A few lines about lines

There are many ways to put together a line. You can actually do it almost overnight. Bobby Beathard did just that in April, 1981 for the Washington Redskins

The previous season, the Redskins OL was simply awful. The offense consisted of Benny Malone running into a brick wall for minus one yard on first down, and then Joe Theismann running for his life on second and third. Then, if Theismann hadn't turned the ball over, they brought in some guy to kick it away. The 1980 Redskins offensive line was like Xavier Cugat's  conga line, one-two-three-kick. But that all changed in two days.

With the twentieth pick of the first round of the 1981 draft, Beathard looked to Pitt and chose Mark May. In the third round, he traded a future, higher draft pick and used his new pick to draft another Panther, Russ Grimm. The next day, they signed UDFA Joe Jacoby. They already had a promising Center who spent most of his rookie season on the bench, Jeff Bostic, and a solid, intelligent young starter in George Starke. But that was the weekend the worst offensive line in the NFL became the legendary Hogs. 

Of course, Beathard didn't waste his other picks. He traded number two for the Colts' Joe Washington. He also drafted Dexter Manley, Darryl Grant, Charlie Brown, and Clint Didier. Helluva haul, I say. Maybe the second best draft in NFL history. Not four Hall of Famers, but pretty respectable. 

There are other ways to build a line. Jack Entratter, when he was entertainment director at the Sands in Las Vegas, decided to travel around Texas and find the most beautiful girls in the Lone Star State. He came back with his famous Texas Line, and they immediately became the toast of Vegas. Between shows, Jack would tell the girls to go out into the lobby or on to the casino floor and "decorate."  And "decorate" they did.

Entratter's Texas Line worked together as a team. Their timing was excellent. They seldom missed an assignment. And they were pleasing to the eye. All traits missing in this year's Steelers offensive line. Of course, I doubt if the Texas line could protect Roethlisberger, and we know that up to now, the Steeler line hasn't been able to, either.

Right now, the Steelers offensive line is sorta like that TV show without Charlie Sheen. You know, two and a half men. You got Pouncey, Kemo, and the kid Gilbert. Well, Gilbert is growing up before our eyes, and they're gonna have to change the name of the show to Three Big Guys or something like that. But that leaves two kinda big holes right now. 

Tomlin and Kugler have decided they're going to fight this war with the Army they have, and not the Army they wish they had. They are sticking with existing personnel, including a journeyman named Meredith and an unheralded rookie named Tevis Turner, who had an impressive training camp. And Trai Essex, who wasn't good enough to get a contact offer in the off-season, but seems good enough to start now. 

We've seen this patch and pray scenario before. In 2008, when the Eagles kicked the living daylights out of the Steeler offensive line in the third game of the season, sacked Roethlisberger half a dozen times, downed him for a safety, and held the Steelers without a touchdown. Everyone agreed the OL was terrible and the team was going nowhere. Everyone was wrong.

They found a rookie on the bench named Stapleton, and for one season, he stepped into the breach and held things together. They other guys, it turned out, weren't as bad as they seemed against the Iggles. And when that 2008 team won the Lombardi, Ben asked, "who's laughin' now, offensive line?"

The big hope here is that the OL isn't as bad as Mathis and Freeney made them look. Or at least that Kugler, Arians, and Tomlin catch patch something together that will work. If not, all the great wideouts in the world won't make that much of a difference, if Ben doesn't have time to throw to them.

This will require Arians to come up with some plays that provide extra protection from Ward, Miller, or Johnson. And plays like the ones to MeMo at the end of the Colts game - slant passes to the his running back - to help negate the outside rush. 

That will be the key this week, and for the rest of the season. Patch and pray. And design a game plan to minimize weaknesses that have become all too obvious. The Steelers have enough weapons to eviscerate a leaky Texans defense. The OL, however, has to function well enough to allow them the time and space to use them.

Speaking of Ben, there's something that happened against Indy that concerns me. Dale Lolley and others are reporting that on the strip sack, it wasn't really Jonathan Scott's fault. The call was a draw-quick pass option, with a three step drop. Scott's assignment on the play was to protect the inside and give up the outside loop. That's exactly what he did. And Ben's assignment was the option to either to give the ball to Mendy on the draw or - if not - to do a three step drop and get rid of it. Instead, he did a five step drop, which left him unprotected against the outside rush to his blind side. 

Scott had already been run over by a bus several times Sunday night, and had as bad a night as you could possibly imagine. I would expect the QB to speak up in his defense. A simple, "my bad" could mean a lot to a teammate who was being roasted in every newspaper, blog, and radio talk show imaginable. I didn't hear it. Certainly, there's more to the story, but it seems like Ben dropped the ball both during the game and after.

And speaking of MeMo, is it too early to predict that he will be third generation from the Dungy Coaching Tree? Tomlin certainly likes him, and probably sees a lot of himself in Moore. As a kid, MeMo was National Honor Society and won all kinds of math contests - stuff that we never did. He's really book smart. He's from a solid family, with lots of teachers in it. The family had a strong commitment to civil rights, growing up in the South. He got his degree on time. He works hard, prepares hard, and keeps his mouth shut. All these are commonalities between MeMo and CT, and it's no surprise that Tomlin had him signed as a Free Agent from the Vikings

Mewelde Moore is part of the mortar that holds the Steelers together. You can plug him in when you need him, and he will be ready. He plays better than you think he is, especially in crucial two-minute drives. And you don't have to worry about opening the paper and reading something bad about him in the off-season. 

Homer enjoys watching MeMo on the field. He only wonders what this fine young fellow will choose, when it's time to get on with his life's work. Will he go into business like HOF/CEO Stallworth? Will he go into coaching like his mentor Tomlin and Tomlin's mentor Dungy? Or will it be something else? Whatever, he will likely succeed, because he prepares hard, works hard, and is of high character. Sort of like Homer's colleagues in Sector 7D. Only even better.

Go Steelers.

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