The OTAs opened May 21 with the news that new Steelers line coach Larry Zierlein had accidentally forwarded a pornographic e-mail to the rest of the league. Zierlein took questions from three reporters Thursday. He apologized for the e-mail and answered all of the pertinent O-line questions.
Larry, would you like to make a statement about that e-mail?
It was 100 percent unintentional. I donít even know how to mass e-mail. I donít know these machines very good, just a 100 percent unintentional thing. Hit the wrong button. Itís something I really regret for obvious reasons: for the organization, for my family, for the whole thing. Itís been a tough deal, but itís like anything else: You learn from it and youíve got to move on. It was just a hundred percent unintentional deal.
What did Dan Rooney say?
Iíd rather just keep it within. I will say this is a very supportive organization.
Larry, it went to the commissioner, the entire league, I mean, you hit the wrong button? Or how did it all ... ?
Well, thatís just what I said. Thatís exactly just what I said. Iím not very good at these machines and I hit the wrong button. Thereís nothing else to say, no other explanation.
How hard was it afterwards?
hard because I made a inexcusable mistake. Unintentional or intentional, it was inexcusable. It was hard first for the organization. They had to explain and go through Ö my family for what theyíre going to have to hear. So it was tough, but when youíve been at this stuff as long as a lot of us have, tough things happen and youíve got to move on and thatís what weíre doing. I mean, I made a mistake, unintentional. Youíve got to go now.
Do you bury yourself in your work now?
I always do that, regardless.
Brushing up on your computer skills at all?
Iím going to leave that computer alone, except for cut-ups, football cut-ups.
How are things going at center? Whatís the competition there?
When youíve got shorts on here you start to get a decent idea, and I wish I could tell you that weíre zeroed in and know exactly what weíre going to do, but weíve got to see when the pads come on and the lights come on and things are more of a live nature before, I think, we can really make a determination. But I think Chukky (Okobi) and Sean Mahan are both doing a decent job. Theyíre coming along, but I would say probably nobody has stepped out where you say, ĎThis is the guy.í I think that thatís still a competition.
Willie Colon your first-team right tackle?
All weíre doing right now is looking at different combinations. You know, Kendall (Simmons) is the No. 1 right guard but next week he may be somewhere else because I want to see Chris (Kemoeatu) more at right guard. He needs to get right-guard snaps. But I donít want to have Kendall on the second team, so we just may move Kendall to the left side, we may give him some center snaps. But right now donít read too much into where guys are now. Max (Starks) needs left-side snaps. If we go with three tackles in[to] the game, he may have to be the guy. Whether heís a starter or not, if something happens to Marvel (Smith), then he would be the guy most likely to play left tackle, even though he might be the starting right tackle. So right now weíre getting reps. I donít think we have the luxury at this point of saying, hey, these are our starters, because thereís some unanswered things right now.
Is there some difficulty in implementing the techniques you want, say, that might be different from what Russ Grimm used?
Well, I donít know if the techniques are all that much different. I donít know. They might be. I donít know. Maybe the language, but I donít know that the techniques are that much different, because a lot of times Iíll ask, ĎIs that how youíve done it?í Now, if there is a slight technique difference, sometimes that can be magnified Ė ĎWhoa, thatís different from what we used to do.í But Iíll ask them if thatís how theyíve done it before, and most cases itís, ĎYeah, thatís how weíve done it.í Now, I may not be getting the whole story, but thatís the way it seems to me.
Will you try at any other spot?
I donít think so. Thatís a pretty solid spot right there. Weíll leave them there.
Will that be the same when Alan Faneca comes to camp? Will you keep him at left guard?
Yeah, oh, yeah. Heís not a bad left guard.
Do you have Chukky working at any of the guards?
He has, but he hasnít this camp. Earlier we kind of had guys moving around from series to series. But you start out kind of wanting to say, hey, letís get a cohesive group that plays together, three or four days together, because weíre getting a lot of blitzes, as you see. So weíre not moving guys from center to guard, guard to center. Now Marvin Philip is a guy whoís gotten no center, all guard, but heís probably more of a center, so in the next week or so that could happen. Kendall might even get some center. And if thatís the case, Chukky would certainly be getting some guard. And Mahan needs to get some guard, too, because whoever our third interior guy is on game day has to be able to play center.
Have you split Chukky and Sean at first-team center?
We did that week. We didnít this week. We will again next week. They didnít split this week. For no particular reason, they didnít.
Who was at center this week?
Going to a no-huddle scheme, talking about Ben Roethlisberger making the line calls, is that different for you?
Well he doesnít have line calls. He doesnít make the line calls. He will determine what the play is. Now, he may on a pass. On a pass he may indicate that the guys weíve declared Ė how we see it up front Ė he may see something in the secondary, knows the blitz is coming, he might change something then. But as far as him making line calls, heís not making line calls.
Would the center do that?
Yeah, the center does that.
All the time? Never the guards?
Well, you canít really say that. Whoever sees it can. Alan makes a lot of calls. Kendall has done a heck of a job this spring of identifying Ö Iím going to tell you something, Kendall has had really a good minicamp and OTAs here. So normally itís the center who comes up and sets it as a three or four downs (linemen), where the mike is, et cetera. Up front, they make calls on who theyíre going to work with. The quarterback doesnít do that. The quarterback -- in the huddle the call might be this play or that play, and thatís him calling that, but heís not making the line calls.
Wouldnít that make Kendall a good center prospect?
Well, thatís stuff weíre going to try to find out in the next several days. Weíre going to give him some snaps sometime during this OTA thing.
The knock on Chris has been thatís heís been slow to understand. And now thereís new terminology, so the assumption is itíll even be more difficult for him. Iíll tell you what, I donít know Ė unless I have been missing something Ė I donít see that at all. I donít see that at all. And weíve moved him from right side to left side to right side to left side, and I donít see that at all. I think heís a pretty instinctive guy. And when he does make a mistake, (snaps fingers) he knows it right now. Lot of guys make a mistake and they donít know about it till the next day on film. I donít see that being a characteristic of his at all. At all.
Have you had some meetings with Faneca? Have you talked to him? He wanted Russ Grimm to be the head coach instead-
Yeah, when heís been here. But when Alan comes, heís going to play. I know Alan Ė from having recruited him at LSU a little bit. But when Alan came during the minicamp, I want to tell you something, nobody took better notes, nobody listened more. There was a lot of stuff heíd missed from the first minicamp through these offseason sessions weíve had. I mean, he wrote it all down, he got it. When he comes, Iím not worried about Alan. Heís going to play. Whatever his other issues are, I donít know. I just know that heís going to play and heís going to know whatís going on and heís going to compete.
What starting positions do you see as set going into training camp?
What starting positions? Oh, I donít know. I mean, you know, who knows. Marvelís the left tackle. Alanís the left guard. Nobodyís going to lose his job at OTAs. Whoever the starters are, they are, no matter how weíre lining it up now. Youíre either going to gain or lose a job in the preseason.
By Jim Wexell
Posted 31 May 2007