View Full Version : Steelers Justin Hartwig and Trai Essex feeling the heat

08-16-2010, 09:34 PM
Steelers Justin Hartwig and Trai Essex feeling the heat

By Dagger, on August 16th, 2010

Itís almost humanly impossible to expect a rookie to come in and start at Center. Itís extremely complex, tons of calls to be made, it takes years of practice to even begin to grasp the Steelers offense, and nobody is going to walk into training camp and pick things up so quickly that they could earn a starting spot by Week 1. Or so the incumbents would have you believe. Anyone else notice that the quotes you are hearing about Pouncey change drastically from one source to the next? Take a look:

Ben Roethlisberger on whether or not Pouncey could start at center: ďThe Guards would have to help a lot making calls, it wouldnít be easy. Itís a complex thing you ask the center to do, he has to make a lot of identifications. Even Justin [Hartwig] whoís been here still gets help when Iím under center. With Pouncey he seems to make all the right calls, he knows what heís doing. Heís had a great camp, heís going to be a good one. Now is it going to be Guard or Center? Iím not sure.Ē

PGH Take: OK, clearly this is Big Ben giving Pouncey some praise but heís being very careful not to leave his boys (Essex/Hartwig) out to dry. He has to remain cool with all of his linemen, he canít play favorites. Donít expect Big Ben to lobby for one guy over the other. He canít.

Trai Essex on Pouncey: ďCoach Kugs puts a lot on our CenterÖ.. look at the box, declare reads, see what Safeties come down, make lefty/ righty calls. Heís picking it up good, but you have to know what everyone is doing. Me and Justin have a pretty good chemistry up there.Ē

PGH Take: Ah yes. Itís nearly impossible to spot Midde Linebackers and call defenses isnít it, Trai? Our Offensive Line has been so dominant these past few years that we would be silly to even consider making changes. Deep down inside Essex probably hopes Pouncey plays CenterÖ.that would assure that Essex gets to keep his starting spot, unless Hartwig moves to RG. If he is worried about his own spot on the line, Essex needs to play up the chemistry part of it. If Pouncey wins the Center job then Essex is in danger of losing his job to Hartwig or Foster.

Dennis Dixon: ďThe communication as far as being a center was great, he was very vocal letting me know as to what he saw. We were on the same page.Ē

PGH Take: Dixon has nothing to win or lose here, heís telling it like it is.

Justin Hartwig: ďIt would be difficult for a rookie center to come in and play in this system, however, it is not saying that it couldnít be done.Ē

PGH Take: The first part of the sentence = itís too difficult of a task for him to handle, please donít give him my job! The second part of the sentence = in case I get moved to starting RG, it wonít be THAT hard to learn how to play Center, if I start at Guard and he starts at Center weíll still be OK.

Chris Kemoeatu: ďI was very impressed with him. He is right there in the middle of stuff, and he makes the calls, he did a good job of identifying the front and calling out the mike linebacker. He did a great job. We had no problems with communication at all.Ē

PGH Take: What a minute, I thought learning the calls made at Center was the hardest thing to do in professional sports? No? Kemoís job at LG is safe he doesnít care what happens at C/RG.

Mike Tomlin: ďHe are pleased he was able to handle that. That is an indication that things are going well for him. Weíll look at the tape to see how he performed the minute details at both positions.Ē

PGH Take: Typical Tomlin coach-speakÖ.but if Tomlin is getting Pouncey snaps at both positions and got him in the game vs Detroit early with the rest of the starting OL, he must like what he sees out of Maurkice.

Offensive Line Coach Kugler: ďThis thing hasnít fazed him, heís picked it up probably at a pace as quickly or better than I would have expected.Ē

PGH Take: Same as the Tomlin quote. Canít put Pouncey in the Hall of Fame yet but they like what they see. They also canít get too negative about Essex/Hartwig. Give Pouncey some praise, warn people that itís still preseason, itís still early, but so far so good. Iím fine with that.

Maurkice Pouncey: ďLeading up to the game, I started to play a lot of center, I knew ahead of time that I was mainly going to play center this game. For me, itís just one game, I had some missed assignments, and it is a chance to build on that.Ē

And now this from Ed Bouchette this afternoon:

Steelers rookie Maurkice Pouncey is practicing at center with the first team this afternoon.

Pouncey and Justin Hartwig, the starting center the past two seasons, have been splitting the center position with the first and second teams this afternoon, It is the first time Pouncey has practiced with the first team since the Steelers drafted him in the first round in April.

The Steelers have not had a rookie regularly start since Heath Miller in 2005.

So what do you guys think? I think Pouncey starts at Center by Week 1 of the Regular Season. Why not? What do you have to lose? I think he can impact the game more at Center than he can at Guard. Iím also VERY anti-Trai Essex. I canít believe he actually starts for this team. I would have no problem with Pouncey at C and Hartwig shifting over to RG. With Hartwig only a foot away from Pouncey at all times Justin could be Pounceyís eyes and ears until he gets the hang of things. If we are to believe the quotes above and the Guards help the Center with the line calls, then what better guy to help Pouncey in his maturation process than Hartwig?


08-16-2010, 09:47 PM
NFL from the sidelines
Monday, August 16, 2010

Pouncey runs some first team

Rookie Maurkice Pouncey split time with the first unit at center Monday following a strong preseason showing against the Detroit Lions.

Pouncey played well enough that he could push Justin Hartwig to the bench.

Pouncey saw time at both center and right guard against the Lions, but Trai Essex has played well enough at right guard to hold down that spot.

The Steelers would also like to continue to give new right tackle Flozell Adams more of an opportunity to work next to Essex rather than swapping different players in there with Adams. Adams is shifting from left to right tackle.

posted by Dale Lolley at 5:26 PM


08-16-2010, 10:07 PM
Okay, I need help from the offensive line gurus about identifying the Mike, making shift calls, etc. Why do you ask the guy who is bent over at the waist, has to snap the ball and then engage quickly on a block to make these calls? Can't the quarterback see the Mike? What safety moves up into the box? Determine which way the line should shift to cover a blitz? why the enter who probably has the worst view in the house?


stlrz d
08-16-2010, 10:26 PM
Okay, I need help from the offensive line gurus about identifying the Mike, making shift calls, etc. Why do you ask the guy who is bent over at the waist, has to snap the ball and then engage quickly on a block to make these calls? Can't the quarterback see the Mike? What safety moves up into the box? Determine which way the line should shift to cover a blitz? why the enter who probably has the worst view in the house?


Nevermind. Apparently that's changed.

There was a story from last year stating that Ben took over calling the blocking schemes. Not sure what the deal is now that I read Ben's quote.

08-17-2010, 09:07 AM
strlzd is right. They even talk about Pouncey calling lefty/righty, which is exactly what Ben does. There are some discrepancies here. However, Ben's concern was blitz pickups. The center must also deal with changing assignments on runs and must also call out whtat the QB misses (doesn't see).

08-17-2010, 10:15 AM
Okay, I need help from the offensive line gurus about identifying the Mike, making shift calls, etc. Why do you ask the guy who is bent over at the waist, has to snap the ball and then engage quickly on a block to make these calls? Can't the quarterback see the Mike? What safety moves up into the box? Determine which way the line should shift to cover a blitz? why the enter who probably has the worst view in the house?

Play clock. One voice so everyone is on the same page up front. Ben can overide but Ben's first responsibility is reading the defense presnap and making sure ths skills are on the same page and possibly calling an audible. When a C can handle all of that, makes the QB's job alot easier. Don't forget, if Ben audibles then the C has to change everything again. We have seem Ben see something and call it out to Hartwig. More often than not, you want the C to see it so the QB can adjust the skill guys up until the snap.

08-20-2010, 04:08 PM
Hartwig and Essex aren't the only ones feeling the heat, now Slozell Adams is going to get some competition for his job as well...

Adams, Scott to rotate at tackle

Friday, August 20, 2010
By Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


Matt Freed/Post-Gazette
Ben Roethlisberger during drills.

It was not surprising when Steelers coach Mike Tomlin confirmed he would play quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in Saturday night's second preseason game against the New York Giants, even though he declined to divulge how long and when he would use his two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback.

After all, Roethlisberger acknowledged as much earlier in the week, and confirmed it again Thursday morning after the final official practice of training camp at Saint Vincent College.

Nor was it surprising when Tomlin said center Justin Hartwig would start against the Giants, but rookie No. 1 Maurkice Pouncey would rotate with him on the first-team offensive line. The Steelers did that last week against the Detroit Lions, and Pouncey was sensational.

But it was something of a surprise when Tomlin said Flozell Adams would start at right tackle, but that he planned to rotate him with Jonathan Scott with the first-team offense -- an indication the Steelers may not have settled on Adams as the replacement for injured Willie Colon.

"Everybody with a helmet on is in the mix," Tomlin said when asked if Scott, who started eight games last season for the Buffalo Bills, is battling Adams for that position. "We just want to see Jonathan Scott."

Perhaps, but they want to see him with the other starters on the offensive line, and that includes Pouncey, who is destined to be the starting center when the regular season begins Sept. 12 against the Atlanta Falcons.

Adams, 35, is trying to adjust to the right side after playing his entire career at left tackle with the Dallas Cowboys. But he might be struggling more than the Steelers are letting on.

He gave up a sack against the Detroit Lions when he was beaten on a speed rush by defensive end Cliff Avril. And, because he was signed right before training camp, he is still learning the playbook. Right guard Trai Essex is helping Adams with his assignments when they come to the line of scrimmage.

"We'll continue to look at those guys and see some of those guys with the ones," Tomlin said.

The Steelers signed Scott, 27, in free agency at the request of the team's new offensive line coach Sean Kugler, who coached Scott with the Bills. At 6-foot-6, 318 pounds, Scott is not as big as Adams, who is nicknamed "The Hotel" because of his massive size (6-7, 338).

But he was being positioned as the replacement for Colon, who had season-ending surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon, before Adams was signed right before camp.

"We got some guys who are working and we want to see them," Tomlin said.

He will get his first game look at Roethlisberger, who did not play in the opening preseason victory against the Lions.

Tomlin said the starters will play at least 24 snaps, maybe more, and rest assured Roethlisberger will be used somewhere in that time frame, even if he doesn't start.

As he did last week, Tomlin was noncommittal about how he will use Roethlisberger.

"It's not finalized as of yet," Tomlin said during a news conference at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe. "Some of those decisions are made last-minute in the preseason. That's just how it goes."

One decision, though, that apparently is not last-minute: The Steelers quietly plan to start Roethlisberger in the final preseason game at home against the Carolina Panthers Sept. 2 as a subtle reminder, before he serves his suspension, that Roethlisberger is the No. 1 quarterback.

"I hope so," Roethlisberger said Thursday as he walked off the practice field. "I want to play."

Gerry Dulac: gdulac@post-gazette.com.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10232/10 ... z0xB7chFpF (http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10232/1081299-66.stm#ixzz0xB7chFpF)