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  1. #1
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    Battle for Center

    http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pitt.../s_581739.html

    Steelers Mahan defends starting spot
    By Scott Brown
    TRIBUNE-REVIEW

    Friday, August 8, 2008

    Justin Hartwig had a small camera crew shadowing him at training camp last week. One of the newest Steelers players is the subject of what he and a production company hope becomes a documentary about life as an NFL player.

    "I figured either way it would be a good idea to have footage for years down the road that my kids could look at some day," Hartwig said.

    The people who have filmed him for more than a year aren't the only ones watching Hartwig closely.

    The seventh-year veteran is locked into the Steelers' most significant training camp competition, one that takes center stage today when the Philadelphia Eagles visit Heinz Field for a 7:30 p.m. preseason game.

    Hartwig is trying to unseat incumbent Sean Mahan at a position that fell well short of the standard of excellence established by past Steelers centers such as Mike Webster, Dermontti Dawson and Jeff Hartings.

    Mahan, who started every game at center last season for the Steelers, will play with the first-team offense against the Eagles. Hartwig, the team's biggest free-agent signing this offseason, will work with the starters Thursday, when the Steelers play the Buffalo Bills in Toronto.

    "I think that will give us more of an indication of (how) this thing is going to go," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said of the first two preseason games. "I think both guys have shown some good things thus far in camp."

    Mahan and Hartwig said the coaches haven't told them much about the competition that Tomlin called "hotly contested."

    What doesn't have to be said is that the Steelers need better play from the center position this season.

    The 6-foot-3, 301-pound Mahan was physically overpowered at times in 2007, and his struggles contributed to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger getting sacked 47 times in 15 regular-season games.

    "There were good things and bad things, as always," Mahan said of his play last season.

    Mahan, who signed with the Steelers in March 2007, became a lightning rod for fan criticism last season, but offensive line coach Larry Zierlein said he played better than people think.

    "We're not listening to the fans," Zierlein said. "Sean did fine for us last year."

    Mahan said he worked on improving his strength as well as polishing his blocking techniques during the offseason.

    Hartwig, for his part, said he hasn't felt this good physically since he helped anchor the Tennessee Titans' offensive line from 2003-05 before signing with the Carolina Panthers in 2006.

    He battled groin and hip injuries his first season in Carolina. The 6-4, 312-pounder said he spent so much time rehabilitating prior to last season that he wasn't nearly as strong as he had been in previous years.

    Hartwig still started 15 games for the Panthers in 2007, but Carolina released him after the season, in part because it had taken highly touted center Ryan Khalil in the second round of the 2007 NFL Draft.

    "I feel like I've got my size and my strength back right now because I've had a whole offseason to get stronger," Hartwig said. "My body feels good right now, and that is key for me."

    I'm A "Champion"

  2. #2
    Starter SteelCityKid5's Avatar
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    I like what I'm hearing about Hartwig. I remember hearing good things about him when he was with the Carolina Panthers. I think this is and will be a good competition at center. Hartwig has to prove his resume and Mahan now knows hes on the spot. I think I'd give the slight edge to Hartwig because of his size. Now this might light a fire under Mahan ***. He knows what happened last year is now in the past and he has a guy ready to take his spot. I'm not giving up on Mahan. This is one of the things I will be watching tonight. I think the position battle at center along with the whole line, and how will our young linebackers do. Now granted we wont be able to tell whose the best center in one preseason game because it is just the preseason and the first string will probably play 1 to 2 series at most. We really cant tell on how Hartwig is this week because he will be playing against second string Eagles defenders. All in all, I like Hartwig because he even said himself this is the healthiest hes felt in about four years. In the offseason, I say you let go of Marvel and most likely Starks. The Steelers for one time in their history need to go after some free agents to help out this offensive line. I think the Steelers are a couple of offensive and younger defensive lineman away from getting back to the Super Bowl.

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    BlitzburghRockCity's Avatar
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    Hartwig will get his shot but he better take advantage of it; he does have more of a learning curve so I'll give him a pass on that one as he gets the offense down but come opening weekend he better be in the starting lineup!

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    2nd String steelerschick1220's Avatar
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    I am sorry, but Mahan sucked majorly last year. I would really like to see Hartwig get it. I hope he takes full advantage of it.
    Proud fan of Dale Earnhardt Jr., Pittsburgh Steelers, Duke Bluedevils, and San Antonio Spurs.

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    Veteran DanRooney's Avatar
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    "We're not listening to the fans," Zierlein said. "Sean did fine for us last year."

    Another reason to fire Zierlein next year.

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    BlitzburghRockCity's Avatar
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    "We're not listening to the fans," Zierlein said. "Sean did fine for us last year."
    Now why does that statement concern me???? Where is Russ Grimm when you need him !! Jeebus, hell even Pee Wee Herman could see that Mahan got manhandled like a 5.00 hooker last year.

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    I actually thought Mahan did OK last night. We shall see on Thursday if Hartwig is any better.

    I'm A "Champion"

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    Mahan will get his shot thursday night.

    Center Sean Mahan was in the starting lineup for the Steelers' preseason opener against Philadelphia last week. This week, it's Justin Hartwig's turn. Hartwig, who signed as a free agent, is scheduled to start at center for the Steelers' second preseason game Thursday night against the Buffalo Bills in Toronto.

    "I thought (Mahan) did a nice job, as did Justin," coach Mike Tomlin said Monday. "It's running its course. I think we'll have more information as we play on Thursday night."

    Hartwig returned to practice after sitting out Sunday with a knee injury.

    "It was simply a day-to-day thing. He had some discomfort," Tomlin said. "He came out and was able to fully participate."

    Last year, Mahan beat out Chukky Okobi in training camp to become the starting center. Center is the only starting position on the team that hasn't been decided.

    • Quarterback Charlie Batch had surgery yesterday to repair the fractured collarbone he suffered in the preseason win over Philadelphia. In a show of support, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger taped Batch's No. 16 on the side of his helmet.

    • Defensive linemen lineman Kyle Clement (knee), linebacker Mike Humpal (stinger), safety Ryan Mundy (high ankle sprain) and cornerback Deshea Townsend (groin) didn't practice. Linebacker James Harrison was kicked in the shin during the morning practice and missed the afternoon session. He's expected to return today.

    • Tomlin says the status of safety Troy Polamalu (hamstring) remains in doubt. Polamalu is the only player who hasn't practiced in training camp.

    "I assume he is (getting closer)," Tomlin said. "But when that will occur, I don't know at this point."

    • Defensive lineman Travis Kirschke (back), tight end Cody Boyd (shoulder) and offensive lineman Jeremy Parquet (foot) returned to practice.
    This is a big game for Hartwig; he needs to play well against the Bills and really assert himself as the man to beat. I'll be watching his play a lot because if he has a subpar game or plays poorly Mahan will look even more appealing which is enough to make me want to

  9. #9
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    mahan was the bit(* of the OL last year. yes I agree a 5 dollar hooker gets thrown around less!! If he makes it I hope he has time to get a call to his mom and get his balls out of her purse!!

    Go Steelers!!!!!!!!!

  10. #10
    Starter steelcitysfinestXL's Avatar
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    After seeing him play thursday im starting to buy into this as being an open, undecided competition. Its starting to look like there is some truth to the stastements Colon made upon arrving at camp. Fenca was accused of doing his own thing last season and not really buying into coach Z's system. Whatever the case maybe, the line looked better thurs then they did down the stretch last season. Hopefully they can keep improving thorughout this preseason.

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