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Author Topic: OL in Flux  (Read 1159 times)
Finnegans Wake
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« on: Mar 19, 2008 at 08:51 »

With Kemo on board for (at least) another year, and Hartwig added to the fold, several questions arise.  Will Mahan and Hartwig compete at center, or will Mahan move back to guard?  Will Starks be retained?  If so, where does he play on the line?  And with a plethora of middlin' quality guards, will the Steelers add a quality guard on draft day?

My early guess is that the line and draft strategy goes like this.

LT

Marvel Smith is in his final contract year, and despite some suggestions by the Post-Gazette that he could be extended "for cap reasons," I think his future will be determined by whether the coaches feel he can play at a high level over the next few years.  Marvel's a long way from being a Pro-Bowler, and recurrent back and neck issues seem to indicate that he'll follow Faneca out the door next year.  Still, don't be surprised if he starts at the all-important LT spot, until a rookie can take over.  

Given the importance of LT, I think we'll draft a guy in the first two rounds, and if a R1 pick he will probably take over some time this season.

Max Starks will, I believe, sign a long-term deal in the low-middle range for OTs, and will be available to back up LT if Marvel gets hurt early.

LG

The guard situation should be wide-open in camp.  I still believe that Colon is more a natural guard, although he did well enough at RT out of position.  Colon, shorter than a tackle and with short arms, is an immovable tank, and that to me screams RG.  The current RG, Kendall Simmons, moves and pulls well, and that to me screams LG.  Add to the mix the much-maligned guard-turned-center Mahan, who is probably also more a LG type, and tendered OG Kemoeatu, who looks like a RG mauler, and in my mind the answer seems clear.  Now, whether Zierlein and Tomlin agree, who knows.

Kendall Simmons looks like a great fit to slide over to the LG spot.  Is he of the same quality as Faneca?  Well, no.  But even if we do keep Mahan as a utility guy, I think we still have to improve the quality of guard dramatically.  A year down the line, that might mean Mahan is gone (if not sooner) and Simmons is relegated to backup.  Fine.  

Guards are typically drafted a bit lower than OTs, but the Steelers have shown interest in USC's Chilo Rachal, so a R1-R2 tag team of Branden Albert and Rachal, aking to back-to-back LBs last year, is not out of the question.  The problem is that this does not appear to be a particularly deep OG class, so the optimal time to get an OG is R2-3.  Scheuning, McGlynn, and perhaps 4 others are in that range.  R4 looks to be too late.

C

While it's possible that Mahan is given a shot to redeem himself at C, the more likely conclusion is that he will be retained to compete at guard and be at best an emergency C.  The Hartwig signing may mean that the coaches aren't sure whether Stapleton is ready, or it may mean that they know he's a ways off.  He would not have been retained as a UDFA, after an injury-filled camp, as the third OC if they were not impressed, and he would not have been retained in favor of Marvin Phillip likewise: whether he can become the starting C of the future remains to be seen.

Right now, Hartwig looks to be the presumptive starter.  Stapleton will back him up, and it's unlikely the Steelers will draft a C unless they feel they're getting an extraordinary value.  They may bring in a late round center or a UDFA, or none at all.

RG

As mentioned previously, I think the best combo here is Colon starting, Kemo backing.  If Kemo sticks for one year only, then Mahan might actually stay on as the #4 OG/#3 C in 2009.

RT

The nice thing about Colon is that he can play RT if needed, but this looks to me like Max Starks's natural spot.  It's possible that the Steelers could spend a late round pick on depth here, with a Barry Richardson or King Dunlap on the boards in latter rounds.  If Essex sticks, and he should, given his versatility as backup, he'll likely be penciled in behind Starks.  

In sum:

LT: Marvel, [Rookie]
LG: Simmons, Mahan, [Rookie]
C: Hartwig, Stapleton, *Mahan
RG: Colon, Kemo
RT: Starks, Essex, *Colon

Draft needs: R1-3, one LT and one OG.

That gives 11 OL players.  Redacting that lineup might see us parting ways with Mahan, Kemo, or Essex, to come down to 10.
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aj_law
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« Reply #1 on: Mar 19, 2008 at 10:13 »

Quote
In sum:

LT: Marvel, [Rookie]
LG: Simmons, Mahan, [Rookie]
C: Hartwig, Stapleton, *Mahan
RG: Colon, Kemo
RT: Starks, Essex, *Colon

Draft needs: R1-3, one LT and one OG.
 
That's pretty much been my gut feeling for a few months now...minus the Hartwig addition, of course.

I had thought they might go after a guy like Stepanovich for OC, but Hartwig is pretty much on the same level, I think.

Basically, I think drafting an OT in the first two rounds is an absolute must.  Beyond that...eh...I think there's some OK guard talent there.  I suppose which way they go is ultimately decided by how comfortable they are with the Simmons/Colon/Kemo/Mahan group.  I think the first three are decent.  Is Mahan a better guard than center?  Not sure if we'll find that out.

Anyway, Smith/Starks on the edges is kinda a given unless somebody jumps in last minute and gives Max an offer.  Then, it's pretty much whoever they think is the best two of that gaggle of guards.  I also think it's Simmons & Colon, but we aren't getting paid to make those decisions.  Hartwig is easily the frontrunner for starting OC unless Stapleton goes nuts in camp.

For the draft, I think OT in R1 or R2; OG is a possibility somewhere in the first three, but it's not a must.  Really, beyond getting an OT in the first two, I really think they can afford to go BAA at a number of positions (D-line, O-line, WR, RB, S, etc.) when it's their turn.  Should be fun to watch it unfold.
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Preacherman0
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« Reply #2 on: Mar 19, 2008 at 10:44 »

Actually, I think it depends on a couple of factors.

Let me start by saying that I like the Hartwig singing because it gives us some flexibility in the draft.  You never know how these things will work out, but at least we don't go in feeling like, "We HAVE to get this, this, this, this right now!"  Drafting out of desperation is not good.

As for the lineup, I'm wondering what our scheme will be next year.  Will we stick with more of a man/pulling guard, or go to more of a zone scheme?  If it's mostly zone, then I see a Kemo/Colon guard combo as a real possibility.  

I also think that Smith may end up where he started, at RT.  Less pressure on him to perform, less risk if he gets hurt.  I think they'll try Starks at LT, where he was excellent in protection last season.  Just a thought.
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LambertsFrontTeeth
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« Reply #3 on: Mar 19, 2008 at 13:00 »

Part of me is afraid that the FO envisions Hartwig at Center as our starter, with Mahan moving to LG.

That makes me want to be sick.  
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« Reply #4 on: Mar 19, 2008 at 13:12 »

Both the trib and post had some good articles with a couple different scenarios.


http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/08079/86621...id=steelers.xml

http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburgh...urce=rss&feed=9


They say Mahan lost weight over the course of the season.  Lets assume he went down from 301 to 285 or 290.  No wonder Faneca or Simmons had to double team the nose guard that had more leverage and outweighed Mahan by 100 lbs!

So obviously, with four linemen, even if you keep in an extra TE, a 5 man rush more than likely would be enough to get to Ben.
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jpbucco
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« Reply #5 on: Mar 21, 2008 at 16:35 »

I think your projection is the best possible one for the lineman we have.

Remember one thing though guys, just because Mahan washed out at center doesn't mean he can't play guard.

They're VERY different positions.

That being said...I still think he's a P.O.S.
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steelerfaninCO
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« Reply #6 on: Mar 21, 2008 at 18:23 »

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That being said...I still think he's a P.O.S.
Bingo.... He wouldn't be a total suck backup, but 17 mil over 5 years is not backup money. Restructure or don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out Sean.
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aj_law
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« Reply #7 on: Mar 22, 2008 at 06:52 »

What's a bigger slap in the face?  Being asked to restructure after the first year of your deal or getting cut outright?
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« Reply #8 on: Mar 22, 2008 at 11:39 »

Haha, good question AJ. I would have to say restructuring after year one. That is the management admitting and almost telling the player that they made a mistake. The player is not even given the opportunity to 'show his worth' or try to earn the original deal he signed.

Now if a player is asked to restructure or get cut after year three or so, than getting cut would be worse I'd say
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Winters in Holland
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« Reply #9 on: Mar 25, 2008 at 13:58 »

That's a well thought-out, detailed post.

My only disagreement is that I really think we're going to draft an O-Lineman in the 1st round, and I really think that O-Lineman is going to be given every opportunity to start.

It wouldn't be particularly tough for a talented 1st rounder out of college to supplant any one of those guys.

I would wager that the one "lock" on the line is Hartwig.  Mahan was a major liability at C last year, and there's no way the Steelers are going to pay as much as they are to have both Hartwig AND Mahan backing up other guys.


Hey, what's the deal with Stapleton?  Is this actually a guy that could be very good, or is he really only still here because of the overall lack of depth on the Steelers' O-line?


Thanks,

.WiH.
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