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Thread: Steelers Trai Essex fills the bill at guard

          
   
   
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    Steelers Trai Essex fills the bill at guard

    http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09231/991741-66.stm

    If indeed it takes one to know one, Casey Hampton likes what he sees in Trai Essex.
    And there is a lot to see.
    "He's got a bad body, man," said Hampton, the 6-foot-1, 330-plus-pound nose tackle. "But that ain't got nothing to do with it. He's good and he's athletic. It just don't look like it."
    Hampton's body isn't exactly sculpted for a magazine cover, not with the way his frame tends to waddle on the field. But, for nine NFL seasons, opposing linemen have always been amazed at how well he moves and how difficult he is to block in the middle of the defensive line.
    And so it is with Essex and his football prowess.
    His physique will not find its way onto any fitness video, even though he reported to training camp 15 pounds lighter than last season. And, at 6 feet 4, 324 pounds, he is not exactly as streamlined as backup left tackle Tony Hills.
    But the Steelers are not concerned about how Essex, a third-round draft choice in 2005, looks. Rather, they are only concerned about how he plays at right guard. And, right now, it is well enough that Darnell Stapleton, the player he is replacing, might not reclaim his starting spot.
    "He can play," said Hampton, who will line up across from Essex in practice. "He's definitely going to help out this line a lot."
    "He's got some size to him," said offensive line coach Larry Zierlein. "We play against big guys in this league, big nose guards where you're doubling with the center, and you have to lay on those guys pretty heavy. But he's a pretty good athlete. He's more athletic than he's given credit for."
    Essex, a backup left tackle, was signed to a two-year, $2 million contract in the offseason with the promise that he would be given a chance to compete with Stapleton for the starting right-guard position. But Essex has held that position almost since the beginning of training camp because Stapleton developed fluid on his left knee and eventually had arthroscopic surgery. Stapleton is expected to miss two more weeks.
    Nobody has noticed a difference.
    Not only does Essex look more comfortable at guard than he did at left tackle, but he also has adapted to his new spot somewhat seamlessly.
    Zierlein said Essex graded "very well" in the preseason opener against the Arizona Cardinals. And, coincidence or not, the Steelers ran all seven plays in Sunday's goal-line drill to the right side, behind Essex and right tackle Willie Colon. Rookie Isaac Redman scored on five of the seven runs.
    "He's one of those guys you feel comfortable when they say Trai is coming into the game because he's an intelligent guy and he's a tough guy," said left tackle Max Starks, who knows all about being moved around on the offensive line. "You want to have that at any position you put a guy in on the offensive line."
    Essex, who majored in African-American studies at Northwestern, does not have problems with his assignments. He is just trying to become accustomed to moving from the left side of the line of scrimmage to the right.
    "His intelligence speaks to the fact he can switch sides," Starks said. "He can switch his stance and perform effectively at either position. That's a key and one of the things you never want to take for granted -- that you have a guy who's versatile enough, who knows the offense that well, that he can switch around to different positions and be just as effective."
    Said Zierlein: "The mental part is not the problem. The physical part is just being on a different side. He's a bright guy. He understands things, he understands concepts."
    Essex is accustomed to performing with the first-team offense. He has played in 33 games in four seasons, starting four at left tackle. But his first start his rookie season was in Baltimore against the Ravens' attacking defense. The following week, after Marvel Smith attempted to play against the Indianapolis Colts and exited after one series, Essex had to face Pro Bowl defensive end Dwight Freeney in the RCA Dome -- a performance in which Essex acquitted himself rather well, given the difficult nature of the assignment.
    Asked if the right guard spot is Essex's to lose, Zierlein said, "I think so. He's taken every snap over there."
    Even if Essex doesn't quite look the part.
    "It is hard to wait around for something that you know may never happen;but it's even harder to let go when it's everything you want"
    -unknown

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    Starter cmerrifield's Avatar
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    I thought this was a good article. I think it says something for Hampton to talk about him. With the number of 3-4 teams we play this year, I think its good for a real NT to say Essex is doing well.

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    BlitzburghRockCity's Avatar
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    This is a good thing, Essex has does little to nothing since he came here except keep the bench warm. Considering the guards we had for most of his tenure it's no wonder he never got a chance to play there. Let's face it nobody was going to unseat Faneca, and Simmons was penciled in to start no matter how much he sucked or was injured.

    This is good news and if he's even half way decent it will ben an upgrade over last year IMO.

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    THAT DAMN GOOD yinzer's Avatar
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    meh, maybe some of you o line gurus can help me out here. i thought essex was a bust. what does he bring to the table? KTrain, where u at? help me out.
    RIDICULOUSLY good looking...

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    JensK's Avatar
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    Essex was just another product of being tossed around on the line. Hes played all places but center so far, and while that may work out in college, it is not a good thing in NFL. He is rather odd build, but he seems to have great movement, and he is pretty strong.
    However much you think you know about football, rest assured that Skip Bayless knows more!

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    Starter cmerrifield's Avatar
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    Also, I think Essex just thought his ability would get him a starting job, and then realized last year, he needs to work for it. I think when he tested the FA market and didnt get anything, he realized he needs to work a lot harder. Then he vowed to do that this offseason and make the starting lineup. I think what we are seeing is Essex closer to his full potential than we have ever seen before.

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    Trai's getting better is probably just a natural progression from seeing/playing for awhile now. Personally, I'd be happy if he's good enough to unseat Stapleton--he didn't impress me at all.

    --- Added 8/19/2009 at 04:20 PM ---

    If Casey's noticing (and mentioning) Trai's play, that gives me hope

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    SA's #1 Pirates Fan Tetris Champion Black@Gold Forever32's Avatar
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    I think Essex is solid in pass protection....I think he needs to work on his run blocking which with time he will get better...I also think putting Essex at LG next to Starks would be wise the move Kemoetua to RG.........

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    saving my judgement... word is that Haynesworth is playing Saturday .. hopefully he is at least an upgrade over SCRUBleton.. It is just a shame how we have failed to address the O-Line in the draft recently when it has obviously been such a problem .. Do not care for the "we won the super bowl" argument because our o-line almost lost us the super bowl if you go back and watch the game along with many other games this year - we have a ton of $ invested in our QB .. BTW how tough was it watching Wood in the trenches for BUF on MNF? they had to go ruin that
    Last edited by andyg1984; 08-19-2009 at 09:05 PM.

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    Starter igor0190's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by andyg1984 View Post
    BTW how tough was it watching Wood in the trenches for BUF on MNF? they had to go ruin that

    NO DOUBT...
    An O-Lineman has to fall to us in the draft one of these years!

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