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View Full Version : Analyzing the Offensive Line: So Many Injuries, So Few Options


BKAnthem
08-25-2011, 10:15 PM
http://www.steelerslounge.com/2011/08/analyzing-offensive-line-injuries-options/

When Jonathan Scott and Marcus Gilbert both suffered minor knee injuries in last weekís game against the Eagles, the Steelers looked around, apparently realized their lack of depth at tackle and decided to bring back veteran Trai Essex.

Itís good news for Essex, who had been waiting for a contract, and it does add a versatile lineman to the Steelersí mix. But itís also a sign of failure for the Steelers young offensive linemen.

Pittsburgh entered the preseason with five candidates to fill the open right guard spot, and three players who could legitimately fill the job of being the backup tackle. Two weeks into the preseason, Pittsburgh decided it needed to bring in Essex to be the backup guard/tackle who will likely dress on gameday.

In essence, they looked around and realized that while they had five candidates, they have a very short list of linemen they are comfortable with. After watching the Eagles game, I can see why. Many candidates were given a chance, few have stepped up to the opportunity.

But before we talk about some of the guys who are struggling, letís acknowledge the big surprise. Tony Hills, offensive guard, has a much better ring to it than Tony Hills, offensive tackle. That much is clear after two games of the preseason.

Hills may be better known as the last man standing when it comes to the Steelersí competition for the right guard spot. From Chris Scott to Doug Legursky to Keith Williams to Ramon Foster, the other guard candidates have all shown significant flaws.

Now Hills isnít exactly prepping for a spot in the Pro Bowl. But his mobility has proven to be pretty useful at guard. Hills does a good job of getting to the second level to block linebackers, and once he locks up a linebacker he does a solid job of staying on his block, something that is frequently a problem for Legursky and Foster. And he has a little bit of a mean streak as well, as he likes to generally play to the whistle.

When Hills gets into trouble at guard, itís usually because heís playing too high. We mentioned a play last week where he was struggled when pulling because he hit a linebacker too high. We saw the same thing in different situations this week. On Ben Roethlisbergerís second pass of the game, Hills was slow off the snap and was caught playing too high. The result? Anthony Hargrove drove him into the backfield like Hills was wearing roller skates. Roethlisbergerís escapability in the pocket ensured it was a bad play but not a sack, but it was a rough start for the fourth-year lineman.

Hillsí problems with playing too high were more apparent when he slid out to left tackle after injuries to Jonathan Scott and Marcus Gilbert. There were multiple plays where Trent Cole drove Hills back into the pocket. Interestingly, while most tacklesí biggest problems come from speed rushes, Hills seemed to have more problem overplaying for speed rushes, which opened up the inside for defensive ends with an out and up move. If you tell me that Hills is starting at guard in Week 1, I think heís got a 50 percent shot of playing well enough to avoid being benched. If heís forced to play left tackle I would fear for Roethlisbergerís safety.

The rest of the guard candidates? It wasnít pretty.

Ramon Foster is never going to be a particularly nimble guard. Heís more of a straight-ahead road grader. But in the first series against the Eagles, he wasnít doing a very good impression of a bulldozer either. On two of the Steelers first three running plays, Foster was driven into the backfield by his man. In both cases he recovered to at least occupy his man enough to let Rashard Mendenhall by, but youíd rather see those stalemates taking place at or on the other side of the line of scrimmage.

Foster did show a mean streak, although he may have taken that a bit too far with an absolutely brutal hit at the whistle on an Eagles linebacker. The play came just three minutes into the game. On a dump-off pass to Isaac Redman, Foster followed the play, then laid a cut block on linebacker Jamar Chaney just as the whistle was getting ready to blow. It wasnít a late hit, but it sure was the kind of block that could end a guyís season.

Foster did show flashes where he was able to use his strength to put his man on the ground, but his inability to prevent penetration was more apparent than his ability to dominate his man. On one particularly poor play Foster was driven into the backfield, which caused him to run into a pulling Legursky and ruining the play. Foster also gave up a sack. For a veteran, it was a pretty ugly performance.

Chris Scott got a chance to try out for the guard job in the first preseason game. He played poorly, and apparently was immediately dropped from the competition. He played right tackle exclusively against the Eagles, where he showed that heís probably better off competing for the guard job. Scott wasnít a complete disaster at right tackle, but he did look a little slow off the ball and generally he relied on doing just enough to push his man past the back of the pocket.

I would argue that Scott would still be a viable candidate for the guard job. Most of his problems in Week 1 were more assignment issues and technique problems than physical issues. As a young player, one can expect that some of those issues would improve as he gets more experience. But it would appear that Pittsburgh has largely given up on the idea of Scott being a guard candidate, and the signing of Essex could even put his roster spot at risk. Scottís struggles at tackle ding the argument of his versatility, and if heís not considered a legitimate guard prospect, then he could be the odd man out now that a veteran guard/tackle swingman is on the roster.

As far as Doug Legursky, he was adequate against the Eagles, but he struggled to stick blocks on linebackers. Thatís not normally a problem for the mobile Legursky, so maybe it was just a bad night. But itís hard to say in the first two games that Legursky has done enough to go from solid backup center/guard to starting guard. That being said, Legursky is the one of these candidates who seems to have a helmet guaranteed on gameday, as there is no other backup center on the roster.

As far as Keith Williams, he showed flashes of talent against the Eagles, but also plenty of problems. He was caught lunging with his head down on one play, which meant he was quickly shed. He was also driven into the backfield by his man on a couple of plays. Heís a rookie, so none of this is shocking.

All of these struggles are good news for Chris Kemoeatu. If several players had emerged, then Kemoeatu, who has missed the first two games with a knee injury, could possibly be looking at competition for his job, but right now, itís hard to see anyway a healthy Kemoeatu isnít starting against the Ravens.

With Essexís signing, itís highly unlikely there is room for everyone on the roster. If you count Jonathan Scott, Chris Kemoeatu, Maurkice Pouncey, Willie Colon, Marcus Gilbert and Trai Essex as roster locks, there are probably three more roster spots available (and maybe four). At this point Tony Hills seems pretty safe as well, as right now heís likely to start at right guard.

So that leaves three guys playing for two spots. At this point one would think that Foster has an advantage because he has starting experience, but you could make a pretty decent case that the upside of Scott (a much more mobile guard than Foster) or a rookie like Williams outweighs Fosterís experience. Pittsburgh will already have two experienced backup guards on the roster (Essex and Legursky), so it may be better off to try to develop Scott and Williams then bring back Foster just to sit on the inactive gameday roster.

MasterOfPuppets
08-25-2011, 11:51 PM
it seems to me the logical thing to do would be to move colon to guard , where he'd probably excel, and bring adams back ar RT...:noidea:
i just can't for the life of me understand why they won't even take a look at colon at guard. of course all we can do is speculate about the success he may have on the inside , but i really do believe , given his physical stature and mentality , that he'd be twice the guard that he is at tackle.

DanRooney
08-25-2011, 11:59 PM
it seems to me the logical thing to do would be to move colon to guard , where he'd probably excel, and bring adams back ar RT...:noidea:
i just can't for the life of me understand why they won't even take a look at colon at guard. of course all we can do is speculate about the success he may have on the inside , but i really do believe , given his physical stature and mentality , that he'd be twice the guard that he is at tackle.

Because Colon has no real experience at guard and has been rock solid as tackle. If Hills is the real deal our OL is set on the right side. I'm more concerned about the other side with Kemoeatu and J. Scott.

Steelersfan87
08-26-2011, 12:03 AM
Because Colon has no real experience at guard and has been rock solid as tackle. If Hills is the real deal our OL is set on the right side. I'm more concerned about the other side with Kemoeatu and J. Scott.

Again, I agree with this. I was actually secretly hoping that Keith Williams would actually live up to the early camp hype that he received before falling on his face after he got into the game against the Eagles (although I thought he did fairly well against the Redskins). If Hills proves to be a legitimate RG and Gilbert can man the LT position within the next 2 seasons, then the Steelers only need a LG.

MasterOfPuppets
08-26-2011, 12:18 AM
Because Colon has no real experience at guard and has been rock solid as tackle. If Hills is the real deal our OL is set on the right side. I'm more concerned about the other side with Kemoeatu and J. Scott.
and how much experience did hills have at guard ?
coming out of college, it was speculated that colon would be moved to the inside in the nfl. his body type fits that of a guard more than that of a tackle. shorter with short arms.

sure he's played ok at RT. improved every year. but i'd rather have a probowl calibre colon at guard, than a serviceable colon at tackle.

Fire Arians
08-26-2011, 12:23 AM
and how much experience did hills have at guard ?
coming out of college, it was speculated that colon would be moved to the inside in the nfl. his body type fits that of a guard more than that of a tackle. shorter with short arms.

sure he's played ok at RT. improved every year. but i'd rather have a probowl calibre colon at guard, than a serviceable colon at tackle.

colon has looked sharp this preseason, i think it's not fair to call him just serviceable

body types don't always tell the story, there are so many intangibles that make good football players that can't always be measured on tape

Steelersfan87
08-26-2011, 01:00 AM
Plus, if Hills doesn't play guard, then the Steelers have no use for him. And, who the **** plays right tackle next year? Instead of playing musical chairs, let's just get the line as settled as we can. If we move Colon to guard and take a gamble on how he would play at a new position and bring back a 36 year old who may or may not even be in football shape to play RT for one more year, then chances are Tony Hills gets cut, and then who plays RG next year? I would like to see somebody play better RG than Trai Essex, Doug Legursky, Ramon Foster, and Darnell Stapleton have played it for the past 3 seasons, and if Hills is that guy, then don't screw around with it.

BKAnthem
08-26-2011, 12:02 PM
some better drafting at this position would make all of this moot .We have 1 O-lineman from the last 3 drafts.

MasterOfPuppets
08-26-2011, 12:39 PM
Plus, if Hills doesn't play guard, then the Steelers have no use for him. And, who the **** plays right tackle next year? Instead of playing musical chairs, let's just get the line as settled as we can. If we move Colon to guard and take a gamble on how he would play at a new position and bring back a 36 year old who may or may not even be in football shape to play RT for one more year, then chances are Tony Hills gets cut, and then who plays RG next year? I would like to see somebody play better RG than Trai Essex, Doug Legursky, Ramon Foster, and Darnell Stapleton have played it for the past 3 seasons, and if Hills is that guy, then don't screw around with it.
correct me if i'm wrong, but didn't they just spend a 2nd round pick on a tackle ? if the guy can't even nail down a spot on the right side by year 2 , then i guess he was a wasted pick. if he somehow does improve enough to man the left side , then move scott to the right. they trusted him enough to watch bens blind side, so why couldn't he play the right ?

DanRooney
08-26-2011, 02:15 PM
Colon has been rock solid at RT. He was our best lineman in 2009 and looks like he hasn't missed a beat since his injury. Don't fix what isn't broken. If body type was the most important factor, Chris Scott wouldn't of gotten beat out by Hills in the first place.

Left tackle is what needs to be addressed and I'm hoping Gilbert pans out. Jonathan Scott is a solid backup shouldn't be anything more.

Rick5895
08-26-2011, 03:04 PM
I am liking the way our line is looking. I think we got a good one in Gilbert and I am hopeful Hills pans out. Complaining we aren't drafting "top quality ol" is mute considering we seem to draft near the bottom every year. I guess, though Pouncey was a fluke, eh?. You guys really need to give our FO and coaches some credit. The single most important thing for a good OL ,IMO, is starting the same 5 guys 80% of the time.

BKAnthem
08-26-2011, 07:42 PM
I am liking the way our line is looking. I think we got a good one in Gilbert and I am hopeful Hills pans out. Complaining we aren't drafting "top quality ol" is mute considering we seem to draft near the bottom every year. I guess, though Pouncey was a fluke, eh?. You guys really need to give our FO and coaches some credit. The single most important thing for a good OL ,IMO, is starting the same 5 guys 80% of the time.

Doesn't matter where we draft, there are quality O linemen starting for teams right now or are at least better as backups than we have right now that were drafted after we picked. Pouncey is a perfect example of what happens when you put effort inot building your Oline , and not treat it as an afterthought, they wouldn't be playing musical chairs now if they took the time to get this shit right LIKE they did with pouncey. and it's the same poor thinking with trying to find a corner to play opposite taylor. they seemed to be so fixated on drafting; Dlineman who can't supplant the over 30 starters, LB'S which i don't get because thats their strongest unit, and Wr's . So now what they have is a sieve of an O line and a slow as hell secondary.

pancake
08-26-2011, 08:24 PM
I see us drafting a guard in the first or second round next year. I hope Hills works out...

Rick5895
08-27-2011, 03:21 PM
Doesn't matter where we draft, there are quality O linemen starting for teams right now or are at least better as backups than we have right now that were drafted after we picked. Pouncey is a perfect example of what happens when you put effort inot building your Oline , and not treat it as an afterthought, they wouldn't be playing musical chairs now if they took the time to get this shit right LIKE they did with pouncey. and it's the same poor thinking with trying to find a corner to play opposite taylor. they seemed to be so fixated on drafting; Dlineman who can't supplant the over 30 starters, LB'S which i don't get because thats their strongest unit, and Wr's . So now what they have is a sieve of an O line and a slow as hell secondary.

You then should really apply for a job with the Steelers in the scouting department, since you are more knowledgeable than Colbert et al. Our new DL men will eventually take over, I expect Hood to be playing more this season, Heyward is a rookie and it takes time to learn this D. Keisel was a stud last season and casey is still playing at a pro bowl level.
Problem with the people in here (I include myself in that at times) are they think we should have pro bowlers across the board at every position, in today's NFL it just doesn't happen like that. We have been spoiled with the likes of Faneca, and before him Dawson Webster, Kolb the list goes on and on. Sure the line has had its problems the last couple of years, but the sacks we take aren't all the fault on the line, Ben is always extending plays , our offense isn't built around the 2 or 3 step drop and get the ball out timing offense. When we throw it's often "risk or reward" with the risk usually being a sack. We go deep and that takes time.
Maybe I am overly optimistic this time of year but I believe if the OL stays healthy they will be good.

BKAnthem
08-27-2011, 10:48 PM
You then should really apply for a job with the Steelers in the scouting department, since you are more knowledgeable than Colbert et al. Our new DL men will eventually take over, I expect Hood to be playing more this season, Heyward is a rookie and it takes time to learn this D. Keisel was a stud last season and casey is still playing at a pro bowl level.
Problem with the people in here (I include myself in that at times) are they think we should have pro bowlers across the board at every position, in today's NFL it just doesn't happen like that. We have been spoiled with the likes of Faneca, and before him Dawson Webster, Kolb the list goes on and on. Sure the line has had its problems the last couple of years, but the sacks we take aren't all the fault on the line, Ben is always extending plays , our offense isn't built around the 2 or 3 step drop and get the ball out timing offense. When we throw it's often "risk or reward" with the risk usually being a sack. We go deep and that takes time.
Maybe I am overly optimistic this time of year but I believe if the OL stays healthy they will be good.
In a nutshell (because you typed alot) i want competent linemen and secondary play dont need pro bowlers at every position , or drafts at positions where we are already loaded..i don't think that to much to ask...shit maybe i should put in an app

Steeldude
08-28-2011, 12:17 AM
if the guy can't even nail down a spot on the right side by year 2 , then i guess he was a wasted pick.

especially on this O-line

Third Rail
08-28-2011, 12:35 AM
People who want to blame the faults of the O-Line on Ben really need to consider how poorly they've been known to run-block as well as pass-block. I'm always pretty hard on Mendy but half the time he has NOWHERE to go. I hope they improve, but some of what I saw tonight has me worried. Timmons giftwrapped a surefire touchdown for us tonight after that pick and what did we come away with? 3 damned points, because as usual, we stalled in the red zone.

Steeldude
08-28-2011, 01:48 AM
Colon has been rock solid at RT. He was our best lineman in 2009 and looks like he hasn't missed a beat since his injury. Don't fix what isn't broken. If body type was the most important factor, Chris Scott wouldn't of gotten beat out by Hills in the first place.

Left tackle is what needs to be addressed and I'm hoping Gilbert pans out. Jonathan Scott is a solid backup shouldn't be anything more.

IMO, i wouldn't say rock solid, but not below average either. i would say he is the best on the team at RT because of the lack of talent. i tend to prefer flozell adams at RT. making the transition from T to G is easier than vice versa. also, with colon coming off that achilles injury i have to wonder how good his kick-slide will be. i don't recall reading how severely he tore it.

i think putting hills in was a way to motivate him. if he fails they will replace him with foster or whoever next is down the line.

i will be happy if someone can play as well as pouncey this coming season :thumbsup:

Steeldude
08-28-2011, 01:50 AM
People who want to blame the faults of the O-Line on Ben really need to consider how poorly they've been known to run-block as well as pass-block. I'm always pretty hard on Mendy but half the time he has NOWHERE to go. I hope they improve, but some of what I saw tonight has me worried. Timmons giftwrapped a surefire touchdown for us tonight after that pick and what did we come away with? 3 damned points, because as usual, we stalled in the red zone.

but BR does cause some of the sacks. an O-line can't always give the time BR needs to make a read. i believe, on average, they say two to three seconds and the ball should be gone.

stb_steeler
08-28-2011, 11:21 AM
People who want to blame the faults of the O-Line on Ben really need to consider how poorly they've been known to run-block as well as pass-block. I'm always pretty hard on Mendy but half the time he has NOWHERE to go. I hope they improve, but some of what I saw tonight has me worried. Timmons giftwrapped a surefire touchdown for us tonight after that pick and what did we come away with? 3 damned points, because as usual, we stalled in the red zone.

And the redzone troubles continue......

55BaileyFan
08-28-2011, 12:22 PM
Because Colon has no real experience at guard and has been rock solid as tackle. If Hills is the real deal our OL is set on the right side. I'm more concerned about the other side with Kemoeatu and J. Scott.

Did you just say Colon and rock solid tackle? WOW, you must have been watching a completely different Colon. He is terrible. He is a holding/false start machine and is beat by most big time players. He was out classed last night and reverted to holding.

Third Rail
08-28-2011, 02:48 PM
but BR does cause some of the sacks. an O-line can't always give the time BR needs to make a read. i believe, on average, they say two to three seconds and the ball should be gone.

That is true, but I would say at least 50 percent of the time, he has more like 1 second to throw, especially when they go with an empty backfield.

Steelersfan87
08-30-2011, 02:06 AM
Did you just say Colon and rock solid tackle? WOW, you must have been watching a completely different Colon. He is terrible. He is a holding/false start machine and is beat by most big time players. He was out classed last night and reverted to holding.

You are not an astute observer of offensive line mechanics, obviously.

Also, I agree that the offensive line run blocking needs to be improved, but the main area of improvement required is consistency. They are capable of being dominant at times. Which is why Mendenhall was able to punch it in from goal-to-go numerous times last season, especially later in the regular season and into the playoffs.

MasterOfPuppets
09-11-2011, 10:58 PM
it seems to me the logical thing to do would be to move colon to guard , where he'd probably excel, and bring adams back ar RT...:noidea:
i just can't for the life of me understand why they won't even take a look at colon at guard. of course all we can do is speculate about the success he may have on the inside , but i really do believe , given his physical stature and mentality , that he'd be twice the guard that he is at tackle.
does anyone still think this was a bad idea ??? :chuckle: