View Full Version : Steelers' O-line tailored to dish out punishment

08-06-2010, 04:35 AM
Just look at the man, and you know he means business.

Listen to the passion in his voice, and you quickly realize there is no messing around with this guy.

But more than anything, new Steelers offensive line coach Sean Kugler has no clue how to define the word "finesse."

That's not a bad thing for the Steelers, and Kugler is trying everything to make his offensive line feel the same way.

"He is like, 'I don't care how you do it, but just mess him up in the process,'" guard Trai Essex said. "He wants that to be our identity."

The identity of the Steelers' offensive line during the Larry Zierlein era was anything but that. The much-maligned unit was known more for the 106 times it allowed Ben Roethlisberger to be sacked over the past three years than anything else.

Zierlein was sacked after the Steelers' rushing attack averaged a mere 112 yards per game last season.

So in came Kugler — and his penchant for teaching his offensive line to knock the head off the opponent right in front of you.

"We want to get after it," Kugler said. "There is no doubt about that. We want efficient football. We want to be able to protect efficiently, run efficiently and play with pride."

That just might be what the doctor ordered — or maybe just what the owner ordered.

Steelers president Art Rooney II said that after the team fell short of the playoffs last year, he believed that his team needed to get back to their run-game dominance of years past.

The Steelers ranked 19th in the league in total rushing but were near the bottom in short-yardage and goal-line situations.

And with Kugler's philosophy based on physicality and with the line surge being an important part of short-yardage success, the Steelers took a step in the right direction in January when they brought on Kugler to teach the offensive line.

"The first day he came in here, he told us that he wants us to be the best running team in the NFL," center Justin Hartwig said.

It has become evident during the first couple of days of training camp that Kugler plans on accomplishing that with power and physical play, which is just fine with the linemen.

"He loves plays like that where we are out there smashing people," Essex said. "And what offensive lineman doesn't like to play downhill?"

Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians is all for Kugler's aggressive style.

"There are some different styles of how he wants to block things, and I am not a guy (whose philosophy) is etched in stone," Arians said. "If that is how he wants to block it, then that's how we will block it."

The Steelers will employ more toss plays, more edge runs and more pulling plays toward the outside by Essex and fellow guard Chris Kemoeatu to go along with his zone, man and gap-blocking schemes.

"There are definitely going to be some new wrinkles to our running game, that's for sure," Hartwig said. "The stuff that we are adding is going to make our other plays go bigger. We are going to keep defenses more off-balance with our run game."

And yes, Kugler is even teaching his players how to cut block — whether it is on the backside of plays or downfield.

Kugler had a drill set up for the second day of practice in which linemen went downfield and cut blocking dummies. That drill got the attention of everybody.

"I haven't done a cut drill on a dummy on grass in, yes, a very, very, very, very long time," Starks said. "Usually they would give us a pad to land on, but no. The ground is not soft at all."

The Steelers were never really particularly good at cut blocking, and that's something that Kugler noticed while evaluating films in the offseason.

"We are trying to work on fundamentals of football right now," Kugler said. "We are trying to build good fundamental o-line football for these guys."

With Rashard Mendenhall entrenched as the starting running back and an offensive line featuring no one with fewer than six years experience, expectations are high.

"I really believe that the way we are attacking everything and the experience we have in the backfield, we have the tools to be a very good line," Starks said. "We really are taking the right steps."

08-06-2010, 04:36 AM
now there is a title you dont hear everyday

08-06-2010, 06:30 PM
It all sounds good to me...

08-06-2010, 08:08 PM
For the past 4 years we've heard this. Every year we hear how they are doing what it takes in camp to show a commitment to the run. I guess I'll believe it when I see their short yardage run game is no longer in the bottom half of the league.

08-07-2010, 01:16 AM

At least we can get somebody other than Gary Russell (a superbowl TD to his cred :D) to be our go-to short yardage guy...

08-07-2010, 03:59 AM
gotta agree we hear this yr in and yr out.. we'll see once the season starts

08-07-2010, 06:02 PM
I know this migh be wishful thinking, but we could see the Ol look like this in 2011.

RT - Adams
RG - Colon
C - Pouncy
LG - Kemo
LT - Starks

Draft a LT in the first or 2nd round to sit one year behind Adams.

Just a thought...