The Offensive Line Mystery

Max Starcks (OT)

The Offensive Line Mystery

Max Starks 6-8 337
Willie Colon 6-3 315
Chris Kemoeatu 6-3 344
Tony Hills 6-6 305
Jeremy Parquet 6-6 321
Trai Essex 6-4 324
Marvel Smith 6-5 321
Justin Hartwig 6-4 312
Doug Legursky 6-1 323
Darnell Stapleton 6-3 285
Sean Mahan 6-1 305

Average Weight: 317.5

Based on Steelers.com, this list of players is what the Steelers will be working with (give or take a few) when the 2008-09 NFL season is underway. While this offensive line will not impose fear in opposing defenses, the Steelers have a fair amount of "average" players on this list. That’s a pro & con. There is not one player on our O-Line that is a pro-bowler. This list is severely lacking an all-pro guard (ala Faneca).

I have heard it all at this point in the offseason. Here is a short list:

1. Jason Capizzi is the next Orlando Pace
2. Max Starks will be "competing" with Willie Colon for the starting RT spot
3. Darnell Stapleon has all the attributes of an all-pro center
4. Justin Hartwig will be a significant upgrade over Sean Mahan at center
5. Kemo has all the physical tools to dominate at the LG position
6. Tony Hills will develop into a legitimate RT at the least (possibly a starting LT)
7. Max Starks has lost weight and is much "lighter on his feet" (literally) than last year
8. Marvel Smith feels healthier than he's been in years.

I don't want to be negative... But I want to see Capizzi make the team first, before we start comparing him to a possible HOF'er. The Steelers are always looking for the diamond in the rough and that philosophy has left us with two major problems: The Offensive and Defensive Lines. I will address the defensive line in a follow-up article.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have all the hopes that a couple of these 11 offensive linemen will step up and finally display the potential the Steeler fans have been hoping for. The time is now and it's for the likes of Colon, Simmons, Kemo, Mahan, and especially Starks to step up or be shown the door our of Pittsburgh.

Let's review a few names on this list:

Max Starks

Max Starks now has a 6.9 million dollar salary cap hit for the 2008-09 season. For those with a short memory, Max Starks lost his starting job to Willie Colon last year and before that was basically a decent RT prospect with slow feet. The Steeler's front office decided to reward the underachiever (and backup) Starks with a 1-year 6.9 million contract. Let's hope this money, and losing his starting job was motivation to lose weight and work on his footwork in the offseason. I don’t think the Steelers will pay him that type of money to backup? Do you?

Chris Kemoeatu

It's do or die time for Kemo with 1 year left on his contract. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that Simmons barely beat out Kemo last year for the starting RG spot, and obviously couldn't beat out Faneca for the LG spot. I think that Kemo always had the physical attributes and aggression to play LG but his intelligence, and uncontrollable aggression has always been a problem.

Justin Hartwig

Hartwig is the wild card this year just as Sean Mahan was last year. Mahan was dominated at the point of attack last year and couldn't handle the overall size and strength of nose tackles and defensive tackles. Hartwig will bring his experience and size which is desperately needed to the interior section of the Steelers offensive line which acted as a revolving door last year with Mahan as center.

Darnell Stapleton

I look for the young Stapleton from Rutgers to push Hartwig for the starting center job. The coaching staff has been stated to have high hopes for Stapleton but he needs to get bigger and work on his technique to hold up against the larger DT/NT to remind us fans of the strength that the Steelers have had for several years at the center position.

Trai Essex

I see Tony Hills, the rookie from Texas being drafted as the replacement for Essex especially considering he is a FA after this year. Essex was a surprise high draft pick and many experts agreed the Steeler’s reached to draft him. Without very high expectations, it hard to be disappointed with Essex’s performance thus far especially has a backup.

I don’t think it would be right to comment on the offensive line like making a slight prediction on the starting lineup even before training camp. I’ll be bold in my prediction:

LT: Marvel Smith
LG: Willie Colin
C: Justin Hartwig
RG: Chris Kemoeatu
RT: Max Starks

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