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Old 12-21-2006, 09:50 AM   #1
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Default Colon, Essex compete for right tackle job

By Scott Brown
TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Thursday, December 21, 2006


Ben Roethlisberger was sacked a career-high nine times the last time the Steelers played the Baltimore Ravens, and he won't have one of his regular bodyguards for the rematch Sunday at Heinz Field.
But the third-year quarterback can at least take comfort in one thing: Max Starks' likely replacement at right tackle isn't intimidated easily.

Willie Colon grew up in the South Bronx. Just as he didn't back down in his old neighborhood -- or from linebacker Clark Haggans when the two engaged in fisticuffs during training camp -- he won't willingly concede anything to the veritable bullies that comprise the Ravens' defense.

"I'm going to go out there and fight like I've always fought for everything," said Colon, a rookie who has been on the inactive list for every game this season, "and we'll see what happens."

Colon and Trai Essex, his friend and part-time chauffeur, are competing for the starting spot that became open when Starks injured his left knee Sunday.

Essex said Colon received the bulk of the work with the first-team offense Wednesday and that "it looks like he is probably going to start, but you never know."

The close friends say they will pull for whoever steps in for Starks, who had arthroscopic knee surgery three days after playing his best game of the season.

The two are neighbors. Since Colon doesn't have a car, he is dependent on Essex for rides to and from the Steelers' South Side practice facility.

One thing Colon might not want to ask Essex about in the car this week is what he went through in the days -- well, nights to be more specific -- leading up to his first NFL start.

That came, coincidentally, against the Ravens in November, when Essex filled in for the injured Marvel Smith at left tackle.

Asked to describe the anxiety he felt, Essex said, "Can't sleep at night, thinking about plays in your sleep, girlfriend getting mad because you're waking up screaming out certain plays."

Thoughts of playing against the Ravens' defense are enough to keep even the most accomplished veteran up at night.

The Ravens have given up the fewest yards per game in the NFL, and they have already set a franchise sack record. What makes them particularly difficult to handle for offensive lineman is they frequently show one look and then morph into something else after the snap.

The 6-foot-4, 324-pound Essex made four starts as a rookie last season and has played in all but one of the Steelers games this season. He is listed as Smith's backup, but he said he had worked this season at every offensive line position during practice except center.

His experience would appear to give him an edge, but the Steelers have liked the 6-3, 315-pound Colon since taking him in the fourth round of April's draft.

The player who starts Sunday will only get so much out of the extra repetitions in practice and film study.

"It is going to be an adjustment," Steelers coach Bill Cowher said, "because you can see it on tape, you can practice it on the practice field. But until you experience the speed of (the game) and how quickly it happens, there is no assimilation for that."

Nor is there anything that can replicate facing pass-rusher extraordinaire Terrell Suggs.

At least Colon is realistic about what he'll face against the Ravens if he plays for Starks.

"It's a way to start off, huh?" Colon said. "Get thrown into the fire, get cooked a little bit. I've just got to go out there and compete and get it done."
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Old 12-21-2006, 10:04 AM   #2
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Default Re: Colon, Essex compete for right tackle job

Well having a backup RT against the Ravens is troubling. I want to see what Colon or Essex can do. I know Essex started four games last year. But he is really still an unknown. I like the attitude of the Colon kid. He seems nasty. If we could put Colon's attitude in Max Starks. Then Starks would be a great RT.

I know Max Starks did a great job on Julius Peppers last week but Starks overall this year has stunk. So I hope Colon gets the start and does a great job.
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Old 12-21-2006, 10:09 AM   #3
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Default Re: Colon, Essex compete for right tackle job

Yeah I kind of like Colon's attitude myself. He does seem like a really tough guy. He seems like he will be battle ready for the trenches. He totally understands this is no easy task at hand.
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Old 12-21-2006, 10:12 AM   #4
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Default Re: Colon, Essex compete for right tackle job

Strange, I thought it was already announced that Colon got the nod for this Sunday? At least that's what I could have sworn I heard Starks state yesterday on the radio.
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Old 12-21-2006, 10:13 AM   #5
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Default Re: Colon, Essex compete for right tackle job

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Yeah I kind of like Colon's attitude myself. He does seem like a really tough guy. He seems like he will be battle ready for the trenches. He totally understands this is no easy task at hand.
I recall a quote from him in camp this year where he said ...that getting burnt on a play doesnt discourage him...it pisses him off and he has something to prove on the next play.

You GOTTA at least love the attitude!!
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Old 12-21-2006, 10:14 AM   #6
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Default Re: Colon, Essex compete for right tackle job

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Strange, I thought it was already announced that Colon got the nod for this Sunday? At least that's what I could have sworn I heard Starks state yesterday on the radio.

The other article that I just posted supports what you heard.
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Old 12-21-2006, 10:15 AM   #7
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Default Re: Colon, Essex compete for right tackle job

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The other article that I just posted supports what you heard.
Thought so. Thanks.
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Old 12-21-2006, 10:17 AM   #8
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Default Re: Colon, Essex compete for right tackle job

Hopefully he will bring that attitude to the game on Sunday and not be intimidated by any of the ravens. I'm sure the ravens defensive coordinator will be smelling new blood in the water. It should be a good battle to watch.
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Old 12-21-2006, 11:21 AM   #9
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Default Re: Colon, Essex compete for right tackle job

It is like Smith and Holmes getting more playing time with the injuries to Troy and Hines - a bad way to get playing time for back-ups (why is James Harrison not seeing reps at OLB?) that Cowher should have been doing voluntarily once the season crashed after the Denver game.

With Smith and Holmes you were replacing top shelf players. While Colon or Essex may get chewed up Sunday, I agree with other posters that Starks has been horrible for most of this season and am puzzled why he stayed off the bench (although that question may be answered for me at some point during the first half on Sunday).

Playing time for either Essex or Colon is a tardy start to the process of deciding whether to stay with Starks in 2007, assuming Starks does not leave as a restricted FA and force the issue of finding a replacement.
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Old 12-21-2006, 11:37 AM   #10
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Default Re: Colon, Essex compete for right tackle job

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I know what you mean ... but on the other hand, look at how the whole Taylor-Towsend-McFadden situation has played out, and you can see how that way has its drawbacks too.
While sitting Taylor over Townsend for this length of time is a puzzler, getting more playing time for McFadden (which I recall initially had something to do with Townsend being dinged) is another illustration of the value of seeing if a younger player can be a potential starter.

IMHO these tryouts have established Holmes and McFaddden as starters for 2007. Too bad we have taken no significant steps to consider OL replacements for Simmons and Starks.
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