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Alright, Let's Talk About The OH Line... E-mail
Written by Cotter   
August 18, 2010 11:23

[Click to enlarge]

So, about that O-line.

That OH, line - the headline was not a typo...

Yesterday, when I informally queried you fine lot of Facebook aficionados, at least two of the 10 of you who responded said I should write about the O-line.

Not a bad idea, guys.

There are several major issues the Steelers are facing going into this season, among them being - how to bridge the gap between week 1 and whichever week Herr Goodell permits Large Benjamin to return to the Steelers, whether the kick and punt coverage teams will let up 16 more runbacks this season (yes, I know it wasn't actually 16), and of course, the offensive line.

The O-line, the O-line...

Why is it always the O-line?

I don't think one season has gone by in the last three years since I've been writing this blog when the O-line wasn't an issue or at least a worry. Strike that, I KNOW not one year has gone by in the time I've been writing this blog in which the O-line wasn't a cause for concern.

I guess it's just the nature of the beast here.

I wish I could say that it's one thing or another. Sadly, this year's line actually looks better than the past couple on paper. But, reality is where it counts, my friends. And how good the line looks there, is, well, we'll see...

It's hard to really extrapolate anything out of one meaningless preseason game against the LIONS, so I'm going to try and keep this discussion (if you can call it that) at a pretty general level. I may reference things that surfaced last Saturday, but it's important to keep in mind that we're still a solid three and a half weeks away from anything that will count in the win/loss columns.

Anyways, in no certain order, here are the "issues" with the O-line...

#1 - Flozell Adams making the transition from LT to RT and being old as a word I semi-temporarily cannot say on here for fear that prospective employers might stumble upon this blog and think I've got a poop mouth....

[Thanks to Steelers Depot for the video!]

What, you want me to expand on that?

You all watched the same game I did, right?

I'm not going to pretend I'm an expert on offensive line technique, but I'm not friggin' blind.

He had a problem at LT in Dallas last season keeping up with speed rushers, and there's a reason they didn't want him back. I was happy to have him as a Steeler, even playing an unnatural position, because it's always nice to have extra security around (especially when you play the Bengals and Ray Lewis twice every year), but if anyone is expecting him to play like a pro bowler this year, maybe now's a good time to lower your expectations.

When Jonathan Scott spelled him on Saturday, things seemed to improve. However, when Jonathan Scott spelled him, it wasn't an all-first-team game anymore.

It's possible that in the few weeks left before we bring it in for the real thing, Scott or someone else will step up and outplay Flozell. But just as with QBs, Tomlin isn't exactly the most inclined to reconsider a decision that he has more or less already made in his mind.

And hey, three and a half more weeks.

Can you teach an old dog new tricks?

Only time will tell.

Which brings me to my next point...

#2 - [Most likely] Protecting the world's slowest QB who has the worlds longest throwing motion...

Assuming Byron Leftwich is the Steelers QB for the first four to six weeks of the season, Flozell Adams better light a fire and run some wind sprints.

Anyone who's ever watched him knows that Leftwich needs TIME to work, and with Flozell Adams at RT, eek, things could get hairier than Rosie O'Donnell's balls (no offense, Rosie, I'm sure you have nice balls).

The rest of the starting line looks like this (right now) - LT Max Starks, LG Chris Kemoeatu ("Big Juicy" if you like nicknames that make the player sound like he belongs on the McDonald's Dollar Menu), C Justin Hartwig, and RG Trai Essex.

Most of these guys have been part of the Steelers offensive line for at least the last two years, although Kemo's first year starting was last year, and Trai Essex has only been a spot starter/capable backup. So at least they have experience. But they don't have experience working with the world's least mobile QB this side of Trent Green.

A lot of the Steelers offensive success last season was due to Ben's ability to dance around in the backfield, avoiding large angry men in order to extend a play and find an open man.

The chances of Byron Leftwich doing the same are about the same as the chances that I finish this sentence...

#8,351 - Maurkice Pouncey or Justin Hartwig?

I place this one approximately 8,351st on the list, because it's not an issue so much as it is a blessing. Say what you will about what Pouncey was able to do against the Lions, he's still a rookie. And as has been widely noted over the last several days, playing Center is probably the toughest position to play along the line because of the calls you need to make.

When was the last time you can remember a Steelers rookie starting at Center in the "modern era?" If you answered "never," you probably read the Trib on Monday too. Not even HOF Center Mike Webster and hopefully soon-to-be Canton-bound Dermontti Dawson started as rookies (of course, Dawson wasn't drafted as a Center).

This of course doesn't mean Pouncey can't be a trendsetter. I mean, there's a reason why the Steelers coaching staff has so much confidence in him that they have him rotating 50/50 with Hartwig in practice.

But let's not get so crazy just yet as to annoint him a better option to anchor the line than a guy who has served as starting Center for six out of his eight years in the league (the only years he didn't start were his rookie season in '02, and in '06 when he suffered a season ending injury in like the 1st game of the year).

Now, none of this changes the fact that it's awesome I'm even able to write about this.

If I asked you all to raise your hands if you've been waiting for the Steelers to draft offensive linemen (particularly a Center) in the first couple of rounds over the last handful of years, I doubt there'd be a hand unraised, unless it was down your pants. The fact that they finally drafted one in the 1st round this year is an indication that they saw something special. And anyone who watched him throw the block that sprung Redman on his now-infamous 31-yard run the other night, as well as another block DOWNFIELD on that same play would have a hard time saying Kevin Colbert got it wrong.

And now for a bonus topic...THE WIDE RECEIVERS...

So, here's what the stable of receivers (I smell a photoshop) looks like at present (in alphabetical order) - Arnaz Battle, Antonio Brown, Tyler Grisham, Brandon London, Antwan Randle El, Emmanuel Sanders, Mike Wallace, Hines Ward, and Isaiah Williams (Stefan Logan is listed as a RB right now for whatever reason, and while we could count him here as well, let's just not for now). 

Unfortunately for Isaiah Williams, Tyler Grisham and Brandon London, the odds don't look good.

The team is going to keep either five or six receivers.

I'm gonna make a bold prediction here and say that Hines Ward makes the 53-man roster.

Joining him naturally will be Mike Wallace and Antwan Randle El.

That means you've got two to three spots left.

The Steelers signed Arnaz Battle as a veteran free agent this offseason. I have a hard time believing that they'd sign a guy of his experience and ability only to cut him before the season. So let's say he makes the active roster.

One to two spots left.

Here's where I think it comes down to Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown. God, I'm so smart, right? It takes a lot of brains to apply logic, let me tell you...

Anyway, the team's probably not willing to chance one or both of them clearing waivers after drafting them in the 3rd and 6th rounds respectively.

So like I said, Grisham, Williams and London, maybe one of you makes the practice squad, but other than that, you're the unfortunate victims of having a talented depth chart at WR.

Now, maybe I'm wrong here. It certainly wouldn't be the first time, OR the 53,467th, as some of you who have been reading OFTOT long enough might be able to attest. But, as I see it, that's how it breaks down.

So, those are my thoughts, now I want to hear yours.

O-line. Wide Receivers.

What's up with their lives?

And, go.

If you haven't already, become a fan of OFTOT on Facebook and follow Cotter and Steve on Twitter. Or don't. Your choice, really.

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