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Old 08-12-2007, 04:04 AM   #1
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Default Left isn't right

Left isn't right: Offensive line allows Packers five sacks
Sunday, August 12, 2007
By Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

True to his word, Mike Tomlin said he wanted to look at some different combinations on the offensive line to better evaluate his personnel. And he did just that against the Green Bay Packers, sometimes with mixed results.

Tomlin might have liked what he saw of right tackle Willie Colon, who got his turn to start and played most of the first half. He might have even liked what he saw of guard Chris Kemoeatu, who started for injured Pro Bowl guard Alan Faneca.

But he might not have liked what he saw at left tackle, not from Marvel Smith, but, perhaps more important, Max Starks.

"It's the second game," Smith said. "We got a lot more work to do."

Indeed.

The Steelers allowed five sacks in last night's 13-9 preseason loss to the Green Bay Packers at Heinz Field, and three came from their left side in the first half.

Smith allowed the first, getting beat to the outside by Packers defensive end Cullen Jenkins on a play in which Jenkins stripped the ball from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and recovered the fumble at the Green Bay 42.

The turnover came on the third offensive play and seemed to strip some of the rhythm from the Steelers, who opened the game with the no-huddle offense.

"We drove the ball, but we stalled it out with a turnover," receiver Hines Ward said. "That's something that we got to do -- take control of the ball and make sure we don't turn it over. And go from there."

But that didn't happen.

Then Starks, who replaced Smith at left tackle on the third series, allowed the other two -- one to Jenkins, the other to Packers defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Bimila. Starks also allowed a sack in last Sunday's 20-7 victory against the New Orleans Saints in the Hall of Fame game, giving him three in two games.

But, in his defense, all three sacks have come while he was at left tackle, a position he hadn't played since college.

"He's played right tackle for three years and they ask him to go to the left side and, let's face it, a lot of the league's best defensive ends are on the left side," said Colon, who started at right tackle. "Call it what you want, but he's handled it well. Plus, Max may not be there [at left tackle], anyway."

The Steelers are looking at Starks, the starter at right tackle, at left tackle as a possible backup to Smith. Starks played left tackle his final two seasons at Florida, but, until training camp, had not lined up there in four seasons with the Steelers.

The experiment on the left side does not bode well for tackle Trai Essex, a No. 3 pick in 2005 who has been spending more time at left guard.

Then again, after what has happened the past two games, the Steelers might stop looking at Starks at left tackle.

"They have some premium edge rushers," Tomlin said of the Packers, whom he faced twice last year when he was defensive coordinator with the Minnesota Vikings. "They have some guys built for battle, like KGB. That's something our offensive line hasn't seen at training camp, based on our personnel.

"No excuse. We have to do a better job of protecting the quarterback."

Colon, a fourth-round pick in 2006, started the final two games last season when Starks was injured and did enough against the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals to merit a longer look in training camp.

Colon (6-3, 340) is not as tall as Starks (6-8, 337), but he is strong and aggressive and the coaches like his toughness.

Kemoeatu, a fifth-round pick in 2005, might be the most aggressive lineman on the roster. He started at left guard because Faneca, who did not practice last week, sustained a shoulder injury against the Saints. If Faneca were healthy enough to play, Kemoeatu would have likely started at right guard for Kendall Simmons because the coaches consider that position to be open, as well.

Still, Tomlin has emphasized that no starting positions will be decided based on one game, and it is Starks' job to lose.

Smith, though, is not concerned.

"Even last week we made mistakes," he said. "It's early in the preseason. That's what this is a game for -- to get some work and get ready for the season to start."
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Old 08-12-2007, 08:13 AM   #2
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Default Re: Left isn't right

Starks does not have the skill set to play a competent RT in the pros; Tomlin is wasting an opportunity to find a competent back-up for Marvel Smith by playing Starks at LT in the exhibition games.

Only conclusion I can draw is that Tomlin has no love for Trai Essex.
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Old 08-12-2007, 08:14 AM   #3
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Default Re: Left isn't right

Let's hope they find a good combination soon. Or their gonna get our Qb killed.
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Old 08-12-2007, 08:34 AM   #4
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Default Re: Left isn't right

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Only conclusion I can draw is that Tomlin has no love for Trai Essex.
Do you blame him? Most casual observers of our drafts the past few years have been asking why we keep taking project offensive lineman in the middle and late rounds instead of more polished lineman earlier in the draft. I know Cowher liked his projects, but now we're paying the price for that.
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Old 08-12-2007, 08:46 AM   #5
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Default Re: Left isn't right

Starks is a terrible left tackle. Enough said.
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Old 08-12-2007, 09:51 AM   #6
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Default Re: Left isn't right

Left tackle IMO is the most important position on the o-line with a right handed QB. Starks has trouble with the right side so I dont see why we are moving him over there. Maybe try Colon on the left side if he isn't going to start on the right.
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Old 08-12-2007, 10:13 AM   #7
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Left tackle IMO is the most important position on the o-line with a right handed QB. Starks has trouble with the right side so I dont see why we are moving him over there. Maybe try Colon on the left side if he isn't going to start on the right.
I agree.

I wonder however, if the argument is that he is too small to play on that side.

Of course, they said the same thing about him on the right.
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Old 08-12-2007, 10:23 AM   #8
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Default Re: Left isn't right

Can anybody guess which position we draft first next year?
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Old 08-12-2007, 10:26 AM   #9
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Can anybody guess which position we draft first next year?
You can't be sure. Tomlin strikes me as a best value type of coach. If there aren't any good lineman when we draft, we'll go another way. The last thing you want is pay 15th pick money to a guy who should have been drafted with the 25th pick you know. You want to make the smart move for the money.
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Old 08-12-2007, 10:26 AM   #10
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Can anybody guess which position we draft first next year?
I actually think that we will go MLB to replacing an aging Farrior, but if we still have o-line problems like we do now, I wouldnt mind taking a linemen in round 1.
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