Now that the Super Bowl is behind us, it’s time to start looking at what changes the Steelers need to make during the off-season.
While some prefer to jump right in and start suggesting players that the Steelers should draft or sign as free agents, I prefer to start by reviewing the season that just ended.
This is going to be Part 1 of a series in which I evaluate all of the Steelers positions, and analyze how the players at each position performed this season.
The first position that I’m going to look at is offensive tackle.
The offensive tackle position got off to a strange start this season, and things got stranger as the season progressed.
The very first move that the Steelers made was to cut Flozell Adams, their most consistent offensive tackle from the previous season. Adams was deemed to be expendable, since Willie Colon would be returning from a season-ending injury. But that move was just the start of a bizarre year at offensive tackle.
Let’s look at how the various players performed.
Colon had missed the entire 2010 season with an injury, and the Steelers were happy to welcome him back for the 2011 season. To show him just how happy they were, the team signed him to a new contract that paid him a bazillion dollars.
And to show the team just how much he appreciated all the cash, Colon proceeded to injure himself again, and he missed the entire season (Again!).
I’ve always thought that Colon was a bit over-rated. He’s historically been a holding call, or an off-sides penalty waiting to happen. But the Steelers coaches have consistently said that he was their best offensive lineman (prior to the arrival of Maurkice Pouncey).
It’s been so long since I’ve seen Colon play, that I don’t know what to make of him. But I do know that he is going to make a lot of money this year. The Steelers may not want to tie up so much money on a player who has missed two consecutive seasons.
Jonathan Scott spent most of the 2010 season practicing new ways to get beat by defenders. As a reward for his ineptness, the Steelers named him the starting left tackle heading into 2011. Huh?
Obviously, the Steelers thought they saw something in Scott that I never saw. But by the second game of the season, they realized that what they thought they had seen was actually a mirage. They also realized that the team was in big trouble at left tackle.
Jonathan Scott is a backup. He’s always been a backup. He’ll always be a backup. End of story.
Max Starks was the biggest surprise of the 2011 season. Starks had missed most of the 2010 season with a neck injury, and then he allowed himself to get fat while he rehabbed. He showed up at training camp weighing over 400 lbs. The Steelers were having none of that, and sent him packing.
But when Jonathan Scott showed that he was better at being a matador than a left tackle, the Steelers gave Starks a call and begged him to come plug the gaping hole they had at left tackle. Starks obliged, and played amazingly well.
Starks injured his ACL at the end of the season, and some say that it may be a career-ending injury for a player who recently turned 30.
If Starks is unable to come back from the injury, he leaves a gaping hole on the Steelers’ offensive line.
When Willie Colon went down with an injury, the Steelers didn’t have to bring back 70 year old Flozell Adams because they believed that rookie Marcus Gilbert was ready to fill the position.
Gilbert suffered more injuries during the season than I was comfortable with. But despite that, he played surprisingly well for a rookie.
Some say that he is the heir apparent at left tackle for the Steelers.
Trai Essex is the John Salley of the Steelers. As you probably remember, John Salley was an NBA player who collected championship rings playing for the Detroit Pistons, the Chicago Bulls, and the LA Lakers, even though he never became a starter for any of those teams. Essex has two Super Bowl rings, and played in a 3rd Super Bowl, despite never earning a starting job.
Essex has never impressed me, and I firmly believe that his “position flexibility” is the only thing that keeps him on the Steelers’ roster.
Essex played every position on the offensive line this season. For that, he deserves a lot of credit. The only problem is that he’s not outstanding at any of those positions.
I don’t believe that being mediocre at 5 positions is a good enough reason to make the roster. Hopefully, the team will find an upgrade in the off-season.
Despite the problems that the Steelers had at tackle, Chris Scott never set foot on the field. The Steelers thought that playing two career backups, a rookie, and a 400 lb. guy who was sitting at home, were all better alternatives than giving Chris Scott a shot. Need we say more?
Some say that offensive guard is the Steelers’ biggest offensive line concern this off-season. But I’d argue that offensive tackle might be a bigger concern.
Do you readers agree or disagree? What are your thoughts on the Steelers offensive tackles?