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Thread: Line of questions for Steelers By Joe Starkey TRIBUNE-REVIE

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    Line of questions for Steelers By Joe Starkey TRIBUNE-REVIE

    Line of questions for Steelers

    By Joe Starkey
    TRIBUNE-REVIEW
    Wednesday, September 24, 2008
    http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsbu ... 89767.html

    You hear it over and over again, never more so than in the wake of the Philly flop:

    The offensive line stinks because the Steelers haven't made it a priority in the draft.

    First of all, that was a team effort Sunday - an equal opportunity disaster on offense. Second, it's way too early to render a verdict on the line. Consider that left guard Chris Kemoeatu was making just his second road start, against a very good defense.

    Could we give him, oh, another quarter or two before we write him off?

    Lastly, while it's true the Steelers haven't drafted an offensive lineman in the first two rounds since 2002, taking linemen high in the draft hardly is a prerequisite to winning Super Bowls.

    Exhibit A: The '70's Steelers, who won four Super Bowls without a single first-round pick on their offensive lines.

    Exhibit B: Four of the past five Super Bowl champs. Only the 2005 Steelers had a front built with high draft picks. Three-fifths of that line remain, by the way, including a $6.9 million tackle (Max Starks) who suddenly couldn't crack the lineup after starting all 20 games in the championship season.

    Here's a look at the offensive lines of the other four recent winners, left to right, with their draft position:

    New York Giants, Super Bowl XLII

    David Diehl: fifth round

    Rich Seubert: undrafted

    Shaun O'Hara: undrafted

    Chris Snee: second round

    Kareem McKenzie: third round

    Indianapolis Colts, Super Bowl XLI

    Tarik Glenn: first round

    Ryan Lilja: undrafted

    Jeff Saturday: undrafted

    Jake Scott: fifth round

    Ryan Diem: fourth round

    New England Patriots, Super Bowl XXXVIII

    Matt Light: second round

    Russ Hochstein: fifth round

    Dan Koppen: fifth round

    Joe Andruzzi: undrafted

    Tom Ashworth: undrafted

    New England Patriots, Super Bowl XXXIX

    Light, Andruzzi and Koppen, plus:

    Stephen Neal: undrafted

    Brandin Gorin: seventh round

    Add 'em up, and you have 17 players, seven of whom (41 percent) came into the league as undrafted free agents. Five were taken from the fifth round down. One was a first-rounder.

    Moral of the story? Linemen do, in fact, grow on trees, but you need to find ones that fit your offensive identity and develop them accordingly.

    And that goes back to player evaluation and coaching.

    Generally, the Steelers do a fine job evaluating players, but they're guilty of several false starts with the offensive line of late.

    Clearly, they have misidentified the right guys to pay. All you need to know is that within a year's time, they committed $47 million to Sean Mahan, Starks and Kendall Simmons -- two backups and an average right guard -- even as they shut their wallet on Alan Faneca.

    This column initially supported the jettisoning of Faneca, believing the Steelers should allocate resources elsewhere. But that was before they signed Simmons to a five-year, $23 million deal, before they signed Mahan to a five-year, $17 million deal and before they made Starks -- perhaps accidentally -- one of the highest-paid backup linemen in the history of organized football.

    Geez, they could have thrown $40 million at Faneca and still had enough to overpay Starks. If that meant avoiding Mahan and losing Simmons, well, I think the franchise would have survived.

    Trading Mahan helped to mitigate the problem, but the stain on the front-office resume remains.

    Meanwhile, the jury's still out on line coach Larry Zierlein and offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, who were two of Mike Tomlin's first hires (Arians was promoted; Zierlein was brought in from Buffalo).

    The pressure all around will ease a bit if the Steelers keep Terrell Suggs & Co. at bay Monday night against Baltimore.

    If not, this line of questioning will continue.

    Joe Starkey is a sports writer for the Tribune-Review. He can be reached at jstarkey@tribweb.com.

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    Re: Line of questions for Steelers By Joe Starkey TRIBUNE-REVIE

    Excellent article and it shows what some have been saying, including myself, for over a year now. Burning high draft picks on OL doesn't solve the problem. Unless you are drafting in the top 10, it is unlikely you get an OL that is capable of even considering stepping in and starting immediately. We never draft there.

    If you are drafting on either line of scrimmage you need to use high draft picks on DL because thye can make a more immediate impact. The really good ones tend to be gone by Round 3 the majority of the time.

    Everyone needs to get off this line of thought that spending Day 1 picks on OL the last couple of years would somehow fix out OL problems. No guarantees there. I'd rather be taking OL in Rounds 3, 4 and 5 and building them because they aren't starting inmmediately anyway.
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    Re: Line of questions for Steelers By Joe Starkey TRIBUNE-REVIE

    So it all really does come down to coaching and schemes.....Arians offenses do well against lesser coaches (Crennel, Lewis) but he clearly has been outcoached by some of the better ones, e.g. Whisenhunt, Johnson, Bellichick, Del Rio, and ....Mangini?

    Some guys just don't have it when it comes to putting a gameplan together. Tomlin will really need to watch BA closely this year because I think the hook is getting closer.
    The Steeler showed this same inconsistency last year if you recall...losing a few games that should never have been that close. BA couldn't hack it in Cleveland.
    More often than not I think we have been winning IN SPITE of the O-plan rather than BECAUSE of it. That's not a comforting thought.

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    Re: Line of questions for Steelers By Joe Starkey TRIBUNE-REVIE

    Quote Originally Posted by Oviedo
    Excellent article and it shows what some have been saying, including myself, for over a year now. Burning high draft picks on OL doesn't solve the problem. Unless you are drafting in the top 10, it is unlikely you get an OL that is capable of even considering stepping in and starting immediately. We never draft there.

    If you are drafting on either line of scrimmage you need to use high draft picks on DL because thye can make a more immediate impact. The really good ones tend to be gone by Round 3 the majority of the time.

    Everyone needs to get off this line of thought that spending Day 1 picks on OL the last couple of years would somehow fix out OL problems. No guarantees there. I'd rather be taking OL in Rounds 3, 4 and 5 and building them because they aren't starting inmmediately anyway.
    I agree with this in the abstract and in principle, but we have been poor, as of late, at having success with our 3,4, and 5 rounds. We have Kemo starting but no other of our mid to late rounders have panned out. (well -- Starks started for a year and we wond a SB).
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    Re: Line of questions for Steelers By Joe Starkey TRIBUNE-REVIE

    Good article. Very depressing to think that, with the same allocation of salary (assuming Mahan not signed) the inside of the line could be:

    LG Faneca
    C Hartwig
    RG Kemo

    Rather than

    LG Kemo
    C Hartwig
    RG Simmons

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