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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Moving forward

It's all just speculation until a new offensive line coach is named - and there's no hurry there at this point - but with three key offensive linemen heading into free agency, the Steelers are going to have a different starting group in 2013.

Left tackle Max Starks, guard Ramon Foster and backup center/guard Doug Legursky will all be unrestricted free agents, and the Steelers could have a tough time bringing any of them back.

Starks and Foster want to start, and that opportunity might not be available with the Steelers. Of the three, Legursky could be the one who re-signs with the Steelers to continue as Maurkice Pouncey's backup - though he's shown enough as a true center to justify a team taking a chance on him as a starter.

With the Steelers having taken Maurkice Pouncey, Marcus Gilbert, David DeCastro and Mike Adams with premium draft picks in the past three years, they figure to hold down four of the starting spots. At what position - at least for Gilbert and Adams - remains to be seen.

At this point, if I were positioning them, Adams would be the left tackle and Gilbert would be the right. But that could change.

I know Adams struggled at left tackle last preseason, but he was a rookie at that point, seeing his first playing time. He's now had a decent amount of game experience and should have a better understanding of what's required.

At the same time, Adams proved to be a very good run blocker in the games he started this season, which would seemingly make him a better fit on the right side.

As for Gilbert, I question his footwork for a move to the left side. He also had issues last season on the right side handling power pass rushers, but again, perhaps an offseason to work on technique and strength will be good for him.

The wildcard in the equation is Kelvin Beachum. Beachum was taken late in last year's draft to be the new Trai Essex, a guy capable of playing guard or tackle.

He proved to be reasonably solid as a pass blocker, but didn't have the functional strength to run block. He's another player who will benefit from an offseason in the weight room.

The Steelers are trying to get away from the big, hulking, overweight linemen of the past - which is what you get when you fill your line with late-round draft picks.

And they've done a good job of becoming more athletic up front.

The next step is getting those linemen in the right places.


ibygeorge said...

I am all for a new, young, fit and athletic offense line. I hope Rooney presses the coaches to remedy the injury problem with perhaps a better off seasoning conditioning program. If Dwyer is the feature back, his contract should have fitness conditions. Do you think Burris has any capability to be the veteran leader amongst the wideouts?

Dale Lolley said...

I think Plax showed this year that he still has something left as a player - not as an every-down player - but certainly as a role player. And yes, the young receivers do respect him.

Anonymous said...

If they're going to go with a fit, athletic, OL....then they need to implement a scheme that will take full advantage of a fit, athletic OL.

They need to run a full on ZBS(chops included). Where's Alex Gibbs at these days, anyway? They'd need a different set of RBs too...but they probably need that anyway.

"ZBS: I'm On Board!"

Anonymous said...

might as well trade Ben, and grab a qb who can run in the draft, maybe a couple, cause with Gilbert and Adams as your starting tackles a qb is gonna have to run for his life.

KT said...

Thanks for the analysis Dale. I'd pick a minor bone and say that the next step is to keep them healthy!

But beyond that, do you concurr with one of your colleageues from a major Pittsburgh daily that thinks Willie Colon is gone?

I am torn. The line was clearly at its best when Colon was healthy and settled in at guard. And the salary cap implications of cutting him as I understand it are not all that favorable.

But can they risk relying on him? I would not like to have to make that decision.

Got any insights?

Dale Lolley said...

I don't know that there's a real benefit to cutting Colon. The savings is minimal ($1.6 million). They could go into 2013 with him as the starter, but would want to be sure they've got a solid backup plan as well.
In fact, given what we've seen over the last few years, a solid backup plan is a good idea even if Colon isn't part of it.

Lance said...

I agree on you line analysis. You do not spend these types of picks to let them sit, they need the game experience. Everyone is all of a sudden in love with Max, they are forgetting that he was way more average than gilbert or adams coming in. I also agrre on the tackle spots, adams may be the better run blocker, but he also has the better feet. I just do not hink gibert has the feet for the left side, but we will see. We will also see how adams comes along, sky is the limit for his athletic ability, but he needs to work. I am looking forward to the offseason changes that need to happen.

I alos agree that conditioning needs a long hard look, I know fans over react, but if this team were healthy this year, we might still be playing.

TarheelFlyer said...

Right now I think the line should be the following:


Backups: Beachum and Legursky (if he comes back)

Malecki has a good shot at making the roster as well, but my guess is we look at clear "backup" type UFAs and UDFAs with potential like Foster who don't get drafted. Guys to watch for in UDFA will be from large schools, like Foster from Tenn, and plenty of experience starting, but have some flaw that the coaches HOPE they can break him of.

Lance said...

I can see Colon there, but my gut feeling says they will cut him and move on, we'll see. He was certainly good when he played, his injury issues have got to be a problem to the organization moving forward. I think Foster is gone as well, but I would love to see him starting instead of Colon. With the extensive pt that Beachum had this year, I would not be surprised to see him starting at guard, but I would rather see him as a back up. I can also see a vet coming in to back up some positions, someone with a reasonable salary.

I like the idea of getting the young guys in there to gel, of course they need to be happy for that to happen.

marc said...

i'm not worried about the o-line. they will be relatively young, relatively athletic, and good enough to get the job done. maybe not great, but good enough.

i am worried about the d-line. it doesn't seem there is any clear-cut standout that will require extra attention by opposing offenses. while the defense was very good, statistically, this season...dale is right in often saying they need to create more turnovers.

now, they did do better near the end. but to consistently force more turnovers you need to pressure the QB into hurrying their throws/decisions and making bad choices. without a d-linemen to demand double teams, there's often enough guys to block the blitzing LB's. therefore, not enough pressure. an above average QB will us that time to find the mismatch/open guy.

credit the defense for working around this problem. but it is an area in need of improvement.