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  1. #1
    BlitzburghRockCity's Avatar
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    O-Line intact and ready to go

    http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pitt.../s_465009.html

    How good is the Steelers' offensive line? Left tackle Marvel Smith gives a matter-of-fact answer.

    "I don't see why we can't be the best line in the league."

    Maybe it already is. It was good enough to win a Super Bowl and has returned intact for a second consecutive year.

    "That's big," said right guard Kendall Simmons. "We've all been together, played all last season together. We should be able to grow from there."


    From left to right, the names are Smith (seventh NFL season), guard Alan Faneca (ninth), center Jeff Hartings (11th), Simmons (fifth) and tackle Max Starks (third) -- and their good health would go a long way toward another banner year.

    There is no better way to gauge a Bill Cowher-coached team than by the health of its offensive line. Since 1994, Cowher has posted a winning record every year in which at least four of his offensive linemen have started more than half the games. Any other scenario resulted in losing records in 1998, '99 and '03.

    "The one year we struggled the most since I've been here was when we didn't have continuity in 2003," said Hartings, who joined the team in 2001. "We had guys playing different positions, and I don't care how good you are, when you move to a different position, it's a difficult transition. Obviously, keeping us healthy is very important, but, unfortunately, not totally in our control."

    Nobody knows that better than Simmons, a first-round pick from 2002 who has battled injuries and illness throughout his four-year career. A diabetic condition hindered Simmons in 2003, and he missed the entire 2004 season because of an injured knee. He had an up-and-down 2005 but is bolstered by the fact that his offseason was surgery-free.

    "You know what? I'm feeling pretty good," Simmons said. "It was the first offseason where I didn't have something cut on or fixed. I was just healing from the season and could slowly work my way back into it."

    Simmons dropped 10 pounds during the offseason, weight he figures he'll regain easily. He'll play at around 315 pounds. His energy and quickness were evident in the run test the first day of camp, when he was still going strong on the 14th and final 40-yard sprint.

    "I think he's going to surprise a lot of people," Smith said. "I've never seen him feeling this good mentally and physically. Everything's behind him. He's a veteran, knows what it takes. Dealing with everything he's dealt with, he knows what to expect."

    Midway through the last season, Steelers coaches began giving rookie Chris Kemoeatu practice reps at right guard -- a clear sign they wanted more from Simmons, who delivered.

    "You always want to keep that competitive factor," said offensive line coach Russ Grimm. "Hopefully, you have a good enough football team where you have some guys behind the starters pushing for a job."

    The Steelers have that. In addition to Kemoeatu, the team has a promising rookie tackle in Willie Colon, a second-year tackle with some big-game experience in Trai Essex, a 12th-year tackle/guard in Barrett Brooks and three centers on the roster in Hartings, Chukky Okobi and impressive rookie Marvin Philip.

    Not many NFL teams have as much depth along the offensive line. Not many have as much talent on the starting unit, either. That's why quarterback Ben Roethlisberger feels comfortable wearing his old helmet, instead of a bulkier, more-protective one, despite the head injuries he sustained in a June motorcycle accident.

    "The best protection isn't the newest technology in helmets or shoulder pads," Roethlisberger said. "It's my offensive line. Those guys are the best in the business. I'm a lucky guy."

    Rock solid

    Here's a look at the Steelers' offensive line:

    Player Pos. Season Comment
    Marvel Smith LT 7th Value showed in absence
    Alan Faneca LG 9th Five straight Pro Bowls
    Jeff Hartings C 11th Still going strong at 33
    Kendall Simmons RG 5th Finally, a smooth offseason
    Max Starks RT 3rd Came on late in year

  2. #2
    BlitzburghRockCity's Avatar
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    Im with Marvel on this, we've got a chance to be the best OL in the league..I mean lets face it, we run block as good or better than everyone else. We've got pro bowlers on the line, team players, talented players, selfless players, and every one of them is tough as nails ! If we wanna have success this year again, it starts with the big guys in the middle,just like always.

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    Living Legend Steelersfan's Avatar
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    I think you said it all and I agree! Our O-line should be one of the best this year. And we got a damn good FB that likes to block to go with them. Kreider is a beast! I'm also liking the TE's we have.

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    #1 Hater of the other 30 SteelCityMan786's Avatar
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    I'm liking the Starting O Line as well as all others. Hopefully things go well so we'll be partying in the city where the heat is on in Super Bowl XLI.

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    BlitzburghRockCity's Avatar
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    I remember a few years back when we played musical lineman all year. That game against the broncos I think Faneca played every position on the line in that one game alone. That can't happen again,even with good depth, it takes time to gel so staying healthy on the OL is imperative for success to be had.

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    Living Legend Steelersfan's Avatar
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    I try not to remember that year. Our line was a mess all year long. It seemed like a bad nightmare!.....lol

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    #1 Hater of the other 30 SteelCityMan786's Avatar
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    I had a hard time sleeping that first month after the season ended.

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    BlitzburghRockCity's Avatar
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    Most definately a never ending nightmare...every week you wondered who was gonna limp out to play OL for us and by the time the game was over it was completely different then when it started.

    If Kendall Simmons can stay healthy for us this year all year long that will be huge, he's got a nasty streak in him that's great for an OL to have.

  9. #9
    #1 Hater of the other 30 SteelCityMan786's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BlitzburghRockCity
    Most definately a never ending nightmare...every week you wondered who was gonna limp out to play OL for us and by the time the game was over it was completely different then when it started.

    If Kendall Simmons can stay healthy for us this year all year long that will be huge, he's got a nasty streak in him that's great for an OL to have.
    Big Time BRC. If I remember last year Simmons had trouble staying healthy a couple of games which bit them VERY BADLY. Good thing he was ready for the Dance to Detroit.

  10. #10
    BlitzburghRockCity's Avatar
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    Fortunately he's learned to live with and control his diabetes, but that was definately a setback for him as he was out most of the year and lost alot of weight, then the next year he had hamstring problems too I think it was, along with his knee, and a couple odd n ends type injuries. He's recovered nicely so hopefully he can continue it.

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