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BlackGold4vr
01-27-2009, 11:38 AM
courtesy of scout.com

Every year in January the best college football talent descends on Mobile, Alabama to attend the Senior Bowl. In all-star game order of importance there is the Senior Bowl, and then everything else. Where better to begin addressing the Steelers' needs upfront.

What sets the Senior Bowl apart from the others is that a committee sends out invitations based on who NFL teams want to see. The game has less to do with college achievement; it has more to do about being a serious NFL prospect. It’s run by NFL coaches who work the players very hard, simulating a pro-style training environment as well as following NFL rules.

Like other teams, the Pittsburgh Steelers sent its own cadre of scouts to view this year’s bumper crop. And while most positions garnered some level of scrutiny, offensive line should have been a main area of concentration.

Pittsburgh ranked just 23rd in rushing offense and 29th in quarterback sacks allowed. Certainly not all of this can be pinned on the 0-line considering they played the NFL’s hardest schedule in the last 25 years. However, it would be naive to think that Pittsburgh won’t address this position early in the upcoming draft.

Pittsburgh hasn’t spent a 1st or 2nd round pick on the O-Line since 2002, making this an area of prime need.

Examining things a little closer (from Football Outsiders):

| Left | End | Left | Tackle | Mid | Guard | Right | Tackle | Right | End
year | ALY | Rank | ALY | Rank | ALY | Rank | ALY | Rank | ALY | Rank
2008 | 4.86 | 10 | 4.74 | 8 | 3.96 | 24 | 3.17 | 32 | 4.05 | 19
2007 | 4.66 | 10 | 4.59 | 10 | 3.73 | 28 | 4.54 | 11 | 4.33 | 12

*Note: Adjusted Line Yards (ALY) -- rushing yards as measured by offensive line performance

Pittsburgh’s ALY dropped noticeably on the right side in 2008, now ranking a dismal 32nd behind right tackle and 19th around right end. Key factors appear to be the general weakness of Stapleton/Colon at the point of attack along with the loss of Alan Faneca and the G-Power series of running plays. Say what you want about Alan, but he remains one of the premier pulling guards in the league.

It also didn’t help matters that Pittsburgh ran to the right and up the middle far more often than to the strength of the team on their left.

| RB Carries | Left End | Left Tackle | Mid/Guard | Right Tackle | Right End
Steelers | 410 | 8% | 10% | 56% | 16% | 10%
NFL Avg. | n/a | 11% | 14% | 50% | 14% | 10%


Taking a closer look at the individual linemen:

Player | Games Started | Penalties | False Starts | Holding | Sacks Allowed
M. Starks | 12 | 2 | 0 | 2 | 4
C. Kemoeatu | 16 | 6 | 5 | 0 | 7.5
J. Hartwig | 16 | 2 | 0 | 2 | 6.5
D. Stapleton | 12 | 4 | 3 | 1 | 5
W. Colon | 16 | 11 | 6 | 4 | 5.75


Max Starks and Justin Hartwig were your most effective and consistent starters. While they’ll never be stars, you won’t lose games with them in your lineup. The guard position is another story. Chris Kemoeatu remains a physical talent whose mental mistakes led to drive-killing penalties and quarterback sacks. While Darnell Stapleton stepped in admirably for Kendall Simmons, he probably should be viewed as a top reserve. Willie Colon improved on his sack totals from 2007, but he was flagged eleven times for penalties. Six false starts and four holding calls are indicative of a guy playing out of position.

So if we want to set the scene, finding an athletic hog who can play guard or force Colon inside should be high on the list.

Since the Senior Bowl game is now complete, we can make an initial assessment. Most draft experts would tell you that the tackle class is strong at the top, but the guard talent is particularly weak. This is not good news since the top rated tackles will be off the board when Pittsburgh picks and no guard carries a round 1 draft grade. Not all is lost, however, because the center position is as talented and deep as seen in recent memory.

Player | Height | Weight | Projected Round
Alex Mack | 6'4" | 312 | 1.2
Max Unger | 6'5" | 300 | 2
Jonathan Luigs | 6'4" | 302 | 2.3
Eric Wood | 6'4" | 304 | 3
Antoine Caldwell | 6'4" | 307 | 3.4
AQ Shipley | 6'1" | 300 | 4.5

*Note: 1.2 denotes late round 1, early round 2, etc.

Any of the top 4-5 players could conceivably be 2nd round draft picks with Alex Mack being a fringe round 1 player. He’s certainly a top 40 talent, which for Pittsburgh might be enough incentive to pull the trigger at the end of the round. From the book, The Draft by Pete Williams: “Picking later in the round requires a different mindset”...”As the Buccaneers improved in the late 1990s and began drafting later; McKay, Tim Ruskell, and Jerry Angelo realized they had to change their thinking. A player they previously considered an early second-round pick needed to be viewed as a late first-rounder especially with the additions of four new franchises between 1995 and 2002.”

Consider this just some food for thought.

All the players listed, except for A.Q. Shipley, bring the added versatility to play any interior O-Line position. This is huge considering the dearth of talent at guard, and is the primary reason most were tried there during the Senior Bowl.

Of those playing, I was particularly impressed with the performances of Alex Mack, Eric Wood and Antoine Caldwell, as they all looked like they could make successful guard transitions.

One other player that caught my attention is Tyronne Green from Auburn. He’s been on my radar for awhile now and is a true guard prospect. He played on a bad team this season, but is battle tested, having started 25 games in the tough South Eastern Conference. Green has the skill set to excel in the Steelers offense; he’s the best pulling guard in the draft and a natural left guard prospect. He’s slightly undersized, but is tenacious, and has the best initial pop off the snap according to Coach Mike Tice. Mike Mayock pointed him out as an under-the-radar type of player which means you can expect him to fly up the draft boards. He remains my number 1 guard prospect.

Moving on to tackle, it seems as long as Bruce Arians remains Offensive Coordinator it’s doubtful Willie Colon would be moved inside to guard. That being said, we as Steelers fans can only hope.

Perhaps it would take invoking the “planet theory” in order to change Bruce’s mind. If that’s the case, Phil Loadholt is the individual to target. Phil is 6’8” and a cut 340lbs, according to the scouts. He’s a mountain of a man with solid athletic skills. Phil does an excellent job blocking for the running game, has decent feet and plays with aggression. However, compared to Marcus McNeil, a similarly sized player, Phil is a right tackle prospect only. Marcus McNeill played at Auburn and was a better athlete who displayed left tackle potential. Phil just doesn't have that kind of ability, but with NFL coaching on his technique he can become a solid pro player. McNeil was drafted in the middle of round 2, so Loadholt appears be an end of round 2 talent.

Would Pittsburgh consider drafting him at the end of round 1? Chances are very good that some team will draft Phil simply because they ascribe to the planet theory. And from Pittsburgh’s standpoint, what value do you place on adding a quality right tackle prospect while at the same time moving Willie Colon to guard? In this case, making one selection to fix two roster spots might not sound like too steep a price to pay.

I’ll have a clearer picture after the NFL combine when the true value of this draft class can be determined. So stay tuned for more detailed positional reports and breakdowns.


Very nice breakdown of the O-line and its weaknesses. If I had to put a line on a player Alex Mack is looking like he could be the guy. We'll see how things shake out at the combine. Tyronne Green could be a nice day 2 pick-up in the 5th or 6th round. The Steelers have always loved mobile guards who can pull and Tyronne is getting some good accolades in that department. :thinking:

JensK
01-27-2009, 11:55 AM
Id love Mack. How about Tony Hills? We drafted him last year.. is he any good?

BlackGold4vr
01-27-2009, 01:25 PM
Id love Mack. How about Tony Hills? We drafted him last year.. is he any good?


I asked that same question yesterday in another thread. The injury Tony suffered his senior year at Texas was a broken fibula, not a knee injury. That is a good thing because leg bones are easier to heal than torn ligaments. Tony Hills played Left Tackle for the Longhorns and started for 2 seasons. In 2007 the year he was injured he was an All-American and the Longhorns best offensive lineman. Most of their running plays were run behind the blocks of Tony Hills. I figure that he will definitely play a critical role in the future for the Steelers. Last year he was the 10th tackle selected in the draft but would have been picked much higher had he not been injured. K-train says he was very good in camp this year and should compete for the starting job next year. We need for him to pan out for us! :crossfingers:

Black@Gold Forever32
01-27-2009, 07:51 PM
Very nice breakdown of the O-line and its weaknesses. If I had to put a line on a player Alex Mack is looking like he could be the guy. We'll see how things shake out at the combine. Tyronne Green could be a nice day 2 pick-up in the 5th or 6th round. The Steelers have always loved mobile guards who can pull and Tyronne is getting some good accolades in that department. :thinking:

Yes another Tyrone Green fan.........I'm an agreement and he is big reason why I want this team to avoid drafting Duke Robinson in the first round....Like you said Green is a very good at pulling and really fits the Steelers type of OG........I really like Mack but Eric Wood is my favorite center in this draft.....I think he will fit in well with the Steelers...I mentioned Wood a few weeks back and his strong week at the Senior Bowl was nice to see.....I wouldn't be against the drafting of Alex Mack at all......But I like Wood....

My hope is for Eben Britton in the first.....Then Wood and Green in the later rounds........

BlackGold4vr
01-27-2009, 08:47 PM
I really like Mack but Eric Wood is my favorite center in this draft.....I think he will fit in well with the Steelers...I mentioned Wood a few weeks back and his strong week at the Senior Bowl was nice to see.....I wouldn't be against the drafting of Alex Mack at all......But I like Wood....

My hope is for Eben Britton in the first.....Then Wood and Green in the later rounds........


Why do you feel Wood is the better fit with the Steelers? I am not partial to anyone and don't watch a lot of college ball so I haven't watched any of these guys play. I am just basing my judgements on what I am reading from scouts and sports writers who often have a pretty good read on things. Most of the scouts have Unger and Mack as the 2 top centers. Perhaps Wood is the best of the bunch, but why do you believe that he is?

As for Britton....you have won me over on him. I have been reading all I can find on Tony Hills and I am excited to see how he competes for the LT job this spring. He was an All-American his last year at Texas at LT and was their best O-lineman. I believe we will part ways with Marvel Smith and Max Starks this year which will leave us dangerously thin at tackle. Nothing against Max but he aint worth 7 million! A draft including Britton - Wood - Green could give us a young O-line next year with promise to grow into a GREAT line in the next few years.

At this point I'm ready to blow up the entire line and start over. A completely revamped line could hardly do worse than what we had this year! We have a patchwork line of misfits.

How would this be for next years line?

LT - Hills | LG - Kemoeatu | C - Hartwig | RG - Wood | RT - Britton


Colon, Essex, Stapleton, Green in reserves

Black@Gold Forever32
01-27-2009, 09:01 PM
I like Alex Mack and I think he is the best center in this draft.....But I really havn't watched Mack that much.....I have watched more Louisville games then Cal games the past few years so I have seen Wood play quite a few times........I usually keep up with the Big 10 and Big East.......Wood the times I have seen him plays just reminds me of a Steelers type of center......Just a rock in the middle of the OL....I don't think he will be the next Dermontti Dawson but I think he is going to be solid player......Trust me I won't complain if the Steelers draft Mack.....He is a very good player....From what I have read and the few times I have seen him.....Another thing to consider the Steelers are high on Darnell Stapleton and they do feel center is his better position......With Hartwig and Stapleton I don't if the Steelers are looking to draft a center......

The Steelers will need some kind of experience at OT next year.....Maybe they sign a lower or middle level FA OT......Starting Tony Hills at LT just scares me and really is unrealistic in my opinion.......I just find it hard to believe Hills will start next year at LT......I'm not really sold on him either.....I'm not saying he doesn't have potential but I have to see more and read more about Hills before declaring him the out right starter at LT next year.....I'm hoping for Britton or I pray that Michael Oher falls in the draft...lol

I'm not against blowing up this OL at all either......

BlackGold4vr
01-27-2009, 09:29 PM
Texas was a powerhouse the years Tony Hills played and going into his senior year in 07 he was touted as their best O-lineman. His play that year earned him All-American and the scouting reports said they ran most of their running plays to his side. I believe he might have just had some misfortune like Michael Bush did. Injuries have a way of knocking a player down that draft board. Hills was a converted tight end and his footwork is supposed to be one of his strengths! Could he be worse than Willie Colon?

Here is a scouting report I found on Britton.


2009 NFL Draft Prospect - Eben Britton, OL, Arizona
Britton was redshirted prior the 2005 campaign. He began 2006 as the Wildcats' starting right tackle -- a position he held until he switched to the left in 2008. Britton started all of the thirty-seven games he saw action in. He was a Second Team All PAC-10 selection in 2007, and he will most likely earn some All American votes for his play this season.

The massive Britton is one of the early risers in many 2009 Draft Boards and with good reason. Britton is a natural, fluid athlete who is very fast (5.05) for his immense size. He moves well once he gains the second level and is a good pass blocker who shows great footwork and natural knee bend. Moving very well laterally, he has enough strength to seal off a side. Britton has shown the ability to pull and work up the field and is a very competitive and well respected leader in the huddle. Although he has a high pain threshold, he has struggled with the wide rush and does not handle stunts well. He needs to bulk up, as well as finishing consistently and his tendency to play too tall.

Britton is a top talent who will play regularly on Sundays. He does need better technique and more coaching, but he is a top tier player very similar to Denver's Ryan Clady.


Being compared to Ryan Clady is not a bad thing. Clady made the pro-bowl this year in his rookie year. Only other tackle I remember doing that in recent memory was Joe Thomas. No doubt, tackle is our biggest need!

K Train
01-28-2009, 12:56 AM
mcneil from the chargers made it his rookie year i think and he was a second rounder.

britton is alright, not exactly one of my favorite guys but i wouldnt complain if we grabbed him. mack has the ability to put guys on their asses, thats where he seperates himself from the other centers. probably the best center to come out since mangold.

i like tony hills, i like him alot. i think he will make a big push next year, had he not gotten hurt he would have been a top 10 guy, hes a phenominal pass blocker and he tore up preseason, not so much camp, but actual game time.

K Train
01-28-2009, 01:09 AM
and i really think this is being a little hard on the oline, look at where we are and how theyve come together. while i thought they were bums at the start of the season too, but theyve overcome sucking alot and it could be alot worse. an overhaul isnt needed, but there is one truly dominate piece missing, no doubt about it

Black@Gold Forever32
01-28-2009, 01:37 AM
Texas was a powerhouse the years Tony Hills played and going into his senior year in 07 he was touted as their best O-lineman. His play that year earned him All-American and the scouting reports said they ran most of their running plays to his side. I believe he might have just had some misfortune like Michael Bush did. Injuries have a way of knocking a player down that draft board. Hills was a converted tight end and his footwork is supposed to be one of his strengths! Could he be worse than Willie Colon?

Here is a scouting report I found on Britton.




Being compared to Ryan Clady is not a bad thing. Clady made the pro-bowl this year in his rookie year. Only other tackle I remember doing that in recent memory was Joe Thomas. No doubt, tackle is our biggest need!

Ryan Clady was my favorite OL in last years draft....I liked him more then Jake Long.....So Britton being compared to Clady is good news......

As for Tony Hills.....I'm not writing him off by no means but I don't think we should count on him to be the starting LT next year....Hopefully he is a bad *** since that will help the Steelers.....

K Train
01-28-2009, 01:42 AM
i was very pro-chris williams lol

Black@Gold Forever32
01-28-2009, 01:45 AM
i was very pro-chris williams lol

I was very pro Chris Williams to.....But I also liked Ryan Clady and of course we both liked Michael Oher.......Dude I'm pro LT in every draft and you know this....lol Trust me I hope Tony Hills is the future LT of this team since its a huge need......I just don't want to think of him......The Steelers track record of drafting OL on the second day of the draft hasn't been to stellar the last few years.....I know how much you like Hills Ktrain.....So I guess I'm going to have to trust your judgment....

JensK
01-28-2009, 03:41 AM
and i really think this is being a little hard on the oline, look at where we are and how theyve come together. while i thought they were bums at the start of the season too, but theyve overcome sucking alot and it could be alot worse. an overhaul isnt needed, but there is one truly dominate piece missing, no doubt about it

I agree to a certain point. It is a little like Sweed. What a oline really need is reps. Look at Giants line. 5 years ago, noone would have thought that line would become one of the best in the league. What we need is one or two new guys on the line, and then they need to play their asses off. Colon needs to disapear ( i know i wanted him to try at guard, but i think i would rather just make burn in hell ). Hartwig is a decent center for us, but we really need a center we can rely on for years to come. If Tony Hills can play next year we really only need another tackle imho.

BlackGold4vr
01-28-2009, 10:50 AM
and i really think this is being a little hard on the oline, look at where we are and how theyve come together. while i thought they were bums at the start of the season too, but theyve overcome sucking alot and it could be alot worse. an overhaul isnt needed, but there is one truly dominate piece missing, no doubt about it


We are not here because of them but in spite of them. Do they rank last in the league? No. But in pass pro they are close to last. In their defense we have a QB who holds the ball longer than he should so he creates some of his own sacks. But not all sacks can be pinned on Ben. How many times have we watched guys completely miss their blocks and Ben gets creamed. Not even getting a hand on their guy is inexcuseable! I would also be more tolerant if we didn't also rank near the bottom half of the league in running. Far too many of the Steelers running plays are blown up in the backfield because of poor blocks. Bottom line.....if you compare this O-line to just the one a few years back that won the SB, there is no comparison.

That line consisted almost entirely of 1st and 2nd round draft picks. The following tables depict the draft round and overall position number in the draft for that player.

M.Smith | A. Faneca | J. Hartings | K. Simmons | M.Starks
2-38 | 1-26 | 1-23 | 1-30 | 3-75

AVERAGE DRAFT POSITION = [192 DIVIDED BY 5 = 38]

This O-line was often talked about as one of....if not the best line in the NFL.

M. Starks | C. Kemoeatu | J. Hartwig | D. Stapleton | W. Colon
3-75 | 6-204 | 6-187 | U-256 | 4-131

AVERAGE DRAFT POSITION = [853 DIVIDED BY 5 = 170]

This O-line has never been in the conversation when talking about great O-lines.

Note: The last pick in the 2007 draft was #255. Because Darnell Stapleton was an undrafted free agent I assigned him a number of 256 which is actually being generous.

I think calling this line a group of misfits is completely accurate! :thinking:

In 2005 Max Starks was the lowest drafted player in the entire line (by a lot). Now he is the highest drafted player in the entire line (by a lot). If that doesn't give you a clue, nothing will.

I believe most of our guys don't even make the team in other cities, let alone start.

We need to blow the whole thing up and start over! Of course we can't do it in one year. It will take several years to filter out all these bums!

If you really believe that these late round project picks can someday become pro-bowlers then why bother to draft new ones higher in the draft? Why not just pick some more 6th and 7th round scrubs or even better yet.....some more undrafted free agents. For you to defend their play is to try to offer us hope that if we keep a bad thing long enough they will keep improving or perhaps our standards will just be lowered enough to be happy with mediocrity!

MDSteel15
01-31-2009, 01:43 AM
LT - Hills | LG - Kemoeatu | C - Hartwig | RG - Wood | RT - Britton

Colon, Essex, Stapleton, Green in reserves

Why do you have Wood at RG when he is a center? We have plenty of gaurds! :thinking:

BlackGold4vr
01-31-2009, 02:01 AM
Why do you have Wood at RG when he is a center? We have plenty of gaurds! :thinking:


Centers and guards are both considered interior lineman and are usually able to play both positions. If you watched the senior bowl you saw all these centers taking their turns playing guard. :yesnod:

MDSteel15
01-31-2009, 02:21 AM
Centers and guards are both considered interior lineman and are usually able to play both positions. If you watched the senior bowl you saw all these centers taking their turns playing guard. :yesnod:

I did watch the game, but as I've stated before, I don't want a player that is "versatile" I want a stud that can play his natural position :cursin:

K Train
01-31-2009, 01:32 PM
someone who can dominate can be versatile, it doesnt matter where they are as long as they are on the field. versatility sucks when the player isnt really all that good at any one position......we all remember sean mahan to well.

steelcityrockers
01-31-2009, 03:51 PM
Can someone please explain to me why a lot of people think center is still a dire need?