PITTSBURGH – The Steelers’ fourth voluntary OTA workout was sprinkled with new starters:
· The wide receivers were excused, so Cedrick Wilson and Nate Washington stepped up.
· Clint Kriewaldt did the same at inside buck linebacker for the missing James Farrior. Bryant McFadden played right cornerback in place of Deshea Townsend, but, then again, McFadden and Townsend swapped places several times last season.
· The only noteworthy change was Willie Colon at right tackle over a healthy Max Starks, who played left tackle with the second line.
For experience and informational purposes, it was a change that helps Colon, Starks and new offensive line coach Larry Zierlein, but it also marked the first time Colon played ahead of a healthy Starks. “That definitely doesn’t mean I’ve got the spot,” Colon said. “They want to see if I can fit the mold, see how I do out there with the first-teamers, and try to build something with them. He’s trying different guys in different roles.”
Colon was a fourth-round draft pick out of Hofstra last year and impressed the coaching staff because he didn’t back down from anyone. In other words, he didn’t act like a rookie.
He ended up starting the last two games last season when Starks was hobbled by a knee injury, and Colon played well enough that many observers were surprised when the Steelers gave Starks a first-round tender in restricted free agency three months ago. However, the Steelers haven’t signed Starks to a long-term deal, and yesterday they took a peek at Colon.
“I think I do have a legitimate shot. I think that’s obvious,” Colon said. “I’ve been working just as hard as him, if not harder. It’s for him to try to maintain and for me to take. That’s my mentality.”
Colon, at 6-3, 315, is built like a guard, but hasn’t received any reps at either guard position this spring. He has remained after practice to help out at center, as he does in the warm-up.
“They asked me if I can do it and I said, yeah, I can. I’m an emergency center,” he said.
Colon said his primary concern at right tackle is building a rapport with first-team right guard Kendall Simmons. Colon also agreed with the obvious, that he’s well ahead of where he was at this point last year.
“One, you know the playbook. Two, things don’t seem as all-over-the-place,” he said. “It’s a little bit easier, but the thing is to keep going. Don’t regress. If you keep progressing, you get on the field.”
· Wilson and Washington worked with the first team, but the interesting news is that rookies Dallas Baker and Eric Fowler received multiple scrimmage reps and both played well. Baker (6-3, 206) is the seventh-round draft pick out of Florida and Fowler (6-3, 198) is a free agent from Grand Valley State. He’s not a burner but has big hands and catches everything. Scout Bruce McNorton and offensive coordinator Bruce Arians pushed for Fowler’s post-draft signing. “I’m excited about both him and Dallas Baker,” Arians said. “I think those guys are going to give us some competition at camp.”
· It’s difficult to gauge the progress of young defensive linemen in spring drills because there’s little contact and no pads. A better gauge is how much time a coach spends with the player, and John Mitchell is spending a lot of time teaching Ryan McBean, the fourth-round pick.
· The interesting aspect of the evolving “quarter” defense: It’s a pass-downs defense with one down lineman. Much of the defense hovers near the line of scrimmage at the snap; some blitz and some drop into coverage. It’s organized, orchestrated chaos and just the right place for Brett Keisel to help as a “linebacker.”
· In the two-minute portion of team scrimmage, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger ran to the six-yard line to convert a fourth-and-four. He got up and spiked the ball to stop the clock with 14 seconds left. On the next play he threw a touchdown pass to Willie Parker, who was alone coming out of the backfield and made an impressive catch of the high-and-behind pass.
By Jim Wexell
Posted 29 May 2007