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09-15-2010, 10:33 PM
Meet the (new) starters
By: Mike Bires
Beaver County Times

Wednesday September 15, 2010 11:19 PM

With two starting offensive linemen expected to sit out Sunday in Tennessee, Times football writer Mike Bires takes a closer look at two back-ups who will likely start:

CHRIS HOKE, nose tackle

In 2001, two new nose tackles made the Steelers’ roster. One was first-round draft pick Casey Hampton, an All-American out of Texas. The other was Chris Hoke, an undrafted free agent out of BYU.

Hampton has been anchoring the Steelers’ defensive line as a starter since the sixth game of his rookie season. He’s been a great player who’s been to five Pro Bowls.

Hoke didn’t play a down his first three years with the Steelers. But in ‘04, he became Hampton’s back-up and has proved to be a valuable reserve.

“As a back-up, you have to be ready to play at any moment,” Hoke said. “That’s how I approach it. I go to practice each day as if I’m the starter. But if you know you’re going to be a starter, it does change your mindset. It helps to know you’ll be in there for play one, rather than play 20 or play 30.”

Seventeen times since the start of the 2004 season, Hoke has started for Hampton. In those games, the Steelers are 15-2 (14-1 in regular season play, 1-1 in the playoffs).

With Hampton doubtful with a hamstring pull, Hoke will likely start Sunday against Tennessee.

The Steelers have so much faith in Hoke that he might be the NFL’s highest-paid back-up nose tackle. Hampton’s base salary is $4 million this season. Hoke is getting paid $1.5 million.

JONATHAN SCOTT, left tackle

At the University of Texas, Scott became a first-stringer as a redshirt freshman and wound up starting 45 games in college. In Scott’s last start as a collegian, quarterback Vince Young led the Longhorns to the 2005 national title with a 41-38 win over USC in the Rose Bowl.

As a pro, Scott spent his first four years with two perennial also-rans. In the ’06 draft, he was taken by Detroit and played primarily as a backup for Lions teams that went 3-13 and 7-9. He then spent parts of two seasons with Buffalo. He signed with the Bills on Dec. 18, 2008, but didn’t play in any games that season. Last year, he started eight games as the Bills went 6-10.

During free agency in March, Scott signed with the Steelers, just three months after Sean Kugler was hired as offensive line coach. Kugler had spent the past three seasons in Buffalo.

“To be part of an organization that prides itself on its winning tradition is a blessing for me,” Scott said. “It helped to have a coach like ‘Kugs’ who was familiar with my play. Now, I’m hoping to put my stamp on the Pittsburgh offensive line.”

Scott will try to do that Sunday at the always difficult LP Field in Nashville. He’s expected to start in place of left tackle Max Starks, who’s out indefinitely with a sprained ankle.