PITTSBURGH — If the NFL season started today, Chris Kemoeatu would be the Steelers’ starting left guard.
At least that’s the opinion of offensive line coach Larry Zierlein.
“Chris is going to get the shot,” he said. “I’ll tell you what, I have a lot of confidence in that guy.”
With perennial All-Pro Alan Faneca having moved on via free agency, there’s a vacancy at left guard for the first time since 1998. Last week during two organized team activity workouts, it was Kemoeatu who played the position with the first-team offense.
A huge, powerful man who goes 6-foot-3 and 345 pounds, Kemoeatu has the physical skills to handle the job. But he’s perceived as a player prone to struggle when it comes to learning and knowing his assignments. That perception was enhanced two years ago when he lost his playbook the night before Super Bowl XL.
As the story goes, Kemoeatu left a hotel dining room with a menu in hand while leaving his playbook behind.
A fifth-round pick in the 2005 draft, Kemoeatu was given the chance to win the starting job at right guard last summer in training camp, but couldn’t nudge out incumbent Kendall Simmons.
“(Chris) was ready to play last year, (but) Kendall kind of won the thing. But it was close,” Zierlein said. “When we came out of training camp and the pre-season games, the grades were close. But this kid is ready to play. I like him, I really do like him. I think he’s going to be a good player.”
Don’t be surprised if the Steelers’ offensive line next seasons looks like this: Marvel Smith at left tackle, Kemoeatu at left guard, free agent acquisition Justin Hartwig at center, Simmons at right guard and Max Starks back at right tackle where he started in 2005 and ’06.