Steelers Training Camp continues to move forward, and not a lot is happening. I’m still waiting for one of the rookies to get a little testy and get into a fight with a veteran. But it hasn’t happened so far.
The biggest news out of camp over the last couple of days has been the weather. It’s HOT. Very hot. Temperatures have been hovering around 90 degrees, and there is very little shade at St. Vincent College. So both players and fans have to suffer through the heat.
After watching a week and a half of training camp, I thought it would be a good time to start reporting on a few of the positions of interest. Probably the most difficult position to evaluate is offensive line. So I thought I’d start there first.
Everyone knows that the offensive line has been a problem for the Steelers since the last 2 years of the Bill Cowher regime. The Steelers never seemed to believe that the position was important enough to invest high draft picks on. That is, until this year, when they used their 1st round draft pick to select Maurkice Pouncey.
Most fans probably believe that the offensive line is going to be a weakness for the Steelers this season. I don’t agree with that assessment. I believe that we actually have the potential to have a very solid offensive line.
Let’s take a look at the Steelers’ offensive linemen. I’ll give you my thoughts on each of them, and let you know if they’ve done anything significant in training camp so far.
Max Starks – Big Max looks great. He still can’t block James Harrison without holding him, but then again, neither can anyone else.
Max is never going to be quick-footed, so he is always going to be susceptible to speed rushers. But Max is big and strong enough to hold off anyone’s bull rush.
Chris Kemoeatu – “Kemo” is slowly becoming one of my favorite Steelers offensive linemen. Kemo used to be a penalty waiting to happen. He seemed to jump off-sides or hold on every other play. But those days are behind him. Kemo now plays with discipline. Some fans still long to have Alan Faneca back, but I don’t understand why. Kemoeatu is bigger and stronger than Alan Faneca ever was, and he can pull just as well as Faneca did. Faneca made the Pro Bowl last year. But anyone who has watched him realizes that he has been living off of reputation for the past 3 years. I’d rather have Chris Kemoeatu over Alan Faneca any day. And obviously, the Steelers would too.
Justin Hartwig – Most people were happy when the Steelers drafted Maurkice Pouncey. They felt that the Steelers needed an upgrade at center. That doesn’t say a lot about fans’ confidence in Justin Hartwig.
To be fair, Hartwig has been solid in his time with the Steelers. However, Steelers fans are used to stellar play from the center position. Other than the brief Sean Mahan experiment, Steelers fans have been spoiled by Mike Webster, Dermonti Dawson, and Jeff Hartings. Justin Hartwig will never be in the same category as that bunch. But I think he’ll man the position for one more season until Maurkice Pouncey takes over in 2011.
Trai Essex – Surprisingly, Essex has been taking most of the snaps with the first unit. I can’t tell you how upset this makes me.
In his 6 years with the Steelers, Essex has only managed to get on the field due to injuries to others. When are the Steelers going to accept that he’s a career backup who can’t win a starting position in a pure competition? In my opinion, Essex is the 3rd best option that we have to start at right guard this season. Hopefully, the Steelers will realize that before the season starts.
Flozell Adams – This is going to go down as one of the best signings the Steelers made this year. Adams is a perennial Pro Bowler who has logged more snaps than all of the other Steelers offensive linemen combined. Adams’ career was spent at the much more difficult left tackle position. The move to right tackle appears to be exactly what Adams needed to revitalize his career.
Adams is still learning the Steelers’ system. But thus far, I am very happy with what I’ve seen from Flozell.
Maurkice Poucey – The Steelers 1st round draft pick has looked good thus far in training camp. Most thought that he would likely start at right guard during his rookie season. The coaches thought that the requirements of the center position would be too great for a rookie. However, he is absorbing the system well. There is a very real possibility that we might see Pouncey at center at some point during the season.
Jonathan Scott – Scott is a veteran player who is going into his 4th year in the NFL. At 6’6″ and 318 pounds, he is a big, physical player. He started 8 games last season with the Buffalo Bills. More importantly, he played under new offensive line coach Sean Kugler in Buffalo. Kugler brought him here because he thought that he could help the Steelers. He didn’t bring him here to cut him.
Tony Hills – Hills has shown me nothing since he joined the Steelers 3 years ago. Absolutely nothing. He suffered an ankle injury yesterday that may limit his availability for the rest of training camp. That means he is not going to have a chance to show us much before the Steelers have to decide on their final roster. Depending on how bad the injury turns out to be, the Steelers might be able to carry Hills on the injured reserve list. But I think it is much more likely that Hills’ time with the Steelers will come to an end following training camp.
Kraig Urbick – For some reason, I feel like I’m writing Tony Hills’ review again. Like Hills, Urbick was a highly touted draft pick. And like Hills, he has shown us absolutely nothing since he joined the Steelers. This is only his 2nd year with the team, so they probably aren’t willing to give up on him so soon. But he had better start showing us something. Quickly.
Ramon Foster – After ending up as a starter last year, despite being an undrafted free agent, Foster earned a lot of respect from me. I like this kid a lot. He’s had a concussion for most of training camp, so he hasn’t gotten to show what he can do. But frankly, I think he’s better than Trai Essex.
Doug Legursky – Legursky is a low-profile player who made the team last year by being scrappy. Unfortunately, Legursky is a center. And with Maurkice Pouncey learning the center position much faster than anyone expected, Legursky’s position is seriously in jeopardy. It is doubtful that the Steelers will carry 3 centers on the roster. So Legursky had better pray that the Steelers decide that they’d rather see Pouncey start off at guard rather than center.
Willie Colon and Chris Scott – On injured reserve.
Dorian Brooks and Kyle Jolly – Training camp fodder. They won’t make the team.
I’ve said this before, and I’ll keep saying it until the Steelers’ coaches start listening to me. Max Starks, Chris Kemoeatu, Maurkice Pouncey, Ramon Foster, and Flozell Adams. That is the best combination that the Steelers can put on the field. Now if only the Steelers would start taking my advice.
(If you enjoyed this article, please consider leaving a comment by clicking on the square at the top right of this article. Also, please subscribe to our blog by pressing the orange button below. You can also follow us on Twitter by clicking the bird doohicky below. Also consider following us on Facebook. Thanks.)