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fordfixer
01-31-2009, 03:26 AM
Not tough enough? Steelers take offense
O-line uses criticism as fuel for fire
Intelligencer Journal
Published: Jan 31, 2009
01:36 EST
FL, Tampa


By MATT PAWLIKOWSKI, Correspondent

http://articles.lancasteronline.com/local/4/233294

Asked to describe the one aspect of the Steelers that has been scrutinized all season, center Justin Hartwig had just two words.

"Smashmouth, toughness," Hartwig said. "Those are words that epitomize the Steelers' offensive line and our mindset. Those are good characteristics of what it takes to play for the Steelers."

For most of the year though, the line has been what many called the Achilles heel of the team. It's pretty much borne the brunt of scrutiny for the Steelers' offensive woes this year.

"We were the easy group to target and that's OK," tackle Willie Colon said. "We have no problems with that, but at the same time, we understand to win games it has to be on us. We had to tighten up as a unit, and here we are."

Colon said they took offense to the fact so many people were calling them out and used it as motivation.

"As a unit we have been through so much," he said. "From injuries to guys dealing with serious off-the-field issues, from our unit getting bashed week in and week out no matter how good or bad we played. From a standpoint, all that fire that we took motivated us to get better. We all came together as a unit and realized we all had to be accountable for ourselves."

People also tend to forget that this is just the 13th game that the entire unit has played together. Colon is the only starter who returned from 2007, and Darnell Stapleton took over for Kendell Simmons who ironically tore his Achilles heel.

"We don't worry about the style points," coach Mike Tomlin said. "People are going to say what they're going to say. When you have the No. 1 defense in football, somebody's got to be the weak link. They've been chosen to be identified as that. But we're a team. That doesn't drive us. We're not concerned about that."

The Cardinals' defense may not be as physical as the Ravens, but the last five weeks it has been one of the best in the league. The Steelers' line seems to welcome the challenge.

"We can only beat ourselves, we know that," guard Chris Kemoteau said. "We've got to continue to do the things we have done that got us here. It is important for us to establish the run game and move forward from there. Our goal is to play our game and hopefully we can be successful from there."

Tight end Heath Miller said the challenge for the Steelers is to match the Cardinals' intensity.

"It seems that they are playing two times faster than the guys they are playing against at times," Miller said. "It's just all-out effort and intensity coming from their part, so it is going to be our job to match that."

Tackle Darnell Stapleton believes doing just that could help dictate the outcome of the game.

"We can help our defense out by keeping them off the field, and to move the ball efficiently and not turn the ball over," Stapleton said. "The Cardinals have done a great job in the playoffs of holding on to the ball and retaining possessions. We need to get the ball and keep our offense in a position to score."

Protecting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will go a long way in doing that.