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Old 06-02-2007, 04:32 AM   #1
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Default Steelers' offensive line could get face-lift

Steelers' offensive line could get face-lift
3 spots will be open when camp begins

Saturday, June 02, 2007

By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Football can be a kid's game for the Steelers, especially in the offensive line where it has looked like musical chairs all spring.

One minute, new center Sean Mahan plays guard and old guard Kendall Simmons will be at center. Max Starks, the starting right tackle the past two seasons, has taken snaps at left tackle, where Marvel Smith has made a Pro Bowl.

Since left guard Alan Faneca has been absent all but three days this spring, Chris Kemoeatu has taken his place, but he really is competing to take Simmons' job at right guard. Willie Colon has run with the first team at right tackle this week, although it is still Starks' job to lose.

Then there's Chukky Okobi. He has run with the first team all week at center in, perhaps, an all-or-nothing deal for him. It's possible either Okobi wins the starting center's job left vacant by the retirement of Jeff Hartings or be jettisoned to save his $2 million salary.

There's more changes than having a new coach for the offensive line this fall.

"A lot of things could happen," said Larry Zierlein, who took over for the departed Russ Grimm as line coach. "Nobody's going to lose their job in [the spring].

"Whoever the starters are, they are, no matter where we're lining them up now. You're either going to gain or lose your job in the preseason. Where we're lining them up right now, really doesn't mean a whole lot."

Zierlein announced two changes that will not happen; Smith will remain at left tackle and Alan Faneca at left guard. The other three spots are open.

"There's a lot of jobs up for grabs in that line," coordinator Bruce Arians said.

The key to it all is the center, as it always has been on this team. The Steelers have had, essentially, three starting centers since 1977, starting with Mike Webster, who became a full-time starter at the position that season. He made his first Pro Bowl after the 1978 season and went on to nine Pro Bowls. Dermontti Dawson succeeded him in 1989 and went to seven Pro Bowls. Hartings succeeded Dawson in 2001 and went to two.

That's 18 Steelers centers in the past 30 Pro Bowls. That's a habit the Steelers would like not to break.

"I think it will be a great challenge to whoever wins that job to uphold the traditions that have been set at that position," said Arians. "I won't say they can, I won't say they can't."

Okobi, a Pittsburgh native, has spent his past six seasons as the heir apparent at center. But the Steelers made their only high-end outside signing in free agency a center, luring Mahan from Tampa Bay, where new coach Mike Tomlin once coached the secondary. Mahan also has started at guard, but he said he was brought here essentially to play center.

Mahan and Okobi have split time at the position this spring, but, if Okobi does not win the job in training camp, he could be released, and the Steelers seem to be preparing for that outcome. They are teaching guard Kendall Simmons the position and last year carried rookie Marvin Philip as their third center. Also, Okobi's strongest supporter, Grimm, is coaching the offensive line in Arizona.

Paying $2 million for a backup lineman is not something the Steelers usually do. But the Steelers also could lose three of their five current starters in the line who are in the last year of their contracts -- Faneca, Simmons and Starks.

The Steelers have not talked to agent Joe Linta about Okobi possibly taking another pay cut, as he did last year, and Linta said they would not do it anyway.

"I don't try to anticipate anything, honestly," Okobi said. "It's competition, so let's compete. If all things are fair, then I like my chances. If there are other circumstances, then I don't know. I can control what I can control, and let's go form there."

Arians wants better pass protection from his line, in concert with blockers at the other positions and wide receivers running better "hot" routes on blitzes.

"No, we were not as good a group as the year before," he said.

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/07153/791003-66.stm
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Old 06-02-2007, 05:35 AM   #2
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Default Re: Steelers' offensive line could get face-lift

Its definitely interesting (in a strictly non-doom and gloom way) that there is going to be so much potential disruption on a previous Steeler strength this year.

3 positions out of 5 open before camp?

Maybe thats more to do with a new coach than anything else (and also the retirement of a pro-bowl centre) and the fact he wants as many people as possible showing him what they can do now instead of relying on past performance.

Next year, of course the LG position will be up for grabs and probably explains why the Steelrs were pro-active in getting LT Aaron Smith signed up to a long contract.

You have to feel that there are going to be communication issues to be sorted out with a new group of linemen who are also going to be running a new playbook and a QB who is taking more playcalling duties.

Here is a question maybe someone can answer for me.

This year the Patriots are strongly rumored to be moving to a zone blocking scheme to cater for a faster running back in Laurence Maroney (compared to Dillon was was more between the tackles).

What scheme did the Steelers typically run with Bettis at running back and were there any alterations made last year when Willie Parker become full time starter?

Thanks
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Old 06-02-2007, 10:45 AM   #3
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Default Re: Steelers' offensive line could get face-lift

Quote:
Originally Posted by Livinginthe past View Post
Its definitely interesting (in a strictly non-doom and gloom way) that there is going to be so much potential disruption on a previous Steeler strength this year.

3 positions out of 5 open before camp?

Maybe thats more to do with a new coach than anything else (and also the retirement of a pro-bowl centre) and the fact he wants as many people as possible showing him what they can do now instead of relying on past performance.

Next year, of course the LG position will be up for grabs and probably explains why the Steelrs were pro-active in getting LT Aaron Smith signed up to a long contract.

You have to feel that there are going to be communication issues to be sorted out with a new group of linemen who are also going to be running a new playbook and a QB who is taking more playcalling duties.

Here is a question maybe someone can answer for me.

This year the Patriots are strongly rumored to be moving to a zone blocking scheme to cater for a faster running back in Laurence Maroney (compared to Dillon was was more between the tackles).

What scheme did the Steelers typically run with Bettis at running back and were there any alterations made last year when Willie Parker become full time starter?

Thanks
actually marvell smith is our LT and 08 season is his last year in his contract. he currently has the largest cap charge on the team and the steelers need to decide if they are gonna extend him after this season. its possible (although i think unlikely) that the entire 5 is re-tooled.

aaron smith is the de we just extended.

i dont think the steelers ever used a zone scheme under cowher. backs like zeroue and parker were expected to fit in to "jeromes" scheme. our guards and centers have always been great at pulling and blocking. of course bettis took a few steps to get up to a linemans pace so he had the "patience". its a little different for willie. like thay say "you cant teach speed". its pretty difficult to teach slow, too.
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Old 06-02-2007, 11:01 AM   #4
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Default Re: Steelers' offensive line could get face-lift

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Originally Posted by tony hipchest View Post
actually marvell smith is our LT and 08 season is his last year in his contract. he currently has the largest cap charge on the team and the steelers need to decide if they are gonna extend him after this season. its possible (although i think unlikely) that the entire 5 is re-tooled.

aaron smith is the de we just extended.

i dont think the steelers ever used a zone scheme under cowher. backs like zeroue and parker were expected to fit in to "jeromes" scheme. our guards and centers have always been great at pulling and blocking. of course bettis took a few steps to get up to a linemans pace so he had the "patience". its a little different for willie. like thay say "you cant teach speed". its pretty difficult to teach slow, too.
I wholeheartedly agree with everything you say Tony, but diverge slightly on one point.
While it is very true that Willie does not have the experience or patience of Jerome, he has come a long way this past year, even without the Beloved Bus there to mentor. He has mimicked Jerome's style quit a bit. Even down to some of Jerome's endzone antics (which cracks me up every time I see it).

It may not be a SB year. And I do love The Chin. But occasionally change is the best medicine. I think (and hope) our O-line will coalesce into a formidable force over a very short time. I also believe that we are doing a good thing by checking the fit of all of our parts. Looking for the potential for backups at multiple positions.

Who knows, before long we could possibly have the Offensive version of the much vaunted "Steel Curtain."
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Old 06-02-2007, 11:27 AM   #5
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Default Re: Steelers' offensive line could get face-lift

Quote:
While it is very true that Willie does not have the experience or patience of Jerome, he has come a long way this past year, even without the Beloved Bus there to mentor. He has mimicked Jerome's style quit a bit. Even down to some of Jerome's endzone antics (which cracks me up every time I see it).
i agree, at times he looked like a flashy mini-bus



he always kept his legs churning just like the bus , even when he was stacked up. often times the linemen created a hole, but in the past jerome had the power to bust through 2 linebackers who were there to fill the hole. willie is powerful, but hast to rely more on trying to juke the lb's while in a "phonebooth" so to speak.

im glad the broncos disnt snatch him up as a free agent. if they did, i think their fans would be calling him terrell davis's clone by now.
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Old 06-02-2007, 11:30 AM   #6
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Default Re: Steelers' offensive line could get face-lift

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Originally Posted by Livinginthe past View Post

What scheme did the Steelers typically run with Bettis at running back and were there any alterations made last year when Willie Parker become full time starter?

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We have traditionally ran a "Man" blocking scheme...and with the AFC North rivals all having or partially going to mammoth DE's and NT's ,we probably won't deviate from that. The problem is that Man-blocking demands a center who is agile enough to get into the second tier when blocking 4-3...but strong enough to take on behemoths on a regular basis when blocking 3-4. I am not sure if we have that guy on the roster.
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Old 06-02-2007, 11:39 AM   #7
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Cool Re: Steelers' offensive line could get face-lift

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i agree, at times he looked like a flashy mini-bus


LMAO!!!!!!!!!!!!


......................you know, Jerome and this pic have the exact same physique!




Quote:
Originally Posted by lamberts-lost-tooth View Post
We have traditionally ran a "Man" blocking scheme...and with the AFC North rivals all having or partially going to mammoth DE's and NT's ,we probably won't deviate from that. The problem is that Man-blocking demands a center who is agile enough to get into the second tier when blocking 4-3...but strong enough to take on behemoths on a regular basis when blocking 3-4. I am not sure if we have that guy on the roster.
Dammit...........................you're right.
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Old 06-02-2007, 11:45 AM   #8
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Default Re: Steelers' offensive line could get face-lift

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Who knows, before long we could possibly have the Offensive version of the much vaunted "Steel Curtain."
Now that would be awesome

Interesting times for the o line, and next year our 2 stars could also change.
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Old 06-02-2007, 12:13 PM   #9
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Default Re: Steelers' offensive line could get face-lift

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Originally Posted by tony hipchest View Post
actually marvell smith is our LT and 08 season is his last year in his contract. he currently has the largest cap charge on the team and the steelers need to decide if they are gonna extend him after this season. its possible (although i think unlikely) that the entire 5 is re-tooled.

aaron smith is the de we just extended.

i dont think the steelers ever used a zone scheme under cowher. backs like zeroue and parker were expected to fit in to "jeromes" scheme. our guards and centers have always been great at pulling and blocking. of course bettis took a few steps to get up to a linemans pace so he had the "patience". its a little different for willie. like thay say "you cant teach speed". its pretty difficult to teach slow, too.
Hmmm a real brain fart there - why I put a DE at LT I have no idea - I even read a couple of days ago about Max Starks trying out at LT on the 2nd team and how it could imapct Marvel Smith.

So you think the Steelrs use the same blocking scheme for Parker that they used for Bettis - thats definitely interesting - I guess the Steelers want to run the ball in a certain way they know is successful.
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The Patriots didn't bother with swagger to start this NFL season; they went straight to defiant. Either you're one of them or you're about to get crushed.
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Old 06-02-2007, 12:15 PM   #10
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Default Re: Steelers' offensive line could get face-lift

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We have traditionally ran a "Man" blocking scheme...and with the AFC North rivals all having or partially going to mammoth DE's and NT's ,we probably won't deviate from that. The problem is that Man-blocking demands a center who is agile enough to get into the second tier when blocking 4-3...but strong enough to take on behemoths on a regular basis when blocking 3-4. I am not sure if we have that guy on the roster.

Thanks for the info LLT
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They've been great for a while now, three Super Bowls' worth of great. But only this season have the New England Patriots become The Show, the must-see team of stars, pretty boys and reformed bad boys. Suddenly, the Patriots are not simply great; they're compelling, fascinating, appearing to be almighty and a touch lawless.
The Patriots didn't bother with swagger to start this NFL season; they went straight to defiant. Either you're one of them or you're about to get crushed.
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