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Old 12-04-2010, 08:01 AM   #1
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Default Steelers' offensive line struggling with holding

Steelers' offensive line struggling with holding


By John Harris
Saturday, December 4, 2010

Steelers left guard Chris Kemoeatu was called for three holding penalties last week against Buffalo. A fourth holding call was declined.

Kemoeatu was embarrassed by his performance, his worst in three seasons as a starter. When asked if he considered making a lineup change during the game, coach Mike Tomlin said he stuck with Kemoeatu because of how the offensive line bounced back repeatedly from adversity. For Kemoeatu, it was a message to step up his game.

"I'm going to do whatever I can not to hold," said Kemoeatu, who will make his 68th NFL start Sunday night against the Baltimore Ravens. "I've got to do a better job technique-wise."

The rash of penalties was unexpected for Kemoeatu, who picked up his first three holding penalties of the season against Buffalo.

Kemoeatu prides himself on being consistent and solid. His play against Buffalo was out of character.

"There were definitely some plays that were iffy, but I can't point any fingers," Kemoeatu said.

Asked if comments by Oakland Raiders defensive tackle Tommy Kelly following a 35-3 loss to the Steelers may have led to officials targeting the offensive line, Kemoeatu said no. However, the timing was curious that a week after Kelly spoke out, the Steelers were penalized four times for holding.

"Yeah, they were holding," Kelly said. "You're trying to get off blocks, and (they) are still holding and scratching. We knew that coming into the game. Coach stressed that they hold a lot."

Right guard Ramon Foster said Kelly's comments put the Steelers offensive line under scrutiny.

"Kelly's statement was very bold and effective," Foster said. "Maybe it opened up the referee's eyes to it. It was just one of those things he said and now we're being watched. We had so many holding calls."

Kemoeatu took full responsibility for his performance.

"Obviously, it's holding. A penalty is a penalty, and I'm wrong," Kemoeatu said. "If they see holding, they call it. I don't want everybody thinking everything is not fair. Yeah, I did hold, and I got penalized for it."

Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said all offensive linemen hold in some form or fashion. Arians said it's an accepted part of the game.

"You can call holding on every play if you want to," Arians said. "When you knock a guy down, and they think it's holding, it's a subjective thing. If it's me, if it's a quarterback getting hit (or) you hold, please hold."

Protecting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, whose mobility will be limited because of a sprained right foot, becomes essential against the Ravens.

"I've got to make sure I get my hands inside," Kemoeatu said. "They want your hands shoulder-width anything inside the shoulder. Anything outside the shoulder could be called holding."

Tomlin and Arians stressed the importance of the offensive line playing smart and limiting "post-snap" penalties against Baltimore in a game to determine first place in the AFC North.

"Playing a team like Baltimore, we'd better be very cautious about putting ourselves into these circumstances," Tomlin said.

Said Arians: "When you put yourself in a hole, you've got to dig yourself out. We've been doing that a little too much."

John Harris can be reached at jharris@tribweb.com or 412-481-5432.
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