This is the interview that gives more insight on his initial assessment on the OL so far.
LARRY ZIERLEIN, offensive line coach, Pittsburgh Steelers
Q: Do you believe in the so-called short sets more than Russ did?
A: Well, I don’t know. As I’ve looked at tape of these guys, Kendall and Alan had been doing it this way. A short set is getting your hands on him now. It doesn’t mean you’re going to attack him or anything else, although sometimes they get a little out of balance if they don’t time their punch right. But I don’t think for Alan or Kendall it’s anything different because I’ve always seen those guys get their hands on them pretty quick. Now, tackles are a little different story on the short set. We’re not asking them to short set, we’re asking them to just take the same set, but the minute you touch them get your hands on them. The quicker you get your hands on a guy, then you eliminate all of those pre-contact moves that they have and now they go into their counter stuff. If you don’t make contact with them as quick as you can, you not only have to deal with all the pre-contact stuff, but then you’ve got to deal with all the counter stuff also. Plus, you kind of squeeze the pocket, and those quarterbacks … sometimes I think an offensive lineman feels like, ‘Well, the guy’s not at the quarterback.’ But he’s starting to squeeze it and the quarterback’s feeling a bit of pressure. So we like to keep the pocket as wide as we can. I tell you, Willie Colon really did it good yesterday. He kept that thing wide. And Marvel went out and got hit in pass pro and went out and got his hands on him. They’re not jumping, or short-setting, the tackles aren’t. But we just want them to get the hands on a little quicker, keep the pocket wider, and eliminate some of the things that the defender can do. Now when you do that, you’ve got to be careful that you don’t overextend because sometimes a guy will equate, in his mind, a short set with an aggressive set. And the minute the defense sees that you’re short-setting, and if you’re leaning a little bit, they’re going to start coming up and under and those kinds of things. It’s a controlled thing. It’s not an aggressive thing. It’s a controlled thing: just get your hands on him as quick as you can. That’s it.
Q: On the competitions, do you have in your mind what you think is going to happen?
A: I really don’t. It would be nice to. You’d like to right now say, ‘This guy’s this, this guy’s this, and this guy’s this.’ But we’re going to play it out. You kind of hope that after a couple preseason games that we can say, ‘Hey, this looks like what it is.’ But we’ll go until we say, ‘Somebody has definitely separated himself from the other guy.’ And when that is, there’s no set date. Obviously, the quicker the better so we can start working as a unit. It could be that group we’ve got there right now.
Q: But you had just praised Colon , and I watched Colon kill LaMarr Woodley the other day –
A: Yeah, and that was a short set that he used. Now he did jump, but he’s done it in college so he’s got a background. If you go back and look at the tape, he did jump-set him and it completely surprised Woodley. Woodley wasn’t expecting him to make contact that quick, because he changed the tempo for Woodley. A rusher gets into a tempo. They say, ‘I’m going to do this and this and this, and when this happens I’m going to do that.’ And all of the sudden, bang, you get your hands on him quick and it surprises them a little bit.
Q: You really like Kendall in the spring, and he’s got the quick hands. Hasn’t he improved his body as well?
A: He lost 12 or 13 pounds. I think he came in at 305. These guys really came in in good shape. Max is down. But, yeah, Kendall did do a little dieting and working out this offseason. It’s a good group. They work.
Q: Casey Hampton gives Mahan the edge at center because he’s a veteran with a bag of tricks. For example, he knows how to hold.
A: Yeah, that’s … well, of course, there is no holding in this league. That’s illegal. That’s a penalty. Now, if you clutch, there is nothing in the rulebook about clutching. (Lowers voice) There is no holding. There’s only clutching. We don’t use the word holding.
Q: So you’re going to let it play out. You had in the spring that you’re going to wait for the preseason games anyway.
A: We have to. We’re getting a better idea right now than in the OTAs and minicamps and all that stuff. You know, I’m grading every guy on every play in all the nine-on-sevens and everything, and there is nobody separating yet. One day, Willie might have won more; he might’ve gotten more pluses than Max did. The next day it may be the other day. It’s the same way at every position that’s being contested, so there are no winners or losers yet.
Q: I brought up the Colon-Woodley matchup during he one-on-one drills. I also wanted to ask you about Trai Essex knocking Brett Keisel on his back with a quick punch. What happened there?
A: Well, it wasn’t the punch that knocked him down. You look at the video and it looks like it. Again, Trai’s been a guy that sinks, sinks, sinks, sinks, and I think that’s what Brett was expecting. All of the sudden there was Trai and Brett tries to make an adjustment and kind of lost his balance. Trai did a nice job, but I think Brett was just surprised he was there that quick and he tried to make a counter and kind of lost his balance.
Q: So your methods are paying off, right?
A: I don’t know. We’ll find out.
Q: But it seems like they’re listening to you.
A: Well, I hope they are. But Russ did a helluva job with these guys. Russ is a great football coach and I’m trying not to change a whole lot. Obviously, technique things, there are some things that I believe in. But I don’t know how much of a difference there is.
Q: You seem to be more of a quiet teacher.
A: I don’t know about that. I don’t know how Russ did it, but he had great results. I do know that.
27 July 2007