View Full Version : Steelers backup offensive linemen have little experience

09-03-2009, 06:50 AM
Steelers backup offensive linemen have little experience
Thursday, September 03, 2009
By Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Peter Diana/Post-Gazette

Here is what it has been reduced to on the Steelers' offensive line: Max Starks said his teammates are taking comfort knowing that Doug Legursky, a first-year free agent who never has played in an NFL game, started two preseason games.

Talk about your wealth of experience.

The Steelers might have enough of that among the five starters on the offensive line, even with a new starter at right guard. But that is certainly not the case among any of the backups, not after the season-ending knee injury to Darnell Stapleton.

None of the top four reserve offensive linemen who are expected to make the 53-man roster -- Legursky, tackle Tony Hills and rookie guards Kraig Urbik and Ramon Foster -- has appeared in an NFL game. Hills, a fourth-round draft choice in 2008, was inactive for all 19 games, including playoffs, last season.

The only other reserve lineman among the 75 players still on the roster with NFL experience is tackle Jeremy Parquet, who appeared in four games last season with the Steelers, though mostly on special teams and in mop-up duty.

Parquet, though, could be in danger of not making the 53-man roster because the Steelers might try to sign a veteran tackle or guard after teams make their final cuts this weekend.

Right now, following the preseason finale tonight against the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte, N.C., the Steelers likely will head into the regular season with green backup offensive linemen.

"I wouldn't say it's a worry -- we're confident with the guys back there -- but until they go out and actually play you're not sure what's going to happen," said center Justin Hartwig, the most-experienced player on the offensive line who enters his eighth NFL season. "We can look at them in practice and preseason games and think they look good, but, [when] the bullets are flying, it's a kill-or-be-killed situation. You don't know for sure."

Stapleton's injury -- he was placed on injured reserve Monday, ending his season -- has helped create the situation because veteran tackle Trai Essex has replaced him at right guard. Because Stapleton also was the backup center, Legursky has, in effect, assumed his dual role.

A first-year free agent from Marshall University who spent four months on the team's practice squad in 2008, Legursky started the preseason opener against Arizona at center when Hartwig and Stapleton were injured, then started the following week at left guard against Washington when Chris Kemoeatu did not play.

Right now, he would be the first lineman off the bench if one of the interior starters went down.

"We have to at least rely on one good thing -- having Doug Legursky as a backup, starting two games with us, kind of gives us a comfort level," said Starks, who started the final 14 games (including postseason) at left tackle because of an injury to Marvel Smith and begins his sixth NFL season as the team's highest-paid offensive lineman. "He knows what he's doing. If he had to come in, he'd still be an asset for us. You always like to have all experienced guys together, but that's the nature of this business. Injuries happen to all of us."

Willie Colon, who begins his third season as the starting right tackle, was one of two rookies on the offensive line in 2006, along with center Marvin Phillip. But the other backups were Essex, Kemoeatu and veteran Barrett Brooks, players who were with the team the year before.

Colon finally got a chance to play when Starks, the starter at right tackle, was injured late in the season. He started the final two games against Baltimore and Cincinnati after being inactive for the first 14 games, but said he felt prepared, mentally and physically, to do so.

"I didn't feel like I wasn't ready," Colon said. "For the most part, I felt physically I could get it done and, technically, I felt fine and, assignment-wise, I felt great. It was an instance of being put out there in the fire.

"Experience overrides anything; we understand that. But, for the most part, you just got to get guys to be ready. You can't look at the downside of guys being too young. If you're called upon, you got to be able to go out [and play], that's what it's about."

Said Hartwig: "When you have veteran guys you know what they're capable of. You can be confident with young guys, but you don't know until they go out and prove it."

Gerry Dulac can be reached at gdulac@post-gazette.com.
First published on September 3, 2009 at 12:00 am

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09246/995239-66.stm#ixzz0Q21NPnCP

09-03-2009, 08:14 AM
Nice to know the starters have faith in Legursky.

09-03-2009, 09:42 AM
Hopefully by being green they do not fear.