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Old 08-21-2007, 01:00 AM   #1
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Default offensive line set?


Steelers' offensive line comes into focus

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The Steelers' search for an offensive line has entered the bonus round and may well be settled.

Mike Tomlin said he is closer to deciding on his starting line, yet with the most important preseason game coming up for starters, he already may have picked one.

After admittedly going over the video from the game Saturday night at Washington "with a fine-tooth comb," Tomlin's starting offensive line yesterday could be the one that opens the season in Cleveland Sept. 9.

From left to right they are tackle Marvel Smith, guard Alan Faneca, center Sean Mahan, guard Kendall Simmons and tackle Willie Colon.

Steelers beat writer Ed Bouchette asks head coach Mike Tomlin about the offensive line Monday after practice:

"We're getting extremely close ..."

"We're getting extremely close," Tomlin said. "We are going to continue to watch those guys. What we're doing with our offensive line is based on the fact that we feel we have eight guys that are capable starters. We are not looking for five. We have eight."

Tomlin called practices yesterday and today as bonuses because teams normally have three practices when they play Sunday as the Steelers do this week.

Before practice yesterday, Mahan acknowledged that whoever ran with the first team most likely would start against the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday night.

"They haven't really told us yet for sure, but I'd assume [that]," Mahan said.

"We're getting down to the point where we're going to come up with the makeup of the line."

Tomlin listed the other three "starters" as center Chukky Okobi, guard Chris Kemoeatu and incumbent starting right tackle Max Starks, and mentioned them on the same plateau as Mahan, Simmons and Colon.

"It's a compliment to them and what they are capable of," Tomlin said.

"We are going to leave no stone unturned in allowing those guys to have the opportunity to compete. They are competing their butts off. It's coming to the end. We are aware of that. It's taking shape."

Based on yesterday's practice, a quick look at the offensive line:

Tomlin did not mention tackle/guard Trai Essex among the eight. Essex started for the injured Smith Saturday, but Smith returned to practice yesterday.

With the starters expected to play into the third quarter against the Eagles, then hardly at all against the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte Aug. 30, it generally is a rule that whoever starts the next-to-last preseason game has been anointed a starter for the regular season.

There are exceptions, of course. In a famous case, Chuck Noll started incumbent Cornell Gowdy at strong safety in every preseason game in 1989. He released Gowdy with the final cuts and inserted a rookie as his starter, Carnell Lake.

An offensive line, though, generally needs time together to learn each other's moves, idiosyncrasies and preferences.

"Obviously, you want to be out there and grow a rapport with these guys, but that's never my call," Colon said.

"I just try to go out there and be efficient and try to play hard to the wire."

If indeed the starting line yesterday remains the starting line Sept. 9, two of those who lost out could claim that circumstances beyond their control cost them jobs.

Starks, who started at right tackle during their Super Bowl year and again last season, has moved between right and left tackle this summer. He said he is far from bitter about it.

"What's fair and what isn't fair? We had injuries, so it forced us to have to shuffle some guys around. Our offensive coordinator thought of me enough to say, 'Hey Max, we trust you, let's play left tackle.' I have to look at it as a positive because they had enough faith in me to put me over there.''

The normally conversational Okobi declined to talk yesterday, a stance he first took last week after his oblique muscle was injured in practice. He returned to practice yesterday with the second team.

Okobi has a $2 million salary this season and Starks $1.8 million. The Steelers usually do not pay their backup linemen that much, but they apparently are prepared to do so this season if they do not start.

"I just want to hear the decision and be done with it and move on from it," Starks said. "Wherever I'm suppose to be I'll be. That's the best way to look at it."
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Old 08-21-2007, 01:49 AM   #2
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Default Re: offensive line set?

I can deal with a change like that..
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Old 08-21-2007, 04:29 AM   #3
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Default Re: offensive line set?

That sounds like our best option at offensive line lets see what they do for three quarters against the eagles.
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Old 08-21-2007, 09:58 AM   #4
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Default Re: offensive line set?

I think the writing is on the wall with Starks. One less free agent to worry about next year. I think he's as good as gone.
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Old 08-21-2007, 12:03 PM   #5
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Default Re: offensive line set?

the O-line is still a big question mark from the C through the right.

can mahan play center?

will simmons actually hold his ground? so far the guy is a bust.

is colon up to the challenge?

this O-line looks pretty bad, IMO.
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Old 08-21-2007, 12:09 PM   #6
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Default Re: offensive line set?

This is apropos of nothing, but did any of you play the audio clip where Ed asks Coach Tomlin about the starting O-line?

At the very end, Ed is still pushing him for a firm answer and says "you'd most likely dress seven on game day, right?", someone else says something about the eighth being able to return punts, and the last thing Coach Tomlin says is, "you guys are overcooking my grits a little bit here, come on now."

Obviously a southern expression, and one I never heard before. I thought it was funny; the assembled media did, too.
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Old 08-21-2007, 04:00 PM   #7
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Default Re: offensive line set?

For better or for worse this is the line of the future (IMO better). If that line up stands, with the exception of Faneca, it appears that all of those guys are being slotted as the short and long term answer. Next years draft will reveal how the FO really feels about what they have. At least for now, they're priming Kemoeatu as a potential replacement for Faneca and Colon as the RT of the future. Starks and Okobi may both join Faneca as former Steelers in 2009 if not sooner.
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Old 08-21-2007, 04:13 PM   #8
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Default Re: offensive line set?

Originally Posted by ?teeldude View Post
will simmons actually hold his ground? so far the guy is a bust.
He had a good camp and has been good in preseason, let's hope he continues like that in the season. He's always seemed like a great guy and if he does good I hope he's resigned.

For some reason I love this pic, they all look like are going to have great seasons
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Old 08-22-2007, 10:18 PM   #9
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Default Re: offensive line set?

It's nice to have enough talent that guys are still challenging at this late date. It only means good things for the team.
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Old 08-24-2007, 09:22 AM   #10
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Default Re: offensive line set?

After using second-year RT Willie Colon all week with the starters, coach Mike Tomlin unexpectedly put Max Starks back with the starters on Thursday. Starks started the last two seasons With the season opener a little more than two weeks away, Tomlin has yet to name a starting offensive line.
The unsettled offensive line story will not go away, and this only adds fuel to the fire. I had a confused first reaction to this. Why would the coaching staff make a change to the first team OL after consistently running the same 5 guys for 3 days? The only justification I can think of is that Willie Colon will be the starting RT, but the coaches want to test Max's mental preparation to ensure he can be a capable back-up. If he passes the test, he stays. If he fails, unless the other back-ups prove they can't perform, his chances of remaining with the club will be reduced.
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