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Monday, June 08, 2009

Hills wants to make his move

I caught up with Tony Hills for a few minutes at OTAs and the second-year offensive tackle feels like he's ready to take a big step forward in his second training camp.

Hills and linebacker Bruce Davis were worked hard by head coach Mike Tomlin last year in training camp, with Tomlin taking a keen interest in both players. He'd line them up against each other time after time, telling them, "I'm going to make one of you a player."

Hills said he liked that pressure because if the head coach wasn't watching so closely, it meant he didn't care.

Hills said he has added five to 10 pounds of muscle to his frame and that his injury problems from college aren't even a distant thought in the back of his mind.

He's been working at both left and right tackle in OTAs and also saw time last year at guard on the scout teams. He feels like that experience will help keep him active on game days this year, citing Trai Essex's ability to play every position except center as a reference.

© The Steelers will get a gift as they head into the final week of their OTAs, with the team receiving its Super Bowl rings Tuesday.

I haven't seen the design yet, but I hear it's spectacular.


KMax44 said...

It would be great to see tony take it up a notch we can use all the help we can get on the O-line

vaflyer said...

If Hills and Urbik can be players on the Oline, even next year, we will be much better off. I guess the same could be said about Shipley and even Foster. We "could" have the makings of a very good young Oline...if we get lucky.


Now I know that is a very rosy view of the potential there, but maybe, just maybe we will have struck gold.

Steeler fan from the 70s said...

It would be so nice on so many levels if Hills can become a player.

- One, we need a quality OT, epsecially on the left side. Starks is okay (mediocre) but that's about it. I also feel that our current OT limit our offensive playcalling.

- Two, the Steelers have had little leverage when negotiating with Starks the past two years. If Hills can show that he's capable, then it will allow the Steelers to negotiate a more cap friendly long term deal with Starks. Or they can feel comfortable letting him walk after this season. Either way, it'll help with their cap management.

kyle said...

like everyone else, I hope Hills really steps up. if everyone stays healthy i don't think he sees much of the field this year but it'd be nice to have someone in the wings since both starting tackles have 1 year deals.

on an unrelated note, i've mentioned Summers in comments before and I hope the kid is what the fans think he is but i don't see all the fuss over someone who is only 5 pounds heavier than mendenhall.

Ben said...

Kyle, first off, your math is wrong -- Mendenhall weighs in at 225 while Summers is over 240. Summers is also an inch shorter, making him stouter, more compact.

But more importantly, they have incredibly different running styles. Mendenhall is, potentially, an every down back in the style of LT. He uses a mix of speed, quickness and strength. Summers, on the other hand, is a battering ram. Watch some clips of him on youtube and you'll see why everyone is so excited. He, no doubt, reminds many of Jerome Bettis. Here is a particularly eye-popping video:

In short, Mendenhall is a balanced, every-down back. Summers is a punishing power back. If both can make the transition to the NFL, we should have a formidable backfield.

datruth4life said...


Frank "The Tank" Summers pro day numbers were 5'9, 243 lbs, 4.55 40-yard dash, 30 reps at 225 lbs., 34.5-inch vertical jump. And the best thing about those numbers is is that the kid is a football player. The only question that there seems to be is how good of a blocker is he. We'll find that out in Latrobe.

But take those numbers together, watch how he runs and catches the ball, coupled with the struggles we had in short yardage, and I think you have a big part of the solution to one of the team's biggest problems. Now the OL just needs to improve for our short yardage problems to be a thing of the past.

With this draft, I think Summers, Wallace, Burnett, Ziggy and Urbik can all be impact players THIS YEAR.

kyle said...

i was going by the number, which are probably off (they have casey listed at 325) but even if he's 15 pounds heavier that's not a huge deal. adrian peterson is putting on that much this offseason. i guess i'm just not as concerned with having a slightly heavier guy run the ball. he did a half back...for UNLV. i hope for the best for the kid but i'm not getting breathless just yet. a strong Oline is much more important in short yardage. how important? people think emmit smith was a power runner.

Ben said...

Like I said, weight isn't the only factor. Najeh Davenport and Jerome Bettis had similar height/weight but incredibly different running styles (and obvious levels of success). I'm not going as far as to dub Summers the next Jerome Bettis, but if he pans out he could be that type of pounding, smashmouth runner.

kyle said...

running downhill or running behind the pads or whatever you want to call it definitely plays a part. i'm not trying to be a naysayer. i'm just used to steeler fans getting too worked up over someone who "seems" like a steeler type player. Summers chose not to be a fullback for a larger program. he doesn't have the quick feet that separated Bettis from other big backs. i want him to succeed as a short yardage back but the people who are most excited about him than any other draft pick this year are nuts.

Patrick said...

I'm all for Hills and Davis making their moves, but I just don't see it. We're talking about two guys who barely got to see their gameday jerseys last year. I know in year 2 sometimes the light goes on (Ike Taylor it wasn't till year 3) and I hope we're not stuck with a pair of prospects that remind us of Coclough and Alonzo Jackson, but I'm not counting on it.

Same goes for Summers. He seems to have the right attitude, ethic, build and measurables. But so do a lot of guys. Summers might touch the ball 8 times the entire season. He needs to make his move on Special Teaams and then hope he can become a nice FB or short yardage back. I'm pulling for him, and I think he'll replace Carey Davis eventually. But he's facing an uphill battle as well.

other_patrick said...

@ datruth4life:

"And the best thing about those numbers is is that the kid is a football player"

Not related to the numbers...

" Summers, Wallace, Burnett, Ziggy and Urbik can all be impact players THIS YEAR."

Are you crazy?

Ziggy and Wallace will be extremely limited specialists this year. One running toward the QB as fast as he can and the other running away. Neither are a lock to crack the gameday roster.

Summers will either be the FB or the 4th RB. If he can hit the hole on the goal line he might be able to contribute. He's a 50/50 to even make the 53 man roster I think.

Bettis was a 10th overall draft pick averaging almost 6 YPC at one of the best Div 1 schools of the day. I don't understand people's infatuation with Summers and I think it's ridiculous, wishful thinking to compare him to Bettis.

Burnett will have to win the 3-4 way competition for punt returner duties to have any impact.

Urbik has the best chance to make an impact IMO. I don't expect him to be a huge upgrade as a rookie, certainly not an impact player.

kyle said...

other_patrick, i agree with you to an extent. i think ziggy and wallace will have bigger roles than you expect. if ziggy looks ready he'll have spot duty as a pass rusher and could work into the rotation. i think he could get 10-15 snaps per game if he reaches expectations. wallace is the frontrunner for the KR job. seeing as how last year our returners were mendenhall (not gonna be him), davis (i hope it's not him), and russell (gone). there's a lot of competition for the spot but it's his to lose.

Ben said...

I believe the Steelers running backs coach was quoted as comparing Summers to Bettis. I don't think it's too crazy of a comparison. Will he have the long, consistent, successful career of Jerome? Probably not. Does he have Jerome's feet and quickness? Nah, that's rare in a guy his size.

Jerome was a once-in-a-great-while kind of power back. We may never get another guy like him. But seeing Summers plow through defenders with reckless abandon surely conjures images of the Bus, and he's the first guy on the roster with the potential to do it since '05.

In short, I'm not quite as high on Summers as Kirby Wilson seems to be, but I'm excited by his potential.

Dale Lolley said...

Summers catches the ball very well. But he's going to have to play special teams well to be active on game day.

kyle said...

Ben, being excited by his potential is a great way to feel about a rookie. i'm just worried about the folks who are thrilled about him before day one. if in the first preseason game, Summers gets a 3rd and 1 carry and gets stone-walled, the fans are going to ask for his head. i want him to have a chance and calling him Bus Jr. and stuff like that isn't the way. there was a poll about which draft pick people were most excited about, i think it was the day of the draft, Summers came in first. i'm glad you seem to have it in perspective. you can disregard my nonsense.

datruth4life said...

other_patrick, you don't have to start to have an impact on a team. How big of an impact did LB Patrick Bailey have for this team this past year? What about Keyaron Fox and Mewelde Moore?

When I said impact players, I meant that they all have the potential to positively impact the team this year. Ziggy could very well see some time giving Keisel and Smith a blow in our nickle & dime defenses. Urbik has a chance to be in the lineup before the end of the year. The Tank looks promising and has to show he is either equal or better on special teams, I think, to take Davis' game day spot. And I believe Wallace and Burnett will be the KR & PR, respectively, for this team.

I believe all will have a chance to contribute this year and positively impact the team.

Steeler fan from the 70s said...

- I think we're getting into semantics about the word impact.

I understand where other_patrick is coming from. When I hear/read the term "impact player" I'm thinking of somebody who is a a "blue chip" player or a "gamechanger" or something along those lines.

What da_thruth is describing to me sounds more like a role player or a contributor.

But like I said, it's all semantics.

- Moving on to Frank Summers.

I've seen his clips and the numbers and read about his workout. But I also find the comparisons to Bettis farfetched.

Bettis is likely a HOFer. People might not remember, but he could motor in his prime. Back when he played for the Rams, he had a 70 yarder against Pittsburgh. And he often broke off runs of 30+ yards when he was in his first two seasons as a Steeler. He lost a little of that explosiveness during the 98-00 seasons, before he was rejuvenated in the 2001 season. Of course, he got hurt against Minnesota that season and essentially missed the rest of the season, before coming back unsuccessfully for the AFCCG.

If anything, Summers should be compared to Bettis near the very end of his career, when he was basically a goal line, 3 yards and a cloud of dust kind of rb.

And even at that point, Bettis still had good vision, nimble moves for a big guy and rarely fumbled (Colts playoff game aside).

I want Summers to be a great player for the Steelers, but the guy played at UNLV, where he averaged 4.6 and 4.3 yards a carry over his two seasons.

Bettis averaged 5.7 yards a carry at ND. Anyone remember Bettis running for 40 and 50 yard touchdowns against Florida in the Sugar Bowl? And Bettis was running mostly from the fullback position in college.

Since any video of Bettis as a Steeler will be skewed towards the end of his career, here's a youtube video of his days at Notre Dame to refresh your memory about his explosiveness in his youth:

At this point, I'll be happy if Summers contributes on special teams and can take over for Gary Russell.

Anonymous said...

great video!!!!

What a talent.

Dale Lolley said...

You have to remember that Bettis was the sixth pick in the draft coming out of school. He had that wiggle that made him special.
I haven't seen any wiggle out of Summers.