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  1. #1
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    Offensive Line: Steelers' blockers choose to meet on own time

    Offensive Line: Steelers' blockers choose to meet on own time
    More meetings pay off in improvement
    Friday, January 09, 2009
    By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

    Football players always have meetings. Team meetings, offensive and defensive meetings, meetings with their position coach, special teams meetings, pregame meetings.

    Meetings, meetings, meetings. So why would any football players want more meetings on their own time?

    That is precisely what the Steelers' offensive linemen have done. They meet once, sometimes twice a week at night for two hours each session at center Justin Hartwig's house, and it's not to play video games.

    They watch movies, i.e., tapes of their next opponent.

    "It was a collection of guys who came together and thought about it,'' left tackle Max Starks said. "We just came up with it ourselves. It was just something we wanted to do. We started it a little bit later in the season, the second time we played Baltimore. We thought it was advantageous for us and help us out as a unit to get closer."

    Linemen generally are the closest units on and off the field of any football team. They're the blue-collar guys, the ones who never get votes for MVP or offensive players of the year. And this year, the Steelers' offensive linemen are as close as they get off the field as they circled the wagons to ward off all the brickbats thrown their way.

    Perhaps no offensive line of a 12-4 team with a No. 2 playoff seed has been more disparaged. They have taken the blame for all of Ben Roethlisberger's 46 sacks and the offense's decline to a No. 23 ranking in the run game, the second lowest in their AFC history.

    But it's not like they're not trying -- or not getting better because of it. The weekly meetings are part of it.

    "We're starting to click. and I think we're hitting our stride at the right point of the season going into the playoffs," right guard Darnell Stapleton said.

    This season was the first time the Steelers have not had a Pro Bowl offensive lineman in the past eight seasons and only the third in the past 17. One, because guard Alan Faneca made the past seven Pro Bowls and the other because center Dermontti Dawson made seven.

    One problem this season for the line is that Faneca made an eighth Pro Bowl this season, as a guard with the New York Jets, where he signed as a free agent.

    Yank one possible future Hall of Fame guard out of the lineup, add a new center, two new guards and, in essence, a new left tackle and what you have is a line that has taken a long time to learn to play together.

    Hartwig signed as a free agent to become the Steelers' third starting center in three seasons. Chris Kemoeatu became a starter for the first time for Faneca at left guard. Starting right guard Kendall Simmons was lost in the fourth game with a ruptured Achilles, and replaced by Stapleton. And Starks, their starting right tackle in 2005 and 2006, took over in the sixth game for Marvel Smith, who had back surgery and was placed on injured reserve.

    Only Willie Colon, who beat out Starks for the job at right tackle in 2007, has remained in place from last season.

    "One of the biggest things is, unlike any other position on the football field, an offensive line has to operate as one," Starks said. "Generally, you see the most cohesive offensive lines are ones who spent the most time together.

    "For us, we've had injuries and guys have filled in. That usually messes with the chemistry and harmony of an offensive line."

    How have they done lately? Pretty well against the Cleveland Browns in the final game of the season. Could it be they have made steady improvement and it all came together against Cleveland?

    "We did pretty well the week before,'' coach Mike Tomlin said this week. "We'll see what happens. All I'm concerned about is their performance. If criticism motivates them, then keep criticizing them."
    I like it. This explains why they have gotten better in the latter part of the season besides the normal aspect of getting continuity. I think we can all agree thay have improved, though by no means enough to let us brethe freely when Ben drops back....

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    Since they claim to have started this just before the second Baltimore game let's take a look at their stats...

    The first game against Baltimore the Steelers were sacked 3 times in 24 attempts (1 per 8 attempts), and the Steelers had 69 yards rushing in a game where Mendenhall got his first start and had 30 yards before getting injured.

    The second game between the Steelers and Ravens, since this is when they started having these weekly meeting, they gave up 3 sacks in 40 attempts (1 per 13 attempts) and had a combined 91 yards rushing. Big Ben had 21 yards rushing himself and Parker had 47... so this was a slight improvement compared to the first game and plus it was in Baltimore.

    Titans game. The Steelers gave up 5 sacks in 40 attempts (1 per 8 attempts) and had a combined 71 yards rushing (Parker 29 yards, Moore 28 yards). For this game they kind of reverted back to the first game against the Ravens earlier in the season.

    Cleveland game. 0 sacks were recorded against the Steelers 3 QB's for the game and there were 27 attempts total. As for rushing the ball they had 176 total yards with Parker having 116 by himself. This game shouldn't even be included in the mix because after all it is the Browns we are talking about and they are not really one of the top tier defenses you want to cage your offense against.

    In conclusion... the jury is still out. There is not enough evidence to support that the o-line is finally coming around and starting to click. More data can be gathered this weekend but again the Chargers are not one of the top D's in the league.

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    THAT DAMN GOOD yinzer's Avatar
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    i'm sorry but this O line CAN'T be measured by it's performance against the shiatstains. it's ridiculous for them to think otherwise. if they can keep ben upright sunday or make some holes for willy/memo, we'll talk then.
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    I agree with Tomlin, "We'll see what happens. All I'm concerned about is their performance. If criticism motivates them, then keep criticizing them."

    I'm A "Champion"

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    Jury is definitely still out.... They did show some signs of life aginst the brownies but it was the brownies.
    TO say if they do good against the dolts , well it just the dolts isn't fair...at some point ya have to start giving them some credit....when that will be I don't know ,lol

    It is a good point in the article that it takes time for a unit to start playing cohesively ... with that thought in mind , hopefully the brownie game was the start of something big , or hopefully Super...




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    At least they know that something has to be done besides during practice. They are at least trying to be "as one", hopefully, now that the playoffs are here, we'll see better results, otherwise, we're not going to far, especially against the top defenses that are left to play against.


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    Starter blackngold29's Avatar
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    I like it, because it shows that not only are they dedicated to what they do, they're willing to spend personal time doing it. I'm sure most groups that have been singled out as much as these guys would just accept that they're the low ones on the pole, but they don't appear to be doing that. What's the saying, "It's not win or lose, but how you play" ... yeah, we know that's all bull... winning is everything, but they also have the six P's "Proper practice prevents **** poor performance" and it seems these guys have their proper practicing down and that cannot hurt them one bit.

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    "Yank one possible future Hall of Fame guard out of the lineup, add a new center, two new guards and, in essence, a new left tackle ...".

    That says it all. It's not like all "old regulars" were learning to work with one new guy, it's an almost new line, and it does take time to become cohesive. I still feel that with the guys we have, it would take more than time to make them great...we need at least one or two awesome players along that line to give it a better chance.

    But giving credit where it's due, as a new(er) line, they have done as well or better than last season's line--all things taken into consideration.

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    Starter Callax's Avatar
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    They may of had moments that hey played better and worse, but the lineneeds to inprove and they need to replace or move some of these people...
    LT starks just franchised leave him there
    RG keomautu tender him see if he gets better as 1st year starter
    C hartwig (or Alex Mack) I hope we get him 1 year at G them go to C
    RG Colon (or A Mack) 1st year at G
    RT Hills, Essex, F/A or Drafted player you choose

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