Welcome to Between the Lines, a new Steel Curtain Rising column. Where “Watch Tower” dissects media coverage of the Steelers, “Between the Lines” focuses comments by Steeler officials and the team’s official publication, Steelers Digest, in an attempt to read the tea leaves to discern what’s going on inside the Steelers organization.
Today’s post deals with an eyebrow raising statement Steelers Digest Editor Bob Labriola made in the Digest’s May edition. Our most recent Watch Tower post debated Labriola’s contention that Mendenhall’s arrival could help compensate for the Steelers (very wise) choice not to reach for an offensive lineman in the 2008 draft.
In assembling his argument, Labriola offered this snippet of insight into the Steelers offensive line woes:
“With Fanaca gone, the offensive line is without its lone star, but it also becomes a group without a dominating personality, without a player who has earned the stature of a superstar among his peers. Fanaca was never a problem in any way during his final season here, but it’s also true he never completely bought into the new regime.
“With Faneca gone, it will be easier to change some things, to teach different techniques, to coerce everyone to do it the way it’s being taught instead of the way it used to be done.” [Emphasis added.]
One of the real perks Digest readers enjoy is that you sometimes get a little peek into the inner workings of the Steelers. Labriola’s observation that Fanaca “never completely bought into the new regime” is attention grabbing.
Just what does it mean?
It’s hard to say. Labriola’s certainly not making the case for addition by subtraction. Fanaca was too good for that.
However, it’s also true that cohesion is an important component in quality offensive line play. Labriola’s observations perhaps cast offensive line coach Larry Zierlein’s comments about new blocking techniques in a new light. (For the record, Steel Curtain Rising criticized Zierlein for those remarks.)
Anyone who has ever worked in business knows that any new system requires “user buy in” for success. Without it, things flounder quickly. (Think the metric system in the US, the Susan B. Anthony dollar.)
It is too much of a stretch to think that, lineman for lineman, the net quality of the Steelers offensive line corps will improve with Fanaca’s departure. But Labriola’s revelation makes it conceivable that, as a whole, the overall quality of play of the offensive line can improve in 2008.