Steelers vs. Jets: Willie Colon and his peak-and-valley time in Pittsburgh

The Star-Ledger-USA TODAY Sports

Former Steelers offensive lineman Willie Colon represents some of the best times of the recent franchise's history, and some of the worst as well.

Few Steelers players generated more negative headlines over the years than Willie Colon.

Aside from being with Ben Roethlisberger the infamous night in Milledgeville, Ga., Colon had three consecutive stints on Injured Reserve, costing him the entire 2010 season, all but about two quarters of the 2011 season, and the final quarter of the 2012 season.

He also was given the one contract the Steelers had to eat, as they're due to take a $4.5 million shot in the junk next year, the deferred cap number for Colon's release this offseason.

Yet, for a brief time, he was the Steelers' X-factor. Arguments between fans over whether Colon was a guard or a tackle, worth the contract or a waste, or even a decent player vs. one of the best in the league.

The move to left guard after coming off injury was supposed to be THE big move to build this offensive line. It gave Pouncey a reliable presence to his left while he helped work with the rookie (David DeCastro) on his right. It opened up a right tackle spot for Marcus Gilbert as Mike Adams was being groomed to be the long-term blindside protector.

To put it mildly, it didn't work out that way.

DeCastro was lost for nearly the entire season, putting Ramon Foster at right guard. Colon was among the league leaders in penalties for interior linemen, Adams was so uninspiring in the preseason, the team signed Max Starks and his freshly repaired ACL to play left tackle and Gilbert was injured early and often throughout the year.

But in true Willie Style, Colon found a way to show value despite plenty of reason to want to cut him loose. The Steelers found the magical formula for their running game in Week 7. With Adams replacing an injured Gilbert during a Monday Night game against Cincinnati. The Steelers rushed 29 times for 167 yards and a touchdown in the victory. They backed it up the next week with 27 rushes for 140 yards, and capped it off with a 35-rush, 158-yard beauty against the Giants that would have made power running teams of the 1960s and 70s proud.

All told, the Steelers rushed for 5.1 yards a carry over those three games, all three with Adams and Colon starting at right tackle and left guard, respectively.

It's all too familiar after that. Roethlisberger got hurt in Week 10, Colon was injured in Week 11 during a loss to Baltimore. He'd come back in Week 14, only to be placed on IR not long after. He wasn't right the rest of the time he played. Adams was injured in Week 12 against Cleveland, and didn't play again.

A brief flirtation with the kind of power running scheme the Steelers have been all but begging to work over the last two seasons resulted in just those three games - the last of which was the last time the Steelers had a 100-yard rusher, a streak that hit 12 games when the Steelers lost to Minnesota in Week 4.

Colon signed with the Jets this offseason, and has been playing a decent right guard for them. The Jets rushed 22 times for 118 yards in a 30-28 win over Atlanta in Week 5. Maybe he's in a better place now. He hasn't been injured yet this year, and somehow, the Jets are winning game.

The Steelers should be prepared for Colon's X-factor contributions in Week 6. Somehow, things seem to click when he's playing consistently.

Until he'd get injured, that was usually the case with him.

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