Willie Colon could just be a round peg in a square hole scheme

Ed Szczepanski-US PRESSWIRE

We asked Colon via Twitter about his defensive background, he took it as humor, as he should have, but one thing you have to appreciate is his willingness, even in an extremely hypothetical situation.

What you are about to read may come across as absurd, but no more absurd than the idea Willie Colon should not be a member of the 2013 Pittsburgh Steelers.

Not to suggest Colon or the Steelers would even consider moving him to the defensive side of the ball, but how great would it be for Steelers fans to see him doing this to Joe Flacco of the Ravens, Andy Dalton of the Bengals or Brandon Weeden of the Browns?

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Unfortunately, NFL offensive and defensive linemen are horses of completely different colors. One does not simply turn around and become the other, unless the player had some sort of prior experience.

Colon's bio on the team's official website shows he played four years of football for Cardinal Hayes High School in New York, where he was a member of their CHSAA "A" championship team's defense. He earned the Cardinal Hayes Outstanding Defensive Player award in his senior season after recording 12 sacks. Colon had recorded eight sacks in his junior season, and eight more in his sophomore year. Colon was also voted as the MVP of the Catholic High School All-Star team. What position did he play?

It's been a long time since high school for Colon, and he has played only offensive line dating back to his Hofstra days; but perhaps he should be thinking about revisiting his roots. Evidently, he was pretty good at it.

The Steelers have a situation at nose tackle in 2013. Long time starter Casey Hampton will become a free-agent on March 12 when the league year starts and his contract expires. Steve McLendon, who has impressed with an ability to penetrate pockets, is currently slated to be Hampton's replacement. The biggest knock against McLendon is his ability to play the run, or to consistently demand double teaming offensive lineman, like Hampton has done as the team's zero-technique DT for his entire career. McLendon is an RFA this year, and the team will have to make a decision on his future based on his performance, before he becomes an unrestricted FA.

Pittsburgh has two other defensive tackles currently under contract and ready for training camp in 2012 fourth-round pick Alameda Ta'amu and late-2012-signee Hebron Fangupo, but neither are proven commodities; they are projects. With a definite depth problem and an uncertainty at starter, the team will have to look at defensive tackles in the NFL draft.

Perhaps they will find the one they are looking for early and give up on finding an immediate starter for left guard. Then Colon's job would be safe as the team would be expecting him to reprise his starting role at left guard. If they do find a new LG, the team will most likely find Colon as expendable; regardless of his experience or a lack of significant cap savings for releasing him. Maybe he should consider moving back to the dark side, but would he?

Colon, a three-year starter at right tackle and 2012 starter at left guard, would have finished his first complete season in the last three years, but he took a cheap shot to the knee. As the team prepares for the 2013 season from a salary cap perspective, Colon's name has been one of the most frequently mentioned release nominations, due to excessive weight, expensive contract and expected injuries.

Colon was definitely built for line play, regardless of the side. As the Steelers move toward a schematical shift toward a zone blocking scheme which would prefer smaller, more athletic linemen; Colon is seen as a square peg in a round hole, regardless of how round he is. The general consensus seems to be he will need to slim down to fit the new scheme. It is believed Colon is carrying too much weight to efficiently perform within the new zone philosophy, but he wouldn't be too heavy to play zero-tech nose tackle.

Granted, being part of a high school four man line and playing zero technique in a Dick LeBeau 3-4 defense are two completely different things; but this in no way guarantees he would be unable to make the transition. Colon is more athletic than most zeroes, he displays enough lower and upper body strength to displace men well over 300 pounds, and success-laden experience as a defensive minded player. He would take some refining to adjust to the pro game, but he would have a season to adjust while McLendon is still under contract.

Perhaps his passionate play and personal drive are Colon's greatest asset. When a lackluster running game struggled to pull their own weight early in the 2012 season, Colon began throwing his around. He lit the offensive line on fire with his own, and the team had its best success of the season. A defensive "attack" mentality was definitely on display as Colon attempted to motivate.

While Colon's health history would not be expunged with a move, he could leave it behind. Most of his injuries have come while in the awkward and unfortunate position of playing offensive line in the NFL, where they are repeatedly having their legs taken out (2012-knee), getting caught up in the constant back-track of pass protection (2010 - Achilles) or just run-of-the-mill injuries at a position which requires pushing strength (2011 - torn tricep). The normal-type injuries can and do happen to most players, it is just part of the game. Few players can absorb unexpected blows to their knees from opponents with harmful intent, meaning the injury has little to do with his durability as a player. On the defensive side, he would no longer find himself in a helpless, defensive position. He would now be the attacker, intentionally.

While this sounds great and all on paper, this is obviously a complicated transition. This would have to become the want of the coaches, the front office and the player. While the coaches simply might not have considered the idea yet, would Colon even be interested in making the switch himself after spending his entire professional career on the offensive line. It is one thing to miss playing defense in high school, and another to even be willing to try it in the NFL.

We asked Colon via Twitter about his defensive background, he took it as humor, as he should have, but one thing you have to appreciate is his willingness, even in an extremely hypothetical situation. Depending on the Steelers decision on Colon's future as an offensive player, or their use of the 17th pick in the NFL draft; perhaps he could end up needing them, to need him to roll.

Colon changed positions prior to 2012 to preserve his job. In 2013, should the team share the same sentiment as the fans and the media, Colon could consider another position switch to preserve his health, and his job, in Pittsburgh.

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