Thread: OL Paradise
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Old 08-10-2005, 11:23 PM   #1
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Thumbs up OL Paradise

Man if this article doesnt help hit home the need for a solid unit of 5 guys all staying together all year...

here's the rest

Side by side they stood, five powerful men working as one. They were cohesive, consistent and constantly connected. Eighteen times they stepped onto the field together, and 18 times they left intact.
Last year was "Offensive Line Paradise," a perfect season for the Steelers front five.

"Everybody was in-sync, we were linked together -- and it made us a solid unit," said All-Pro center Jeff Hartings, the lightning rod of a group that paved the way for the second-ranked rushing offense in the NFL. "But we've been on the other end of it, too."

And it wasn't very long ago, either.

In 2003, the Steelers offensive line was schizophrenic -- not synchronized -- forcing offensive line coach Russ Grimm to shuffle players like a dealer at a Texas Hold 'em tournament. Depth was an issue and, "Injuries got us -- it was that simple," Grimm said.

In truth, the 2004 unit was not devoid of injuries -- right guard Kendall Simmons was lost for the season to a torn ACL -- but the now-departed Keydrick Vincent emerged from the background to solidify things.

He and his four linemates went on to start every game and help carry the Steelers to a 15-1 record and a spot in the AFC title game.

"When you start the same five across the board, you're going to have some success," former Steelers guard Craig Wolfley said. "But when you're shuffling that deck, it can be a whole different story."

Such was the case two years ago, when left tackle Marvel Smith missed 10 games with a pinched nerve in his neck, and the Steelers failed to find a capable and consistent replacement. Chaos ultimately ensued, and the result was a 6-10 record.

Grimm attempted to plug holes the best he could, moving All-Pro guard Alan Faneca to left tackle and shuttling the still-learning Vincent to guard, but the chemistry wasn't there, and the Steelers weren't the same.

The tales of those two very different teams serve as a reminder that one wrong twist or turn can change the course of an offensive line, if not a season.

"Knock on wood," Grimm said, "let's hope we're like we were in 2004, not 2003."

In a perfect world, the Steelers would march out the starting unit of right tackle Max Starks, right guard Simmons, center Hartings, left guard Faneca and left tackle Smith for every game this season. Of course, in a perfect world, everybody would win the lottery, too.

But injuries happen, and there are no guarantees.
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