Is the irony lost on anyone? The Steelers’ glaring hole is incapable of opening one. A hole, that is.
The patchwork offensive line was somehow good enough to help win a Super Bowl. It didn’t hurt to have the league’s best defense and a gutsy quarterback who’d sooner take a beating than give up on a play down field.
Where a passerby may assume that the champ’s offensive line contributed greatly to success, a studious observer realizes the team overcame its greatest weakness. They won despite the offensive line. They won despite having no short yardage game, no punch on the goal line. Despite giving up sack after sack. Despite undrafted backups forced into service. Somehow the team got it done.
So, there is room for improvement and better yet, the opportunity for improvement. Several of the Super Bowl starters will be free agents including tackles Max Starks and Trai Essex and guard Chris Kemoeatu. Two opening day starters, tackle Marvel Smith and guard Kendall Simmons, finished the season on IR. Smith is a UFA but played in less than a season of games over the last two years. Simmons signed a 4 year extension prior to the 2007 season.
Many assume that Starks will find a suitor elsewhere and Smith may be retained in a backup role. Simmons is expected to return but Kemoeatu will be allowed to walk. If such is the case, the Steelers will be looking to replace the left side of the line.
But is that enough? Justin Hartwig proved to be a servicable replacement at center. However, Simmons has been less than heralded at right guard over the last few seasons and right tackle Willie Colon may be playing out of position (many say he’s really a guard).
Does a Super Bowl winner dare blow up the offensive line? Can the Steelers dare not to?