A Unique Solution To The Pittsburgh Steelers Offensive Line Situation

The right tackle position is often referred to as the "Other Tackle." Teams typically employ mauler-types with the idea of having that player anchor much of their strong-side rushing attack. 

They are by no means an inferior version of a left tackle. If the left tackle is poetry in motion, the right tackle is the simple-but-head-pounding heavy metal song. Height isn't necessarily a requirement, but they'll be on the taller side. 

Their scouting reports will often read "aggressive finisher," and "road-grater." You'll see "quickness" be listed as a strength on the best ones, with footwork and balance as key physical skills. 

Let's take two players, calling them Player 1 and Player 2. 

Here's the scouting report on Player 1: 

He lacks great height (6-foot-3) but is an excellent combination of strength and athleticism. He has good initial quickness to gain leverage at the point of attack. He uses a powerful punch and strong hands to lock on and control defenders as both a run and pass blocker. His natural low center of gravity makes him tough to bull rush off the edge. 

And the scouting report on Player 2: 

(at 6-foot-4) He is a tenacious competitor who finishes his blocks with attitude. He has great initial quickness, foot agility and balance to gain leverage at the line of scrimmage. He plays with active hands and understands angles. He is quick to react and is rarely out of position as plays develop. He plays with consistent pad level and is an excellent technician.

They seem awfully familiar, don't they? 

There are universal skills in both of them suggesting they each are effective offensive linemen. In Player 1, "...strong hands to lock on and control defenders," and "good initial quickness" are vital traits for all five spots. 

Player 2 seems to also have some great attributes. "...finishes blocks with attitude," and "great initial quickness, foot agility and balance" are pretty good traits to have. 

Player 1 is Steelers RT Willie Colon, who's facing his second consecutive season on the IR. 

Player 2 is Pro Bowl C Maurkice Pouncey

I'll bet you see where I'm going with this. 

Before I'm captured, beaten and stuffed into the box I'm suggesting getting outside of, let's look at a few things: 

Teams look for two things when replacing an offensive linemen, whether on their current roster or not; Whether he knows the offense well enough to contribute immediately, and what kind of physical conditioning has he maintained.

Looking internally, is Chris Scott - listed as Colon's back-up at right tackle - knowledgeable enough in the offense to be asked to play now? Ditto Marcus Gilbert.

What kind of shape is former Steelers RT Flozell Adams in? This isn't suggesting Adams has been wearing and eating Homer's Nacho Hat for the last seven months, nor is it saying it's impossible for either Scott or Gilbert to see the field in this situation. It is suggesting the Steelers could look even more internally than just who's listed at what position. 

The center inherently has more to understand about the offense than the right tackle does.

Blocking assignments, blitz reads and even coverages are called by the center. He scans the whole field and points out threats and can adjust blocking assignments for everyone. It's rare indeed a player like Pouncey can pick all of that up in his rookie season and perform at the level he did.

But he was injured, forcing Doug Legursky - now starting at right guard - into the coveted center position in the Super Bowl. And ya know what? He didn't do too badly. He played a decent game, and despite the huge deficit the Steelers found themselves in early, they ran the ball effectively. 

Bringing these two points together, the three most obvious options to replace Colon are Chris Scott and Marcus Gilbert from inside the team (both very green) and Flozell Adams from outside it (didn't have training camp, and they'd have to pay him at least within a small percentage of the $5 million he made last year). Plus, Adams' agent, Jordan Woy, told the Post-Gazette, the Steelers have had "brief discussions" with him, but "nothing is imminent." Maybe that's Woy's way of playing it cool, but considering it's five days before the second game of the season - critically important, assuming the Steelers would rather not start 0-2 - the Steelers are looking to give Scott his first start. 

Or...

Move your best offensive lineman to the team's biggest position of need. While it wasn't the same coaching staff, former All-Pro LG Alan Faneca moved to left tackle for nine games in 2003 when Marvel Smith went down with a pinched nerve in his neck. Faneca may not have been built as a prototypical blind side blocker, but he was a naturally gifted and intelligent offensive lineman. 

Is Pouncey really any different? He picked up the hardest position on the line in training camp his rookie year, and not only held it down, he became one of the best in the game at that spot. Interestingly, Pouncey is 6-foot-4 (taller than Colon), 315 pounds. Faneca had one inch on Pouncey and played at the same weight. 

So why switch Pouncey from center? Because the Steelers are a lot deeper at center than at right tackle. Legursky has proved he can play the position at an acceptable level. And taking over at right guard? Ramon Foster, the starter in Super Bowl XLV. You've got Trai Essex to back-up right guard and center already, and in the event of in-game injury,  you can move these players back to their pre-Colon injury positions.

It's not as if this line isn't used to guys being injured. Having to adapt to that is probably second-nature to them by now, like breathing or not watching The Apprentice. 

Not crazy, not unprecedented, not without reason. Certainly less disruptive to the offensive line's overall cohesion, and would save the Steelers from spending another few million dollars. This isn't to say this is what they will - or even should - do. A smart management group is going to explore all possibilities to help overcome adversity. This one would provide the Steelers with the most experienced offensive line with guys who are currently on the team. 

Then again, maybe they should coax Faneca out of retirement. 

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