Steelers guard Kemoeatu glad he stayed
By John Harris, TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
In hindsight, it was a relatively easy decision for Steelers starting left guard Chris Kemoeatu.
Earn more money with the New York Jets -- give or take a couple of million dollars -- and rejoin former Steelers teammate and mentor Alan Faneca, or stick with what he knows.
Kemoeatu chose familiarity and the opportunity to win another Super Bowl when he agreed to a five-year, $20 million contract that included a $3.885 million signing bonus to remain with the Steelers.
"I talked to all of them. They said it was my decision, but they wanted me to stay," Kemoeatu said of his fellow Steelers offensive linemen. "Alan Faneca even called, and I talked to him. He wanted me to come out there. He said he would make sure he helped me learn just like when he was over here.
"I'm glad I made the decision to stay here and be with the guys. It's exciting going into a new season. Hopefully, we can get a back-to-back (Super Bowls wins)."
Kemoeatu said the Steelers' offensive line is among the closest units on the team. The players worked out together in Pittsburgh during the offseason, and they socialize away from the field.
They also take criticism personally, said Kemoeatu, who indicated the constant media carping about the unit's pass blocking, in particular, is a sore spot.
"The media is always talking about the run game and sacks. We've definitely got a chip on our shoulder," said Kemoeatu, who started every game last season. "Last year, it was five new guys up front starting. Nobody ever played next to each other before.
"I think we're doing a better job this year than we did coming in last year. We know how to play next to each other a little better.
"Being a good offensive line is not just being close on the field, but off the field. You play for each other -- not individually just to get paid, for a coach. When you're out there, you want to know the guy next to you is going just as hard as you are, and you're going just as hard as the guy next to you."
Personally, Kemoeatu, who's a strong run blocker, wants to become a better pass blocker.
"Everything's technique," he said. "I'm getting better moving my inside hand in and moving my feet. That's the biggest thing -- moving my feet."
Kemoeatu reported to training camp in excellent shape. His awareness of the value of conditioning increased noticeably when his brother, Maake, the Carolina Panthers' starting nose tackle, tore his Achilles tendon in the first practice of training camp and was lost for the season.
"When he first got hurt, he felt like he let his teammates down, he let the coaches down. He also felt like he let us down -- his family," Kemoeatu said of his older brother. "I think this was like a wake-up call for him to be a little more serious about working out in the summer and getting his weight down."
Inside the Ropes
LOOK OUT: Steelers linebacker James Harrison has done a good job of holding back from delivering some potentially devastating hits during training camp. On Tuesday, however, Harrison flattened running back Rashard Mendenhall as soon as he caught a screen pass. On the previous play, Harrison blew up a run in the backfield, grabbing Mendenhall from behind and not letting him loose, even though Mendenhall continued pumping his legs.
TOUGH IN THE TRENCHES: Defensive end Nick Eason suffered a left calf strain yesterday afternoon when he got tangled up with tackle Jason Capizzi during 11-on-11 drills. Eason participated in another play before walking off the field and being checked by trainers. He left the field in a cart.
DOING IT ALL: Rookie Mike Wallace has blazing speed and the ability to get behind secondaries, but he's proving he can do more. Yesterday, Wallace ran some smooth sideline routes in front of coverage. And in last week's preseason opener, Wallace displayed the ability to catch the ball over the middle in tight spaces.
SCANNING THE FIELD: Because he's seeing the field better, second-year quarterback Dennis Dixon is making throws he wouldn't have attempted a year ago. Scrambling and trying to make a play yesterday, Dixon rolled to his left and somehow flipped a short pass over defensive end Brett Keisel to rookie running back Isaac Redman.
DO THE HUSTLE: Battling for a roster spot at wide receiver, Martin Nance tried to help his cause by hustling to make a nice special teams play. Tracking down Daniel Sepulveda's punt inside the 10, Nance appeared to reach the ball before it crossed the goal line and knocked it back on the field where it was downed at the 1.