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fordfixer
10-03-2008, 01:31 AM
Tomlin guarded on naming line starters
Stapleton might get first start
Friday, October 03, 2008
By Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/08277/917104-66.stm

Not only has Darnell Stapleton never started an NFL game, he had never even taken a snap on the offensive line in a regular-season contest until Monday night's comeback victory against the Baltimore Ravens. Even then, it wasn't at his natural position -- center.

Stapleton, though, came into the game late in the second quarter when right guard Kendall Simmons had his Achilles tendon torn, an injury that ended his season. And now there's a possibility Stapleton might not leave.

Coach Mike Tomlin was not prepared yesterday to anoint Stapleton the starter for Sunday night's game in Jacksonville, saying "I really don't have to till Sunday night."

But, unless some unforeseen circumstance develops in the next couple days, Stapleton, a backup center, will be the starting right guard against the Jaguars -- winning what was loosely termed a "competition" with backup tackle Trai Essex.

"Right now, Darnell is getting more snaps than Trai and has a more recent history," Tomlin said. "Trai has been concentrating quite a bit on being the swing tackle. We haven't made a final decision."

Which means, after replacing Simmons and being part of a comeback from a 10-point deficit, Stapleton will get another chance to capitalize on the good vibe and show the coaching staff he can handle the role.

Never mind that he was inactive for all 16 games last season as an undrafted rookie and played only on special teams in each of the first three games this season. Or that Essex, a third-round draft choice in 2005, has appeared in 24 NFL games, four as a starter.

"I don't know what the coaches' thoughts are, if they want to keep rotating guys on a week-to-week basis or what," Stapleton said. "But if they found someone who could do the job, they would stick with them. It could be a good job for me."

Of course, facing the Jaguars without all their offensive-line starters is nothing new for the Steelers. In January's wild-card playoff loss at Heinz Field, Essex started at left tackle because of injuries to Marvel Smith and backup Max Starks.

Essex was hoping for another chance to start against the Jaguars because it meant an opportunity to impress the coaches and maybe get to start at right guard the remainder of the season.

"I thought about that," Essex said. "Anytime you get a chance to play that length of time, you get excited, especially in my situation. I haven't had all that many opportunities. Your dream is to be a starter and be a starter on a consistent basis. That would be a great opportunity for me. That's what I want."

A move that was not being considered is shifting Willie Colon from right tackle to right guard and starting Max Starks at right tackle. Tomlin did not even mention the possibility the other day when he was discussing his options at right guard and quickly dismissed the notion when he was asked specifically about the move.

"Not at this point," Tomlin said.

The Steelers have had a history of making such a move. In 1997, they moved guard Wil Wolford to left tackle when starter John Jackson was injured. And they did it on several occasions with former Pro Bowl guard Alan Faneca, particularly in 2003, moving him to left tackle when Marvel Smith was injured.

Colon even said he would make the switch as long as he thought the move would help the team.

"I came from a tough college career where I lost a lot," said Colon, who played at Hofstra. "I'm with a great team now. Anything that gives us a chance to win, gives us an edge, I'm going to do it.

"Do I take pride at tackle? Yes. If they move me to guard, I'd take pride in that. But I believe in the line we have, I believe in our backups. I believe whoever they put in there is going to be able to do a good job."

But the Steelers coaches are reluctant to make that move because they like their guards to run well so they can handle the pulling assignments required in the team's counter plays.

That is one of the reasons they have experimented with Essex, a former third-round draft choice, at guard.

"I like to think I can move," Essex said. "I'm a decent enough athlete to get out there in space and hit somebody. I like that aspect of guard. You don't get much pulling out at tackle. You're not in as much space [at guard] as you are at tackle, but you still have to hit the other guy."

He will have to wait for his chance.


Gerry Dulac can be reached at gdulac@post-gazette.com.
First published on October 3, 2008 at 12:00 am

Oviedo
10-03-2008, 08:04 AM
Regardless of who starts Sunday night, I just hope coming out of the Bye Week we look like the following:

RT-Starks
RG- Colon
C-Hartwig
LG-Kemo
LT-Smith

I've said all season that would be our strongest OL.

Ghost
10-03-2008, 08:10 AM
A move that was not being considered is shifting Willie Colon from right tackle to right guard and starting Max Starks at right tackle. Tomlin did not even mention the possibility the other day when he was discussing his options at right guard and quickly dismissed the notion when he was asked specifically about the move.

Why the @#$% are we paying this guy $7M and not only is he not playing - HE'S NOT EVEN AN OPTION WITH INJURIES (I'M YELLING... :HeadBanger - we need a pulling your teeth out with pliers emoticon!!)

JUST-PLAIN-NASTY
10-03-2008, 08:30 AM
After the injury to Simmons, I also have been saying that it should be:
LT-SMITH
LG-KEMO
C-HARTWIG
RG-COLON
RT-STARKS

I understand the coaches don't want to shake up 2 positions on the OL at this point. I would think you want the best 5 on the field with the struggles the OL is having. In my opinion, the 5 I listed are. STapleton looked solid but he is very raw. WHo knows what he could turn into when he he feels comfortable in the assignments. He plays with good leverage and has decent feet. Sometimes it just takes gametime for a player to grow. Could be a "diamond in the rough"....Or just a piece of coal!!!

papillon
10-03-2008, 08:32 AM
Regardless of who starts Sunday night, I just hope coming out of the Bye Week we look like the following:

RT-Starks
RG- Colon
C-Hartwig
LG-Kemo
LT-Smith

I've said all season that would be our strongest OL.

We might as well flip Smith and Starks and let them play their natural tackle positions. Maybe, give Starks a game at RT to get his feet wet again, but, ultimately, he's an LT and Smith is an RT (I think).

Pappy

RuthlessBurgher
10-03-2008, 10:20 AM
A move that was not being considered is shifting Willie Colon from right tackle to right guard and starting Max Starks at right tackle. Tomlin did not even mention the possibility the other day when he was discussing his options at right guard and quickly dismissed the notion when he was asked specifically about the move.

Why the @#$% are we paying this guy $7M and not only is he not playing - HE'S NOT EVEN AN OPTION WITH INJURIES (I'M YELLING... :HeadBanger - we need a pulling your teeth out with pliers emoticon!!)

Tomlin only said "not at this time" meaning that with a short week of practice following a Monday night game, it would not be the best time to make 2 position changes along your o-line, converting a starting tackle to a starting guard. There simply isn't enough time to pull off that switcheroo this week. After the Jacksonville game, however, they have 2 weeks to get Colon acclimated to guard. That is when it should happen. I think Stapleton will be a one-week stop gap at RG before the more permanent solution can be worked out during the bye.

Ghost
10-03-2008, 12:28 PM
A move that was not being considered is shifting Willie Colon from right tackle to right guard and starting Max Starks at right tackle. Tomlin did not even mention the possibility the other day when he was discussing his options at right guard and quickly dismissed the notion when he was asked specifically about the move.

Why the @#$% are we paying this guy $7M and not only is he not playing - HE'S NOT EVEN AN OPTION WITH INJURIES (I'M YELLING... :HeadBanger - we need a pulling your teeth out with pliers emoticon!!)

Tomlin only said "not at this time" meaning that with a short week of practice following a Monday night game, it would not be the best time to make 2 position changes along your o-line, converting a starting tackle to a starting guard. There simply isn't enough time to pull off that switcheroo this week. After the Jacksonville game, however, they have 2 weeks to get Colon acclimated to guard. That is when it should happen. I think Stapleton will be a one-week stop gap at RG before the more permanent solution can be worked out during the bye.

That's a great point. I wasn't thinking baout the bye week. Interesting to see what they do with the line over that time.

What do you think they do with RB if Willie's knee is all good to go? Keep Davenport and send Russell back ot the PS or keep them both and demote someone else?