View Full Version : Steelers OL-Garbage Men

Black@Gold Forever32
01-14-2009, 08:19 PM

PITTSBURGH - To understand how far the Steelers' offensive line has come entering Sunday's AFC championship game against Baltimore, let's revisit its postgame celebration after an overtime victory against the Ravens in late September.
There was none.Pittsburgh's running game could only muster 69 yards with a 2.5-yard average. Ben Roethlisberger was sacked three times and repeatedly hammered by Ravens defenders, leaving the Steelers quarterback steaming even though his team had just posted a 23-20 win.

"Ben came in and wrang our butts," said Steelers right tackle Willie Colon, whose unit had surrendered nine sacks the previous game against Philadelphia. "We deserved that. He probably should have called us more names because we weren't playing good at all."
No need. There were already enough darts being thrown by Steelers fans and media that believed a leaky line was going to get Roethlisberger injured and sink the team's Super Bowl chances.
"They definitely heard the criticism whether they wanted to or not," said Pittsburgh fullback Carey Davis, whose locker at Steelers headquarters is alongside the linemen's. "Some guys might have gotten down but they said, 'The hell with it. We're going to get together and be the best offensive line we can be.' "
That "best" isn't half bad.
Even as the Ravens return to Pittsburgh with the same vicious defense, Roethlisberger has far less reason to fear for his well-being. A revamped Steelers line can no longer be considered a liability, not after a season of gradual improvement that continued with last Sunday's 35-24 playoff thumping of San Diego.
The unit paved the way for a 146-yard, two touchdown rushing performance by Willie Parker and kept Roethlisberger's jersey almost spotless by allowing just one sack in 27 pass attempts. That protection was especially important with Roethlisberger coming off a spinal concussion suffered in the regular-season finale against Cleveland.
The line's upswing began when the current first-teamers -- left tackle Max Starks, left guard Chris Kemoeatu, center Justin Hartwig, right guard Darnell Stapleton and Colon -- started playing together. In the final 11 regular-season games, Pittsburgh averaged 324.8 yards with Roethlisberger being sacked a modest 28 times. In the first five contests, Roethlisberger went down 18 times and the Steelers averaged roughly 40 fewer yards.
"They're working better together," Ravens defensive tackle Justin Bannan said. "I noticed that the last time we played them (in December). They've changed a few things and done a good job with that."
On paper, that shouldn't have happened after the Steelers lost both of their best linemen.
Right guard Kendall Simmons tore his Achilles' tendon in the Week 4 win against Baltimore. The next game, left tackle Marvel Smith suffered a back injury that ended his season.
This left a group that no cell phone user -- especially Roethlisberger -- would want in their Fab Five.
Roethlisberger already was sacked 99 times the previous two seasons combined, the result of shaky protection and his penchant for holding onto the football too long while seeking open receivers. It seemed like Big Ben might fall that many times in 2008 alone, especially after suffering a shoulder injury in the season-opener against Houston.

Kemoeatu wasn't the same caliber guard as Alan Faneca, an eight-time Pro Bowl selection who joined the New York Jets as a free agent in the offseason. Before replacing Simmons, Stapleton had appeared in just one NFL game since signing with Pittsburgh as an undrafted college free agent in 2007. Hartwig was a free-agent upgrade at center but he isn't the second coming of Mike Webster. Colon was considered a solid starter and nothing more.
The lack of all-stars fits with the "Garbage Men" nickname Starks has given the group. Of course, that makes Starks the equivalent of Oscar the Grouch.
Starks became the most well known of Pittsburgh's linemen after Faneca's departure but for the wrong reason. The fifth-year veteran symbolized the unit's underachieving performance, failing to crack the starting lineup despite having signed a one-year, $6.9 million contract as Pittsburgh's transition-tag player. Starks was instead used on special teams and as a third tight end until being tabbed to replace the injured Smith. Since then, Starks has done surprisingly well protecting Roethlisberger's blindside.
"A lot of people came to me with that (criticism) and I didn't listen to it," Starks said. "Anything I was asked to do, I did it with a smile. I wanted to contribute and help my team be successful. When I had the opportunity to play left tackle, I really relished it and now feel really comfortable over there."
Such comfort didn't just come from practice repetitions. The entire Steelers line began spending just as much time building chemistry off the field.
"We pretty much do everything together eat, watch film, the whole nine yards," Stapleton said. "We're young. Most of us don't have families so we have time we can spend together.
"It's a group that loves one another. We're like brothers. If one person needs something, the other person is more than willing to help."
Hartwig, the senior member of the group, began taking on more of a leadership role. Roethlisberger even pitched in, taking the entire line on a November trip to Chicago to celebrate Hartwig's 30th birthday.
"It's a bunch of guys leaning on each other," said Colon, who is in his second year as a starter. "We understand we were in deep water as a unit. Every time you watched (TV), you saw Ben getting sacked or something bad happening. Guys would say, 'What the hell is the line doing?'
"We take that and wear it. We don't like to wear it but we do."
That same line will be wearing Super Bowl rings if the Steelers keep rolling. But even should Pittsburgh fall short, these "Garbage Men" have proven they aren't trash.
"It really feels good for all five of us to have become one," Starks said.

01-14-2009, 08:24 PM

01-14-2009, 08:25 PM
I don't have time to read the whole thing now, but it looks like a good article.

I liked the Colon story in last week's PPG in which Willie Colon was yelled at by a guy at Wal-Mart, becuase he "Better ****in block this week!" Colon's response: "I'm just here to buy a loaf of bread." oh and the line went out and had their best game of the year.

K Train
01-14-2009, 08:58 PM
nice article, and really true...they have come along way....not taking away from our glaring need for a dominate player somewhere on the line but they definitely have come to play lately...most are playing for jobs and they know it

Black@Gold Forever32
01-14-2009, 09:02 PM
nice article, and really true...they have come along way....not taking away from our glaring need for a dominate player somewhere on the line but they definitely have come to play lately...most are playing for jobs and they know it

I thought it was a very cool article to........Nice summary to there Ktrain.....I agree 100 percent with it.........

01-14-2009, 09:30 PM
Great read! The Garbage Men, I like it. A blemished badge of honor that they can shine up with the "Trophie Towel" after they take us to a SB win!!! :cope:

01-14-2009, 09:47 PM
just go out and prove you have come together for two more games!!! oh and now what?
who do we keep?

01-14-2009, 10:11 PM
wow thats a pretty sick way to look at it. They pretty much are all "garbage men" cause they did play like trash. And something about Steelers players is that when somebody says they cant the say **** you and do it anyway. So if they keep that mentality a 6th ring could be a certain possibility. but im sure we need to draft some linemen afterwards

K Train
01-14-2009, 10:18 PM
just go out and prove you have come together for two more games!!! oh and now what?
who do we keep?

starks is gonna get paid somewhere....which sucks cause now that hes playing like hes worth a damn after we invested so much damn time and money into his gator ***.

kemo would just be resigned...not my favorite player but i certainly dont hate him as much as i thought i was gonna.

hartwig was a great addition...i dont know what they have planned for him

love stapleton, i did since day one...simmons is done as a steeler and thats a good thing

colon....i hate that hes our best option at tackle....he would be such a good guard

i think smith is done too, his back is all kinds of ****ed up and even though he played great this year hes not worth the risk.

definitely gonna be interesting come draft time....but heres to this group of guys picking it up for 2 more games :tt02:

01-14-2009, 11:53 PM
Hartwig and Stapleton have (at least) another year on their contracts, afaik.

I think Smith is gone, unless he accepts a veteran's minimum, and then it's a question if he survives the cut.

However, I'm thinking they might wanna spend some cash on protecting Ben's blind-side. So, I'm wonder if that will affect who they keep out of Colon, Kemo and Starks. Although, if Starks is out just for $$$, he doubt he'll be a Steeler next year, unless we can franchise him again.

01-15-2009, 12:09 AM
All I can say is, it's time for the garbage men to take out the trash thats going to be at Heinz field this Sunday!:cope: BOOM SHACKA LACKA!!!

01-15-2009, 12:46 AM
This Sunday will be their first true test...

01-15-2009, 01:46 AM
This is kind of the new thing in the NFL though isn't it? Look at the NYG line and their improvement as a unit. To be honest I think if you took a lot of their guys and put them on separate teams they wouldn't be nearly as effective. I'd say having 5 okay players that play tight is a better option than 5 pro-bowl guys just thrown together. That said we should still draft an OL first day.

01-15-2009, 03:46 AM
The giant unit does have one or two dominating ppl on the line though, which is why the other guys steps op big time. What we, imho, really need is a dominating left tackle. Starks, if he stays, would be a dominating right guard. That would be able to move Colon to guard and then we would be set there. Kemo and Colon would get the job done. We need to get our self a really good center at one point as well, but Hartwig can get the job done at least one more year.

01-15-2009, 01:34 PM
One thing about this unit is that they finally seem to be playing with some confidence and that's a big thing that they apparently didn't have through the first 3 months of the season. They know the Ravens and they know what to expect so it just comes down to executing and not letting any guys come free from any direction. Last time we had 3 or 4 occasions during that game atleast when blitzers were coming free right up the middle and Ben had no chance to make a play.