By Jim Wexell
Posted Aug 20, 2007
PITTSBURGH – Mike Tomlin likes to say he has eight starting offensive linemen, but the five he wants to play in the opener took the field at Monday’s practice.
Considering their inconsistent play this preseason, the group might be dubbed “The Five Horses of the Apocalypse,” but for now they’re the Steelers’ 2007 starting offensive line. They are:
Left tackle – Marvel Smith.
Left guard – Alan Faneca.
Center – Sean Mahan.
Right guard – Kendall Simmons.
Right tackle – Willie Colon.
Sends chills, doesn’t it?
“We’re going to continue to watch these guys,” said Coach Mike Tomlin in what did not come off as a vote of confidence.
Tomlin said yesterday that long-time backup Chukky Okobi is one of his eight top players, but, according to two sources, second-year man Marvin Philip is making a strong surge of late. Philip could push Okobi off the roster by the end of camp.
Colon is the new right tackle after a game in which he alternated every two series with incumbent Max Starks. Colon said his game has improved of late.
“At the beginning of camp I was tight,” he said. “But after the Green Bay game I just said, hey, I’m going to let it out and whatever happens happens. So I’m seeing the whole picture. I’m not getting anxiety trying to attack everybody, so I feel pretty good.”
Simmons is the starting right guard, but Chris Kemoeatu has made – and is still making – a strong push. Kemoeatu has been hurt by having to play left guard in place of Alan Faneca all spring, and then again through a stretch of training camp when Faneca was hurt. After Kemoeatu took reps at left guard with the first team, he took reps at right guard with the second team and that stymied the development of rookie fifth-round pick Cameron Stephenson, who’s strictly a right guard.
Another question mark for the group is the backup spot at left tackle. Starks and Trai Essex performed poorly in their opportunities at the position. Undrafted rookie Jason Capizzi has impressed the coaching staff with his intelligence, size, strength and mobility, but is viewed as more of a practice squad candidate. But he’ll get an opportunity to improve that status in the next two weeks with what will be an increased workload.