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Old 01-11-2009, 08:37 AM   #1
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Default Blocks falling in place for Steelers

Blocks falling in place for Steelers
By John Perrotto
Times Sports Staff

PITTSBURGH — The Steelers’ biggest question when training camp began nearly six months ago was the offensive line after it allowed Ben Roethlisberger to be sacked more than any other NFL quarterback in 2007.

As 2008 has turned to 2009 and the Steelers, winners of the AFC North, get set to play San Diego in a divisional playoff game today, the line is still a question, especially in light of tackle Marvel Smith and guard Kendall Simmons sustaining season-ending injuries during the regular season.

Steelers quarterbacks were sacked 49 times, the fourth-highest total in the league behind San Francisco (55), Detroit (52) and Cincinnati (51). The Steelers were also third from the bottom in rushing yards per carry at 3.7, ahead of just Cincinnati (3.6), Arizona (3.5) and Indianapolis (3.4).

“We’ve had our ups and downs on the line,” Steelers center Justin Hartwig said. “I don’t think anyone can deny that. We’ve played very well at times and poorly at other times.”

However, the linemen say they are prepared for anything thrown at them by the Chargers or any other team they might face in the postseason.

“We’re 100 percent better now than we were when the season started,” right tackle Willie Colon said. “We’ve really jelled as a unit. We communicate better and we know what each other is doing on the field. We’re to the point of communicating without actually communicating, if you will, where we don’t have to continually talk to each other now. There is a real comfort level.”

Despite getting sacked so many times over the last two years and sustaining a concussion in this season’s regular-season finale against Cleveland, Roethlisberger insists he has a comfort level with Hartwig, Colon, left tackle Max Starks, left guard Chris Kemoeatu and right guard Darnell Stapleton.

“They have come a long way,” Roethlisberger said. “I still remind people that Darnell Stapleton and Max Starks are fill-ins for guys who are injured. They have gotten so much better. They have played against some phenomenal defenses and done great. I’m fine. I’m walking around. I will always have their back and I know they will always have mine.”

Will the Steelers have running back Willie Parker’s back, though? He did rush for 116 yards in the regular-season finale against Cleveland but has found fewer holes this season as his yards per carry is 3.8, the first time he has been under 4.0 in his five-year career.

“You’ve got to be able to run the football to win in the playoffs, everyone knows that and it’s on us as a line to make sure we do that,” Hartwig said.
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Old 01-11-2009, 11:18 AM   #2
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Default Re: Blocks falling in place for Steelers

It can only help our cause today if we can get any kind of rushing attack going. Time for the OL, FWP, Moore and Russell to make big plays today.
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