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Old 05-04-2008, 06:38 PM   #1
JanBr7
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Default Taking on the "O Line"

NFL replay had Indy vs. Carolina on today --- Hartwig was their center, of course, last year. I only watched for about 10 minutes and heard them comment on him three times -- "great coverage by Hartwig" "He's a good center!" and "that was one heck of a good job inside by Hartwig."

So it got me to thinking...have we had a thread about the O-line yet? I know we've debated it on other threads...I've seen a couple of analysis lately on the line, and I did one myself. Here's the shortened version of mine.


We’ve heard it again and again. Steeler nation – or at least the media that reports on what Steeler nation is thinking – is concerned that our o-line won’t be up to its task of protecting our titanium QB during 2008. The thing is Roethlisberger himself doesn’t seem to be concerned about the line. How many times have we heard Ben say “I was proud of my offensive line” during the ‘07 season? Minimum once a game. We got a little tired of it. But the fact is, if Ben were unhappy about the line a hint of it would have leaked to the media. Ben would have let something ‘slip’ during one of his weaker moments, and we would be hearing quotes from every member of the o-line about what a jerk Ben is, and just generally getting bombarded with “Ben hates his o-line” news.

But that hasn’t happened. So let’s take a look at this line. Try to see it from the point of view of the Steelers, and the quarterback it protects. At least to the extent that we can from our armchairs and computer desks.

This is as likely a lineup for the Steelers 2008 offensive line as any.

Justin Hartwig
Marvel Smith
Kendall Simmons
Max Starks
Chris Kemoeatu

(at this point I did an analysis of each of those guys, basically concluding that they are all capable o-linemen. Repeating it here would make this a very long post!)

So why are we worried about an o-line that is chock full of obviously capable players?

We’re worried because this o-line didn’t play well in 2007. We're worried because the quarterback who can take this team to the next level -- the quarterback who is the best we've had since Terry Bradshaw and will, if he stays healthy, be even better than our beloved Bradshaw -- we're worried because that QB was sacked way too often in 2007, and even when he wasn't sacked, he seemed to be running for his life more often than not.

What was the problem?

It may be blasphemous to suggest that Alan Faneca might in any way have been part of the problem with the o-line last year. The entire team, including Roethlisberger, has incredible respect for him. But when the most important cog in the wheel knows he’s leaving when the ride comes to a stop…and everyone around him knows he’s leaving…there’s going to be a bit of a letdown. Anyone who has ever worked with someone who knew they were about to leave their job knows this is true. We love you Alan – good luck with the Jets. Time to move on.

Injuries were a factor as well, for certain -- especially with Marvel and, later, Max.

And here’s another thought.

Many of us admit that Ben contributes to the sack totals -- he holds the ball a little too long because he believes he can make the big play. And I’m not necessarily criticizing him for that. After all, he does better when he's rolling out of the pocket, eyes down field, throwing on the run. That’s just the kind of player Ben is. Maybe -- and I shudder to think -- maybe living on the edge makes him better. What if he needs a little bit of pressure to be truly great? And if we try to take away what makes the man great, we'll end up with something we didn't want. Just a thought -- better protect him with bubble wrap so he doesn't get injured.

But back to the o-line.

The O-line has to give up fewer sacks in '08. They are capable of doing that – they just didn’t do it last year. But this year should be different. They all know they have to work hard in training camp, come together as a unit, keep Ben off his back, prove to all of us that we were just flat out wrong when we said the Steelers needed new players at offensive line. A unit like the o-line is the sum of its parts. I think the key is for Tomlin to decide early in training camp who is going to start, and then stick with the plan. Let them get to know each other well enough to be cohesive. Expect it of them. If we as fans want the o-line to be truly great, let’s start telling them that. It’s a basic management philosophy. Expect greatness of someone who is capable of it, and you’re likely to get it.
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Old 05-04-2008, 06:38 PM   #2
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Default Re: Taking on the "O Line"

If this post is too long let me know and I can shorten it up!
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Old 05-04-2008, 07:03 PM   #3
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Default Re: Taking on the "O Line"

20% better O-line this year + Ben having 2 more great targets (Mendenhall and Sweed) = AFC Championship and Super bowl appearance.

The O-Line was not good last year for multiple reasons, guys playing at new positions (Mahan), guys playing injured (Simmons), Ben held the ball long, receivers played hurt (Ward most of the year) and did not get open all of those things contributed to Ben getting sacked a lot.

This next year we will see the rise and elevation of the Steelers back to the cream of the crop. Of course we will do it quietly without much media attention as the Patriots, Colts, Cowboys, and Giants will get most of the talking heads air time but as Steeler fans we never really care as long as we win.

I am so ridiculously exited about this coming season I haven't felt this good about a coming year in a long time. The draft was awesome in my opinion, yes we didn't get O-Linemen but we did get HUGE offensive weapons, the good O-linemen were snatched up and I really think the front office made smart and excellent choices.

This O-line just needs to be 20% better then last years and we will dominate. I think they are capable and definitely talented enough to do that.

This is our year the dynasty begins now.
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Old 05-04-2008, 07:03 PM   #4
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Default Re: Taking on the "O Line"

Quote:
Originally Posted by JanBr7 View Post
I think the key is for Tomlin to decide early in training camp who is going to start, and then stick with the plan. Let them get to know each other well enough to be cohesive.
Tomlin is in a unique situation as a young first time coach. I think on one hand he is trying to mold 'his' team while at the same time realizing he has an oppurtunity to win now.

I don't know what happened with the Starks situation last season, and you could call into question the signing of Simmons as well. I think the staff is trying to identify the starters for the future. Starters that offer the versatility to possibly only carry eight O-linemen on the roster. This is my take on the situation.

I feel confident with the guys we have. I agree that the line should be set out of camp so that the guys have all preseason to work together. The staff should know what they have already, how much more evaluation do you need?
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Old 05-04-2008, 07:23 PM   #5
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Default Re: Taking on the "O Line"

last year two major changes, beyond personnel, happened for the O line:

1. ben called the protection package instead of the center.
2. we went to a zone blocking scheme on the line.

after seeing the way the line played (average to bad), it seems these two shifts were major, and it could take a year or more to iron out the wrinkles.

am i guilty of wishful thinking?

ps: i hate zone blocking for the O line.
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Old 05-04-2008, 07:26 PM   #6
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Default Re: Taking on the "O Line"

Quote:
Originally Posted by slippy View Post
last year two major changes, beyond personnel, happened for the O line:

1. ben called the protection package instead of the center.
2. we went to a zone blocking scheme on the line.

.
That's a good point, but we had a new center, too -- who probably won't BE the center this year! So better to have Ben start doing it -- he'll be better at it this year. He does tend to learn!
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Old 05-04-2008, 07:29 PM   #7
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Thumbs up Re: Taking on the "O Line"

First of all, I concur that our line will be 20-35% better this year. A couple contributing factors to that:

1. A REAL center.
2. The loss of Faneca. I know this may seem like a reason the line will be worse, but the more I watch the games last year the more convinced I am he has lost a step or two in the pass protection.
3. Moving Mahan back to his natural position.
4. A year of protection calling under Ben's belt.
5. More time for the O-line to mesh together as a unit.

Having said that, there ARE two things that concern me. First, I sincerely hope Tomlin learned his lesson last year and won't be playing any more O-line musical chairs. Second, we may be okay next year, but what about 09 and on. For that reason, if for no other, while I understand there were no eligible o-lineman to take in the 1st or 2nd round the pick of Dixon in the 5th when Schuening was on the board will continue to baffle me. It seems that Dixon was a luxury pick....a luxury we didn't have! Hopefully I'm wrong.....only time will tell!
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Old 05-04-2008, 07:33 PM   #8
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Default Re: Taking on the "O Line"

I think the front office is well aware of the O-line issues for '09. I'm sure they'll address it in free agency (again!) -- and perhaps even re-sign one or two of our free agents!
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Old 05-04-2008, 07:37 PM   #9
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Default Re: Taking on the "O Line"

i hope that having a real center will help the oline.(i believe it may)

we dont have a disgruntled player on the oline(faneca)

and can someone please teach ben how to release the ball a tad earlier so he doesnt get sacked so much.
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Old 05-04-2008, 08:02 PM   #10
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Default Re: Taking on the "O Line"

I know it's hard to grasp but again I say -- what if part of what makes Ben great IS the pressure? He holds the ball to make the play. He's a gunslinger with the potential of Brett Favre, only with more superbowl rings.

The coaches probably won't try to get him to change -- yes, they'll try to get him to play smarter, and give him more weapons, and protect him better. But we have all seen his absolute genius on the field -- as he gets more and more experience (and with a solid o-line in front of him and solid weapons around him) he can rank among the best.

Perhaps we shouldn't try to 'change' him. Just a thought.
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