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Oviedo
11-13-2009, 08:44 AM
Amazing how many of the "must have" draft picks mentioned aren't really doing great in the NFL. Another reason to trust the FO and coaching staff. I've said before that this coaching staff takes developing players as a more serious responsibility than the last regime where they seem to prefer to draft premium players and plug them in.

The patience and vision shown with regards to the OL is paying off.


A Motley Crew Shall Lead Them



By Jim Wexell
SteelCityInsider.com
Posted Nov 12, 2009



Jim Wexell believes the Steelers' offensive line is more responsible for the team's success than many want to admit.

Bill Cowher’s first draft pick as coach of the Steelers in 1992 was a right tackle, and Leon Searcy certainly was a road grader, the kind of player upon whom Cowher leaned in fourth quarters with an 11-point lead, when the coach would “pound the rock.”
Cowher was a fundamentalist, a guy who used premium picks (rounds 1-3) for eight offensive linemen in eight drafts from 1995-2002.

Even in 2001, the only year in which Cowher didn’t use a premium pick on an offensive lineman during that stretch, he passed on quarterback Drew Brees to draft nose tackle Casey Hampton.

That “fundamentalist” approach on draft day has changed, and it appears to have changed for the better.

Let’s use late April, 2004 as the beginning of this philosophical shift. During the draft process that year, Russ Grimm fell in love with massive guard-tackle Shawn Andrews, and Cowher came to agree with his line coach. Word leaked late in the week that Andrews was the Steelers’ draft target with the 11th pick, but on draft day team president Dan Rooney walked into the war room to speak to Cowher and Director of Football Operations Kevin Colbert.

Rooney told them that he wasn’t going to meddle and tell them whom to draft. He just told them that he’d once passed on a franchise quarterback (Dan Marino) and it was one of the most difficult football decisions with which he ever had to live. Whether Rooney had a direct impact or not, the Steelers that day drafted quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in the first round. In the third round they drafted another massive tackle, Max Starks.

The next draft – with panic bubbling among the media because the slow-footed Starks hadn’t played much and the Steelers had little depth behind a line consisting of three 1st-round picks and two 2nd-round picks – the Steelers passed on, well, my “expert” call for tackle Khalif Barnes or guard-tackle Marcus Johnson, and they selected tight end Heath Miller. The Steelers also chose guard-tackle Trai Essex in the third round and guard Chris Kemoeatu in the sixth.

In the 2006 draft, fans and media believed the obvious choice was center Nick Mangold. Hobbled starter Jeff Hartings was entering his final season and it was unthinkable that the Steelers would allow their 40-year stretch of outstanding center play to come to an end. But when the Steelers traded up in the first round, they did not draft Mangold, but wide receiver Santonio Holmes. They drafted tackle Willie Colon in the fourth round.

In 2007, the media could see what the Steelers could not: The offensive line was falling apart, rotting from the interior out. Free agent acquisition Sean Mahan was signed as a band-aid for the legacy at center, left guard Alan Faneca told the team he was leaving the following free-agent season, and right guard Kendall Simmons was just not cutting it. The Steelers had to trade down in the first or trade up in the second to draft one of the massive guards – Ben Grubbs, Justin Blalock, or Arron Sears – and maybe even use him as a true anchor at center against the massive AFC nose guards that had been giving the Steelers so many problems.

Instead, the Steelers drafted linebackers Lawrence Timmons and LaMarr Woodley in the first two rounds in 2007. They also signed center-guard Darnell Stapleton as a rookie free agent after the draft.

In 2008, tackle Marvel Smith was coming off another season of back problems, and he would soon be looking at free agency. So would Starks. The Steelers needed to draft a tackle out of a strong crop, but every other team seemed to have the same idea. Seven tackles were drafted before the Steelers’ pick at No. 23. They could’ve reached for tackle Duane Brown, or they could replace Mahan at center with Mike Pollak. Guard was still a need, so even big Chilo Rachal of Southern Cal would work. But the Steelers instead drafted running back Rashard Mendenhall in the first round. Later they addressed tackle with Tony Hills in the fourth round, and signed rookie free agent center-guard Doug Legursky after the draft. They also hoped that veteran free agent Justin Hartwig could replace Mahan at center.

Of course, the Steelers won the Super Bowl after that 2008 season, but Starks, Kemoeatu, Hartwig, Stapleton and Colon had only gone along for the ride. The Steelers won in spite of their line, went the popular opinion. The only person who seemed to respect their work as a patchwork unit thrust together for the first time was Roethlisberger, who gave them a shout-out as soon as he took the podium to accept the Lombardi Trophy.

That lack of respect from the media continued into this past draft. Center-guard Max Unger was available. So was tackle Eben Britton. But the Steelers instead drafted pass-rushing defensive tackle Ziggy Hood in the first round. They also took guard Kraig Urbik in the third, center A.Q. Shipley and hard-blocking tight end David Johnson in the seventh, and signed Ramon Foster as a rookie free agent after the draft.

So, from an offensive line consisting entirely of premium draft picks, the Steelers have transitioned to a line consisting of third-rounders Starks and Essex, fourth-rounder Colon, sixth-rounder Kemoeatu, and street free agent Hartwig. Behind them on game days are Legursky and Foster, and behind them are game-day inactives Urbik and Hills. Shipley is on the practice squad and Stapleton is on injured reserve.

It’s a group that’s not only playing well, as the 6-2 Steelers prepare for the first-place showdown Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals, but it’s a group that won’t need much, if any, attention in the next draft.

Still, the group has its die-hard critics. One of those critics wrote the following on our message board over at SteelCityInsider.com: “If we repeat, it certainly won’t be due to the O-line.”

Oh, but it will be due to the O-line. While it’s unlikely that any of these guys will make the Pro Bowl, it’s their work as a unit, as a cheap unit, as a unit that allowed the drafting of Roethlisberger, Miller, Holmes, Timmons, Woodley, Mendenhall and Hood, that’s making it all possible.

steelblood
11-13-2009, 09:08 AM
This is a good article. The only flaw with the logic is the author's assertion that we got something for less by drafting in lower rounds. Sure, they are playing well now, but we certainly went through some growing pains and most of these players didn't pan out until they were near the end of their rookie deals and ready to make at least first round pick-type money. In short, we got what we paid for (for the most part).

flippy
11-13-2009, 09:09 AM
I like drafting skill players earlier and linemen late.

Thank God Rooney didn't let Cowher pass on Big Ben.

papillon
11-13-2009, 10:54 AM
This is a good article. The only flaw with the logic is the author's assertion that we got something for less by drafting in lower rounds. Sure, they are playing well now, but we certainly went through some growing pains and most of these players didn't pan out until they were near the end of their rookie deals and ready to make at least first round pick-type money. In short, we got what we paid for (for the most part).

This is the development process that the author is talking about. The Steelers did get value in later rounds with the linemen they drafted. The Steelers are a patient organization and they are willing to have the "growing pains" you describe to build the team from within. The Steelers are reaping the rewards this season for developing the offensive line rather than trying to buy it. The offensive line as a unit this year has improved in cohesiveness, technique and ability. By the end of the year the talking heads are going to be talking about how good this line is and not being the worst offensive line to win a Superbowl.

The Steelers offense has put up some good numbers on some very good defense with this group leading the way. The Steeler way works, but it's old school patience and teaching and today's young guns want everything now.

Myself, being an older Steeler fan, I have watched this process for a lot of years and can weather the storm better than the "now" generation. Patience is a virtue, always was and always will be.

Pappy

ikestops85
11-13-2009, 11:04 AM
I know I was one of the O-lines biggest critics last year. This year I have been one of there biggest supporters. The turnaround has been amazing and definately one I didn't see coming. Just one more reason why we type on a message board and they coach/scout for an NFL team. :Bow

RuthlessBurgher
11-13-2009, 11:09 AM
If the @#$%ing stupid front office would stop ignoring the o-line on draft day year-after-year, then maybe we'd actually win a game every so often, and perhaps even a couple of championships here and there! Fire Colbert's incompetant @$$ now!!!

:lol: :stirpot

Oviedo
11-13-2009, 11:19 AM
This is a good article. The only flaw with the logic is the author's assertion that we got something for less by drafting in lower rounds. Sure, they are playing well now, but we certainly went through some growing pains and most of these players didn't pan out until they were near the end of their rookie deals and ready to make at least first round pick-type money. In short, we got what we paid for (for the most part).

This is the development process that the author is talking about. The Steelers did get value in later rounds with the linemen they drafted. The Steelers are a patient organization and they are willing to have the "growing pains" you describe to build the team from within. The Steelers are reaping the rewards this season for developing the offensive line rather than trying to buy it. The offensive line as a unit this year has improved in cohesiveness, technique and ability. By the end of the year the talking heads are going to be talking about how good this line is and not being the worst offensive line to win a Superbowl.

The Steelers offense has put up some good numbers on some very good defense with this group leading the way. The Steeler way works, but it's old school patience and teaching and today's young guns want everything now.

Myself, being an older Steeler fan, I have watched this process for a lot of years and can weather the storm better than the "now" generation. Patience is a virtue, always was and always will be.

Pappy

If you remember about three years ago the NY Ginats OL was getting ripped for being so bad. Last year they were getting accolades as one of the best. OL is all about how 5 men play together not the status of any one player. By next year our OL will be considered a strength since we have most of the starters locked up for several years and we will probably tag or extend Colon. We also have decent depth in Stapleton, Legursky, Foster, Hills and Urbik who we now have the luxury to take the time to develop.

steelblood
11-13-2009, 01:27 PM
This is a good article. The only flaw with the logic is the author's assertion that we got something for less by drafting in lower rounds. Sure, they are playing well now, but we certainly went through some growing pains and most of these players didn't pan out until they were near the end of their rookie deals and ready to make at least first round pick-type money. In short, we got what we paid for (for the most part).

This is the development process that the author is talking about. The Steelers did get value in later rounds with the linemen they drafted. The Steelers are a patient organization and they are willing to have the "growing pains" you describe to build the team from within. The Steelers are reaping the rewards this season for developing the offensive line rather than trying to buy it. The offensive line as a unit this year has improved in cohesiveness, technique and ability. By the end of the year the talking heads are going to be talking about how good this line is and not being the worst offensive line to win a Superbowl.

The Steelers offense has put up some good numbers on some very good defense with this group leading the way. The Steeler way works, but it's old school patience and teaching and today's young guns want everything now.

Myself, being an older Steeler fan, I have watched this process for a lot of years and can weather the storm better than the "now" generation. Patience is a virtue, always was and always will be.

Pappy

If you remember about three years ago the NY Ginats OL was getting ripped for being so bad. Last year they were getting accolades as one of the best. OL is all about how 5 men play together not the status of any one player. By next year our OL will be considered a strength since we have most of the starters locked up for several years and we will probably tag or extend Colon. We also have decent depth in Stapleton, Legursky, Foster, Hills and Urbik who we now have the luxury to take the time to develop.

Pap,

I think you misunderstood me a bit. I agree with the article and think we drafted very well. I also agree with you that patience is key. I am only pointing out that now that these linemen are yielding results, we are paying these guys first round type money (Kemo, Starks) or will have to pay them big soon (Colon). I'm thinking in terms of investment (roster spots, growing pains/poor play, development time). My point was not that we should have looked for a quick fix. Patience was key, I agree. My point is that we got a fair return on our investment (draft spot + development time). We took projects and developed them. The real key here is that Colbert and Tomlin were smart enough to resign these guys while the pundits scratched their heads. If they can retain Colon at a friendly or fair salary, they will have done quite well making sure that their investments yield dividends.

Simply,

To find starters at these draft spots is superior drafting and excellent value. However, most of these players were projects. And most of them have required significant further investment and patience to yield results. It seems to me that this is a similar investment to paying a 1st rounder more to come in and be effective in his first or second year. That's all I was saying.

papillon
11-13-2009, 02:12 PM
This is a good article. The only flaw with the logic is the author's assertion that we got something for less by drafting in lower rounds. Sure, they are playing well now, but we certainly went through some growing pains and most of these players didn't pan out until they were near the end of their rookie deals and ready to make at least first round pick-type money. In short, we got what we paid for (for the most part).

This is the development process that the author is talking about. The Steelers did get value in later rounds with the linemen they drafted. The Steelers are a patient organization and they are willing to have the "growing pains" you describe to build the team from within. The Steelers are reaping the rewards this season for developing the offensive line rather than trying to buy it. The offensive line as a unit this year has improved in cohesiveness, technique and ability. By the end of the year the talking heads are going to be talking about how good this line is and not being the worst offensive line to win a Superbowl.

The Steelers offense has put up some good numbers on some very good defense with this group leading the way. The Steeler way works, but it's old school patience and teaching and today's young guns want everything now.

Myself, being an older Steeler fan, I have watched this process for a lot of years and can weather the storm better than the "now" generation. Patience is a virtue, always was and always will be.

Pappy

If you remember about three years ago the NY Ginats OL was getting ripped for being so bad. Last year they were getting accolades as one of the best. OL is all about how 5 men play together not the status of any one player. By next year our OL will be considered a strength since we have most of the starters locked up for several years and we will probably tag or extend Colon. We also have decent depth in Stapleton, Legursky, Foster, Hills and Urbik who we now have the luxury to take the time to develop.

Pap,

I think you misunderstood me a bit. I agree with the article and think we drafted very well. I also agree with you that patience is key. I am only pointing out that now that these linemen are yielding results, we are paying these guys first round type money (Kemo, Starks) or will have to pay them big soon (Colon). I'm thinking in terms of investment (roster spots, growing pains/poor play, development time). My point was not that we should have looked for a quick fix. Patience was key, I agree. My point is that we got a fair return on our investment (draft spot + development time). We took projects and developed them. The real key here is that Colbert and Tomlin were smart enough to resign these guys while the pundits scratched their heads. If they can retain Colon at a friendly or fair salary, they will have done quite well making sure that their investments yield dividends.

Simply,

To find starters at these draft spots is superior drafting and excellent value. However, most of these players were projects. And most of them have required significant further investment and patience to yield results. It seems to me that this is a similar investment to paying a 1st rounder more to come in and be effective in his first or second year. That's all I was saying.

I suspected as much, but wasn't sure and took the opportunity to pontificate :P a bit. What's nice about drafting players like this is that the initial investment isn't great and if they fail you aren't saddled with a huge cap hit. If they work out, great, then you have to decide if you want to pay them or not.

With a first round pick, when they fail, the team is set back years simply because of the money tied up in the player. Many teams stick with a first round player much longer than they should simply because of the dollars. If it were up to me I'd try and get out of the top 20 picks every year. (and, fortunately, the Steelers usually win enough games for this to happen)

I'd much rather pick 21-32 (Heck, with the way the Steelers develop players they could probably move out of the first round completely.) and get a pro ready player, but not one commanding 30 million guaranteed without ever having played a down in the NFL.

Pappy

ikestops85
11-13-2009, 02:21 PM
I suspected as much, but wasn't sure and took the opportunity to pontificate :P a bit. What's nice about drafting players like this is that the initial investment isn't great and if they fail you aren't saddled with a huge cap hit. If they work out, great, then you have to decide if you want to pay them or not.

With a first round pick, when they fail, the team is set back years simply because of the money tied up in the player. Many teams stick with a first round player much longer than they should simply because of the dollars. If it were up to me I'd try and get out of the top 20 picks every year. (and, fortunately, the Steelers usually win enough games for this to happen)

I'd much rather pick 21-32 (Heck, with the way the Steelers develop players they could probably move out of the first round completely.) and get a pro ready player, but not one commanding 30 million guaranteed without ever having played a down in the NFL.

Pappy

:Agree

Excellent point and exactly right. This approach means the players have to justify the money instead of guessing whether they would be successful. It would have to be irritating for veteran players seeing rookies who have never taken a snap in the league getting paid more than they are. The money being shelled out for a top 5 pick is ridiculous and the level of success for those players isn't all that high.

I know people have called the Steeler organization cheap but they have a system and it seems to work well. I love this team. :Beer

phillyesq
11-13-2009, 04:20 PM
I know I was one of the O-lines biggest critics last year. This year I have been one of there biggest supporters. The turnaround has been amazing and definately one I didn't see coming. Just one more reason why we type on a message board and they coach/scout for an NFL team. :Bow

I'm also in this boat. I was a harsh critic last season, but I've been amazed with the growth this season.

BURGH86STEEL
11-13-2009, 07:12 PM
I know I was one of the O-lines biggest critics last year. This year I have been one of there biggest supporters. The turnaround has been amazing and definately one I didn't see coming. Just one more reason why we type on a message board and they coach/scout for an NFL team. :Bow

I'm also in this boat. I was a harsh critic last season, but I've been amazed with the growth this season.

I think if you guys took the time to think about why the Oline was in such disarray last season maybe the criticism would not had been as harsh?

D Rock
11-13-2009, 08:00 PM
This is a good article. The only flaw with the logic is the author's assertion that we got something for less by drafting in lower rounds. Sure, they are playing well now, but we certainly went through some growing pains and most of these players didn't pan out until they were near the end of their rookie deals and ready to make at least first round pick-type money. In short, we got what we paid for (for the most part).

This is the development process that the author is talking about. The Steelers did get value in later rounds with the linemen they drafted. The Steelers are a patient organization and they are willing to have the "growing pains" you describe to build the team from within. The Steelers are reaping the rewards this season for developing the offensive line rather than trying to buy it. The offensive line as a unit this year has improved in cohesiveness, technique and ability. By the end of the year the talking heads are going to be talking about how good this line is and not being the worst offensive line to win a Superbowl.

The Steelers offense has put up some good numbers on some very good defense with this group leading the way. The Steeler way works, but it's old school patience and teaching and today's young guns want everything now.

Myself, being an older Steeler fan, I have watched this process for a lot of years and can weather the storm better than the "now" generation. Patience is a virtue, always was and always will be.

Pappy

If you remember about three years ago the NY Ginats OL was getting ripped for being so bad. Last year they were getting accolades as one of the best. OL is all about how 5 men play together not the status of any one player. By next year our OL will be considered a strength since we have most of the starters locked up for several years and we will probably tag or extend Colon. We also have decent depth in Stapleton, Legursky, Foster, Hills and Urbik who we now have the luxury to take the time to develop.

Pap,

I think you misunderstood me a bit. I agree with the article and think we drafted very well. I also agree with you that patience is key. I am only pointing out that now that these linemen are yielding results, we are paying these guys first round type money (Kemo, Starks) or will have to pay them big soon (Colon). I'm thinking in terms of investment (roster spots, growing pains/poor play, development time). My point was not that we should have looked for a quick fix. Patience was key, I agree. My point is that we got a fair return on our investment (draft spot + development time). We took projects and developed them. The real key here is that Colbert and Tomlin were smart enough to resign these guys while the pundits scratched their heads. If they can retain Colon at a friendly or fair salary, they will have done quite well making sure that their investments yield dividends.

Simply,

To find starters at these draft spots is superior drafting and excellent value. However, most of these players were projects. And most of them have required significant further investment and patience to yield results. It seems to me that this is a similar investment to paying a 1st rounder more to come in and be effective in his first or second year. That's all I was saying.


It's true that the big boys had some big growing pains (ask Ben about that) and that now they are making big bucks. But it seems to me well worth it because of who we were able to get and give that instant big money too.

Wasn't that the whole point of the article? Don't take this the wrong way, but am I just missing the point you are trying to make or is there really not one?

DukieBoy
11-14-2009, 06:30 PM
It's great fun to see Kemo pulling around the right side and opponent players melting away because they want no part of him.