View Full Version : Ed: It's time for Steelers to address the line

Hawaii 5-0
04-24-2012, 12:16 AM
It's time Steelers address the line

April 24, 2012
By Ed Bouchette / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The most important positions on a football team after the quarterback? The offensive line. At least that's the old football coach's tale.

The Steelers, though, treated their offensive line as if it were an afterthought for too many years. They picked an offensive lineman with a high pick in 2002, but didn't do so again until the past two years, drafting linemen with one of their top two picks: center Maurkice Pouncey No. 1 in '10 and tackle Marcus Gilbert No. 2 in '11.

Once the Steelers had a pretty good offensive line that included three Pro Bowl players -- center Jeff Hartings, guard Alan Faneca and tackle Marvel Smith. The two other starters were guard Kendall Simmons and tackle Max Starks. They drafted Faneca and Simmons in the first round. Hartings was a free agent signing and former No. 1 draft pick. They drafted Smith in the second round and Starks in the third.

The trouble began when virtually their entire offensive line grew old or lame at the same time. They lost Hartings, Smith and Simmons to age and retirement, and Faneca as a free agent they deemed too old for the money he commanded. Starks was the only one who hung around from that crew, and the more the coaches ignored him, the more the front office paid him.

The ultimate Starks story occurred last year when they cut him before camp, then recalled him after four games when no one else could cut it at left tackle. He started the rest of the season there. He is rehabbing from a torn ACL and remains a free agent but the Steelers may have to call him again to bring his life preserver to their offensive line.

That is, unless they can hit it big in this draft. The Steelers have Pouncey, who has made two Pro Bowls in two years. They believe Gilbert can make the transition from starting right tackle to the left side. They have Willie Colon returning after missing all but one game over the past two seasons because of injuries. They have two undrafted players as their starting guards, Doug Legursky and Ramon Foster. Their veteran backups are Trai Essex and Jonathan Scott.

"I never thought their offensive line was good enough," said Tom Modrak, former president of the Eagles and personnel man with the Steelers and Bills.

But Modrak said teams don't need great offensive lines to be successful, especially if they have great quarterbacks. And the Steelers have been proof of that theory.

"Everyone wants five [linemen], you don't need to have five," Modrak said. "You have a couple and you can play pretty well. If you get your left tackle and your center, and you're lucky enough to have a decent right tackle, and you can be workmanlike inside, you have a chance to be good.

"Teams get away with it. New England gets away with it because of the quarterback; they're not all that loaded up there, they move people during the year. If Matt Light retires, they'll still get away with it. Indianapolis, [Peyton Manning] threw so fast that they got away with it. You just need a couple, especially with Big Ben [Roethlisberger]."

Pittsburgh agent Ralph Cindrich, who has represented plenty of offensive linemen in his day -- including Steelers Hall of Famer Dermontti Dawson -- agrees.

"You have to have a dominant couple of guys on your offensive line if you're going to be successful. The other ones you can put in and you can get by. You need the dominant ones."

The Steelers have at least one in Pouncey and hope Gilbert can fall into that category, but there's no one else close to dominant at the other three positions.

Perhaps this will be the third consecutive year they try to draft one in the first or second round. Available to them in the first round may be guards Cordy Glenn of Georgia and Kevin Zeitler of Wisconsin, perhaps tackle Mike Adams of Ohio State and Bobby Massie of Mississippi.

They could find their guard in the second round too, but there's not likely to be a dominant tackle there.

"At least three and possibly four or five of those big tackle types will go in the first round," predicted Rob Rang, senior analyst for NFLDraftScout.com. "Guard is a good crop. It's a solid class, just not an elite class."

The Steelers will draft some linemen this week, although whether they go for them in the first two rounds again is not a given.

"It's hard, really, with those guys to predict who's going to be able to do it and who isn't," said Tom Donahoe, former president of the Bills and personnel man with the Steelers. "But you keep trying because you never have enough; they get injured, it's a physically demanding position so you're always trying to make sure if you do get two or four injured a year, you have enough depth to fill in."

The Steelers were swamped by injuries last season in their line, starting when Colon left the opener with a torn triceps. They used nine starting offensive lines in 16 games last season.

And while they may not have paid attention to linemen in the first two rounds very often since they drafted Simmons No. 1 in 2002, neither have they ignored it. They drafted guard Kraig Urbik in the third round in '09, cut him, and he's starting in Buffalo. Tackle Tony Hills was drafted in the fourth round in '08 but didn't pan out, nor did guard Cam Stephenson (5th, '07). Tackle Chris Scott (fifth, '10) remains on the roster.

NOTE -- Dawson will announce the team's draft picks in the second and third rounds in New York Friday night.


04-24-2012, 03:44 AM
It is absolutely time. I would not be upset in the least if the Steelers picked guard-guard in the first two rounds. They could do better than that, but I wouldn't question it.

04-24-2012, 08:36 AM
Hahahahahaha has Ed been asleep the last two years? Steelers drafted the best center in the league and LT/RT Gilbert who was pretty good when starting for a rookie. Steelers have addressed the line. Cant get 5 starters in two years.

El-Gonzo Jackson
04-24-2012, 09:15 AM
Did he say the Steelers drafted Kraig Urbik in the 3rd, cut him and now he is a starter in Buffalo??? One of the dumber moves made by the Steelers recently.

04-24-2012, 11:35 AM
while they're doing all that babbling about good qb's still being able to function with out a great line , they fail to mention how a line full of scrubs affects the running game. when your coach see's throwing the ball as the better odds of picking up a first on 3rd and one... its time to upgrade your line.

04-24-2012, 12:27 PM
while they're doing all that babbling about good qb's still being able to function with out a great line , they fail to mention how a line full of scrubs affects the running game. when your coach see's throwing the ball as the better odds of picking up a first on 3rd and one... its time to upgrade your line.


tony hipchest
04-24-2012, 12:35 PM
Did he say the Steelers drafted Kraig Urbik in the 3rd, cut him and now he is a starter in Buffalo??? One of the dumber moves made by the Steelers recently.ah yes, 2nd round grade urbick.

the steelers traded out of their 2nd round pick for an additional 3rd cause as colbert explained, they were likely to draft keenan lewis there anyways and felt there was plenty of 2nd round talent to be found in the third.

i dont really fault him for the thinking other than lewis has been progressing slowly and urbick was ranked as the concensus 2nd or 3rd highest rated guard of his class i believe.

El-Gonzo Jackson
04-24-2012, 02:34 PM
ah yes, 2nd round grade urbick.

the steelers traded out of their 2nd round pick for an additional 3rd cause as colbert explained, they were likely to draft keenan lewis there anyways and felt there was plenty of 2nd round talent to be found in the third.

i dont really fault him for the thinking other than lewis has been progressing slowly and urbick was ranked as the concensus 2nd or 3rd highest rated guard of his class i believe.

Yeah, I was a true believe in Urbik and kind of think he got run out of town because he wasnt Kuglers draft pick, but part of the previous regime. I was a really big fan of Keenan Lewis pick and still hope he takes the starting job this year.

I honestly thought that with Urbik, Wallace, Lewis.....we got a starting RG, starting CB and speed receiver that needed some route running experience. Was potentially a great first 4 picks.

04-24-2012, 03:18 PM
It's a deep draft for guards this season. I am sure we can get a quality player and starter in the 2nd or 3rd round. IMO we need to address the sudden lack of depth at ILB in the first round. If Hightower is there then we should take him, if not then perhaps guard if one of the top rated players (Decastro or Glenn) has fallen that far.

Hawaii 5-0
04-24-2012, 04:10 PM
Steelers could be on guard in first round

By F. Dale Lolley, Staff writer dlolley@observer-reporter.com

The Steelers' offensive line hasn't been a strong point over the past five years. The team has made do with low draft picks and castoffs from other teams.

That trend started to change in 2010, when the Steelers selected center Maurkice Pouncey with their first pick in the draft. Pittsburgh followed that by selecting tackle Marcus Gilbert in the second round last year. Each player became an immediate starter and a building block for the future.

The Steelers will try to add to their offensive line when the NFL draft begins Thursday.

"Yes, I think at some point, we'll be able to do that, along with some other positions," said Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin.

There are some holes to fill.

Max Starks, re-signed early in the 2011 season to play left tackle, suffered a torn knee ligament in a playoff loss at Denver and is a free agent.

The Steelers plan on moving Gilbert, who started 13 games at right tackle as a rookie, to the left side, hoping that Willie Colon can step back in at right tackle. Colon missed most of the last two seasons with injuries.

Pouncey is set at center, and the Steelers re-signed free-agent guards Ramon Foster, Doug Legursky and Trai Essex, but released Chris Kemoeatu, who lost his starting job midway through last season.

Matt Kalil of USC is considered to be the best offensive line prospect in this draft and is a likely top-five pick.

After that, however, things could get interesting.

At tackle, Iowa's Reilly Reiff, Stanford's Jonathan Martin and Ohio State's Mike Adams are considered first-round prospects. None of the three was as dominant as expected in their final college season, and Adams compounded that by testing positive for marijuana at the NFL combine. That positive test means Adams has likely been taken off the Steelers' draft board.

The Steelers have met with several offensive tackles, including Mississippi's Bobbie Massie (6-6, 316) and California's Mitchell Schwartz (6-5, 318). Each are viewed as second-round prospects.

Much of the Steelers' interest in offensive linemen has been at guard. Stanford's David DeCastro (6-5, 317) is rated the top prospect and should be selected in the first 20 picks. If he gets close enough to Pittsburgh's draft spot No. 24, the Steelers might be tempted to trade up.

Georgia's Cordy Glenn (6-5, 345), Wisconsin's Kevin Zeitler (6-4, 314) and Midwestern State's Amini Silatou (6-3, 311) are considered the next three best guard prospects, though Wisconsin center Peter Konz (6-5, 314) could also fall into that group. Each would be a solid pick after the first 20 selections. Glenn is the biggest of the group, but also the least nimble, while teammates Zeitler and Konz are a little more agile.

Though a small-school prospect, Silatou has been solid in his pre-draft workouts and won't last longer than the middle of the second round.

"I think there's a lot of small college guys in this draft who could have an impact," said ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper. "Some of them may even go early. They're not just going to be fifth-, sixth-, seventh-round picks. ... Amini Silatolu, who played left tackle, will be a guard. He's probably going to end up being a second-round draft choice."

Other guards the Steelers might select in later rounds include Brandon Brooks of Miami (Ohio), Kelvin Beachum of SMU, Pitt's Lucas Nix and Washington's Senio Kelemente.


Hawaii 5-0
04-25-2012, 01:24 AM
Ed: Key to Steelers Line Already May be on Roster


Good morning,

In researching this morning’s story on the offensive line and potential Steelers draft picks, we collected unsolicited praise about line coach Sean Kugler from several people.

Many believe the most important assistant coach on a staff after the coordinators is the offensive line coach.

“I always felt one of the keys with the offensive line is you have to have a great offensive line coach,’’ said Tom Donahoe, a personnel man with the Steelers for 15 years and became president and general manager of the Buffalo Bills for awhile.

“He’s the only guy on the football team who coaches five guys and there has to be so much cohesion with what they’re doing.”

Kugler has a reputation for turning chicken poop into chicken salad in Buffalo, where injuries were plentiful and the talent was not. He brought that ability to Pittsburgh.

“Your line coach is pretty damn good, Kugler,’’ said longtime Dallas personnel man Gil Brandt, who now works for NFL.com as an analyst. “I think he could probably get by with one and do it.

“I really think the line coach is a very important part of your team and to me, this guy is really very good. He could get along with your first-round pick from Florida and four average guys.’’

What makes him good?

“He just knows how to teach technique to those guys,’’ Brandt said. “I knew him when he was with Buffalo.’’

Kugler played four years at Texas-El Paso and one year in the old World League of American Fotoball. He landed his first coaching job at Tampa Bay Vo-Tech High School in 1990.

He has coached at UTEP and Boise State and also in the pros with Detroit. He was the assistant head coach and line coach for Boise State when the Broncos went 13-0 in 2006 and pulled off that memorable upset of Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl, 43-42.

“An offensive line coach can do wonders, and I think he does wonders with a bad group,’’ said Tom Modrak, former president of the Eagles and a personnel man with the Steelers and Bills.

More from Donahoe, “The offensive line is demanding in terms of playing the position and coaching the position. But it’s also one position where a good coach can take a guy maybe with a little less talent and because of technique and because of a guy’s desire, they can make a player out of that type of guy. Now, he might not be ideally what you’re looking for, but who has five good offensive linemen in the salary cap era? Probably nobody.

“So coaching really becomes even more important at that position than some other positions. So much of it is technique and rhythm and cohesion and unity. I felt when I was there Kent Stephenson was a great offensive line coach. Players loved him. He had them togehter, had guys who were good and played good, others were overchievers and fit together.

“It’s a tough position to coach. [Kugler] has certainly done a great job with their line. He brought along some young guys quick. They had some injuries and they plugged some guys in. He’s done a good job with Ramon Foster, Pouncey played right away and the tackle [Marcus Gilbert] last year played right away. It looks like he knows what he’s doing.”

Now if the Steeles can only get him some help in this draft.

Onto some stuff:

--- I can see three players who would look good as first-round draft picks for the Steelers Thursday: Dontari Poe, Dont’a Hightower and Kevin Zeitler. I will tell you that on Wednesday’s mock draft on ESPN, I pick Hightower. They asked me last week and gave me the list of names already picks, so I went with him. However, that doesn’t mean it will go that way in my own mock draft in the PG Thursday. I’ve soured a little bit on Cordy Glenn, one of my early favorites.

--- Saw a bunch of reports from yesterday’s press conference proclaiming the Steelers ready for the draft. Wouldn’t the real news be if they WEREN’T ready for the draft?

--- YOU: At the press conference, Kevin Colbert said they prepare their board from a pool of 150 draftees. There are 253 picks in this draft and the Steelers have six picks after the first 150 are selected. Realizing other teams’ 150 board may differ and there are some players they just don’t have a chance of drafting, I’m surprised their preparation doesn’t go deeper than that; especially, given their intensity to sign targeted free agents within hours after the draft. Can you offer any perspective on this for us?
ME: Colbert’s exact quote was different and a reason why comments sometimes get twisted by others. He said: "We have looked at several hundreds of people. We are probably going to draft from about 150."

--- YOU: If DeCastro from Stanford is still available at 18 or so do they consider moving up to get him, it may cost us a 3rd rounder but it seems he may be worth it?
ME: I don't think they'll do that.

--- YOU: Do these vomitous throwback uniforms perhaps actually give the Steelers a small advantage? Seems that if your opponents are snickering at you, you might catch them off-guard. And surely, two hours of watching Polamalu do a jail-breaking bumble-bee dance in front of you has got to generate at least one false-start penalty, right?
ME: That’s just silly.