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Old 03-04-2009, 08:53 PM   #1
mesaSteeler
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Default Cook: Steelers line good enough

Cook: Steelers line good enough
Submitted by SHNS on Wed, 03/04/2009 - 15:30.
http://www.scrippsnews.com/node/41453

* By RON COOK, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Pittsburgh Steelers director of football operations Kevin Colbert and coach Mike Tomlin have earned the benefit of the doubt. When you win a Super Bowl, that's a given. Colbert and Tomlin are selling that their offensive line will be good enough to compete for another championship next season.

I'm buying. Actually, it's not so hard.

That line already has helped win one title, right?

I know what you're thinking:

The Steelers won Super Bowl XLIII despite their offensive line. There's no way they'll get that lucky again.

I beg to disagree.

The line's struggles last season were well documented, the extenuating circumstances that contributed to those struggles not so much. Because All-Pro guard Alan Faneca left as a free agent, center Sean Mahan was traded and guard Kendall Simmons and tackle Marvel Smith were lost early for the year with injuries, the Steelers had to rebuild the line twice. In the end, they were left with a new center (Justin Hartwig), two first-year starters at guard (Chris Kemoeatu and Darnell Stapleton), a second-year starter at right tackle (Willie Colon) and a tackle that hadn't played on the left side on a full-time basis since college (Max Starks).

Not to make excuses.

Just being real.

"If you look at how those five came together as the season went on, I think it's fair to say their play improved," Colbert said. "That's reflected in the numbers."

The Steelers allowed 29 sacks in the first half of the season, 20 in the second half. OK, so maybe the line didn't "come on fantastically," as offensive coordinator Bruce Arians gushed at the Super Bowl. But it did get better, especially after running back Willie Parker bounced back from injuries.

So the line was good enough to hoist the Lombardi Trophy.

"Hopefully, they'll continue to grow and improve," Colbert said.

It's reasonable to expect as much. The added experience -- not just the regular season, but also the run to the Super Bowl -- should help Kemoeatu, Stapleton, Colon and Starks. A second year in the system should be huge for Hartwig. As Colbert noted, "The center is the hub of communication for any offensive line."

The Steelers bet big money that the line will be significantly better. To keep it together, they tagged Starks as their franchise player, which means he's due to make $8,451,000 next season, although both sides hope to do a long-term contract before then. They signed Kemoeatu to a five-year, $20 million deal. And they gave Colon a $2,198,000 tender to all but make sure he'll be back for another season.

The Starks deal makes sense, unlike a year ago when the Steelers made him their transition player and had to pay him $6.9 million even though he opened the season as Colon's backup. That seemed like a ridiculously high-priced insurance policy at the time, but it turned out well when management had to cash it in and start Starks after Smith's back injury. This time around, the Steelers had to pay Starks. He's the starting left tackle on a Super Bowl winner. That's just the cost of doing business.

As for Colon, by offering him the high tender, the Steelers retained the right to match any offer he receives as a restricted free agent. If he does a deal elsewhere and they don't match it, they would receive a No. 1 draft pick as compensation, though that seems unlikely.

Colbert's work with the line isn't finished, with other lesser-known free agents and the draft next month.

"You never want to put your head in the sand and think you don't have to get better at any position," Colbert said. "You always want to look to bring in new faces to build the thing up."

Still, the offensive line last season is the line now and almost certainly will be the line next season.

That's OK.

Really.

"The bottom line is winning," Colbert said. "Those guys helped us win."

Sold me.

(Contact Ron Cook at rcook@post-gazette.com.)

(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, www.scrippsnews.com.)
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Old 03-04-2009, 09:05 PM   #2
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Default Re: Cook: Steelers line good enough

Quote:
"You never want to put your head in the sand and think you don't have to get better at any position," Colbert said. "You always want to look to bring in new faces to build the thing up."
Cool. I was under the impression we had our heads in the sand the last two years but apparently we didn't .
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Old 03-04-2009, 09:55 PM   #3
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Default Re: Cook: Steelers line good enough

This is a pretty poor article.

I'm also willing to give Colbert and our management the benefit of the doubt, but I'm not sure that Cook makes a particularly convincing argument that our current O-line is in any way adequate.

We resigned Kemo, Colon, and Starks because we didn't have better options, not because they were all good performers.
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Old 03-05-2009, 05:52 AM   #4
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Default Re: Cook: Steelers line good enough

Funny thing is, everyone agrees it takes time for an o-line to gel yet we (the fans) won't even give these guys a full season together to prove it.
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Old 03-05-2009, 08:57 AM   #5
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Default Re: Cook: Steelers line good enough

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Originally Posted by DACEB View Post
Funny thing is, everyone agrees it takes time for an o-line to gel yet we (the fans) won't even give these guys a full season together to prove it.
I think you hit the nail on the head. I, for one, was very encouraged by their play as the season went on. It wasn't always pretty, but it was a considerable improvement over the early stages of the season. I think that, after winning the Super Bowl together and having more time during the off-season and pre-season workouts to work together, they will continue to solidify as a unit and we will see drastic improvements next season.


When all else fails, trust in Colbert.
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Old 03-05-2009, 11:44 AM   #6
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Default Re: Cook: Steelers line good enough

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Originally Posted by GBMelBlount View Post
Cool. I was under the impression we had our heads in the sand the last two years but apparently we didn't .
Oh sure. For instance you don't want your head so deep in the sand that you don't burn a 4th rounder on a punter ...
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Old 03-05-2009, 11:52 AM   #7
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Default Re: Cook: Steelers line good enough

Quote:
Originally Posted by mesaSteeler View Post
Cook: Steelers line good enough
Submitted by SHNS on Wed, 03/04/2009 - 15:30.
http://www.scrippsnews.com/node/41453
....

"Hopefully, they'll continue to grow and improve," Colbert said.
....
Hope if for things you have no control over. He should have a plan that involves the draft, coaching etc. Speaking like this makes it sound like the staff has nothign to do with the O-line. I realize they have a plan etc, just my pet peave.

While I concur to some extent that they'll improve somewhat just from Gelling and returning the same starters, what are we expecting for improvement? 46 sacks to 40 maybe? The talent level needs to improve in the long run.
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Old 03-05-2009, 12:25 PM   #8
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Default Re: Cook: Steelers line good enough

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Originally Posted by Steely McSmash View Post
Hope if for things you have no control over. He should have a plan that involves the draft, coaching etc.
Yeah, we don't need Obama making personnel decisions for our team, that's for sure.

In all honesty, I don't think the line is completely terrible. We are going to have inflated sack numbers as long as we have a scrambling quarterback and a one-dimensional running back. The line is so-so. But MAN, is it ever atrocious how much we're paying them for what we're getting.
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Old 03-05-2009, 12:42 PM   #9
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Default Re: Cook: Steelers line good enough

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Originally Posted by Steely McSmash View Post
Oh sure. For instance you don't want your head so deep in the sand that you don't burn a 4th rounder on a punter ...
Would've been nice to have that "waste of a 4th round pick" in there this past season as opposed to 25-yard-punt Berger or Ernster who was even worse.

Funny how a lot of folks trivialize punters and kickers until they're stuck with one that sucks. Of course, they're generally the same folks that operated under the delusion that the next Ray Guy-in-waiting just had to be available somewhere when the aforementioned "waste of a 4th round pick" wound up on IR for the season.
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Old 03-05-2009, 12:47 PM   #10
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Default Re: Cook: Steelers line good enough

On a happier note...
At least the amount of "Fire Tomlin!" and "Fire Arians!" threads seem to have dimished this year.
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