fast and helped those guards, the young guys, around him, and (he's) helped me. We're glad to have him.”

Hartwig took on a leadership role, hosting the offensive line at his home for extra film sessions – with munchies, of course – away from the Steelers' facilities.

“My place is usually a mess afterwards when everybody leaves,” he said, “but I'm the leader of the group and I'll take it on my shoulders.”

Hartwig, 30, said he's impressed with Roethlisberger, who chartered a private jet to take the Steelers' offensive linemen to Chicago for a mini-vacation in November following a Thursday night game.

“We've got a good thing going here,” said Hartwig. “We have good team chemistry. We have a really tight locker room. I really feel like us doing stuff together off the field commutes to what we do on the field because we play for each other.”

Hartwig carried a palm-size video camera this week to record his first Super Bowl week. It's the culmination of a season to remember.

“I'm definitely playing the best football of my career right now,” he said.

tony hipchest
02-01-2009, 12:23 PM
Hartwig, 30, said he's impressed with Roethlisberger, who chartered a private jet to take the Steelers' offensive linemen to Chicago for a mini-vacation in November following a Thursday night game.

good move by ben. there were reports that k. warner has never even treated his line to dinner. what a pud. may the sacks rain down on him and may ben find comfort in the pocket.

it says alot about tomlin being able to get rid of mahan and be willing to upgrade when the opportunity was there.

The Duke
02-01-2009, 01:01 PM
I honestly thought h was going to get injured at some point judging by his injury prone history

I'm so glad I was wrong!!

I just hope it continues next year while the center of the future is groomed :hope:

devilsdancefloor
02-01-2009, 01:14 PM
the center play is what i was really worried about coming into the season! We have been so damn consistant at center forever! I am glad to hear ben took'em out!!:tt03:

SteelShooter
02-01-2009, 01:23 PM
I just hope our OT's can keep focus on their assignments. That's where our weakness has been this season. O'course we've gone the season without our usual starters.

Come on guys! Sacrifice is the mantra today!

El-Gonzo Jackson
02-01-2009, 01:25 PM
The funny thing is that there are still fans that refuse to believe Hartwig was an upgrade over our Center from last year. :rolleyes:

He showed in the preseason that he is a bigger, stronger guy that can handle the big DT/NT's that we see in our conference like Ngata, Rogers, Haynesworth, Williams, Ty Warren, etc.

Preacher
02-01-2009, 01:27 PM
I have always thought that Hartwig and Mahan were about equal on the field, one better at one thing, one better at the other.

But hwat I did't consider, was the leadership.

SteelShooter
02-01-2009, 01:30 PM
The funny thing is that there are still fans that refuse to believe Hartwig was an upgrade over our Center from last year. :rolleyes:

He showed in the preseason that he is a bigger, stronger guy that can handle the big DT/NT's that we see in our conference like Ngata, Rogers, Haynesworth, Williams, Ty Warren, etc.


I wholeheartedly agree Gonzo :hatsoff:

El-Gonzo Jackson
02-01-2009, 01:31 PM
I just hope our OT's can keep focus on their assignments. That's where our weakness has been this season. O'course we've gone the season without our usual starters.



Funny thing is that Willie Colon has given up 5.75 sacks this season and the Cardinals Levi Brown has given up 11 sacks.........and everybody thinks Colon sucks. :noidea:

Stats dont tell the whole story, but consider that Warner gets rid of the football faster and doesnt "extend the play" like Roethlisberger. I would say our Tackles arent as bad as everybody thinks, its just that they cant protect forever.

El-Gonzo Jackson
02-01-2009, 01:34 PM
I have always thought that Hartwig and Mahan were about equal on the field, one better at one thing, one better at the other.

But hwat I did't consider, was the leadership.

And I have always thought that Hartwig is clearly better at what the Steelers need in a Center as opposed to Mahan. He has proven that this season.

Mahan is lighter and more agile, which doesnt fit with the Steelers needs. He was basically a expensive version of Darnell Stapleton. A guy that can play G/C, but isnt that strong. I'm happy it worked out well for all and we didnt stick with something that wasnt working.

mesaSteeler
02-01-2009, 01:42 PM
Funny thing is that Willie Colon has given up 5.75 sacks this season and the Cardinals Levi Brown has given up 11 sacks.........and everybody thinks Colon sucks. :noidea:

Stats dont tell the whole story, but consider that Warner gets rid of the football faster and doesnt "extend the play" like Roethlisberger. I would say our Tackles arent as bad as everybody thinks, its just that they cant protect forever.

Considering the "high" quality defenses like the Rams, Seascum, and Forty niners that the Cardnials played if Brown had played the teams on the Steelers schedule he would have given up twice that many sacks.

markymarc
02-01-2009, 02:31 PM
And this is why Hartwig has been such a big FA signing and of course our best and most consistent OL player this year.

Edman
02-01-2009, 02:40 PM
It pays when you have a true Center instead of a tweener.

KeiselPower99
02-01-2009, 02:50 PM
Im so happy seeing Hartwig finally get some praise.When we signed him he was on Sirius and Ill never forget that interview he was so excited about coming here and Adam Schein was like Steeler fan if ya wanna know what kind of guy he is he has a mohawk. Justin also said that Neil O Donnell told him if he wanted to be a center to watch Dermontti Dawson tapes cause he was the best O Donnell had ever seen.