- Unfortunately there’s reason to fear that offensive line instability will continue in 2013.
As the Watch Tower pointed out, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Tribune Review both ignored the move which is a mistake because the Steelers could very well end up regretting letting Legursky leave.
Steelers Offensive Line Building in the Tomlin Era: Plug and Patch
While Mike Tomlin may not be responsible, the offensive line’s chronic instability began on his watch. First the team was unable and/or unwilling to resign Alan Faneca. That started a cascade of offensive line strategy which can only be described as “Plug and Patch.”
Steel Curtain Rising has discussed this phenomenon at length, to the point where the day after Willie Colon signed his four year contract, La Toalla Terrible predicted the Steelers would Colon him in two years. And of course that’s exactly what happened.
The impact of the Steelers decisions to sign and cut lineman, almost seemingly willy-nilly, doesn’t arrive in full until you see it visually.
Steelers Offensive Tackle Signed and Released in the Mike Tomlin Era:
- Jonathan Scott (signed for 3 in ’10, cut before ’12)
- Max Starks (benched in ’07, transitioned in ’08, franchised then signed for four in ’09, cut in ’11, signed in ’11, signed in ’12 let to walk after starting 16 games in ’12)
- Kendall Simmons (signed in ’07, cut in ’09 off season)
- Chris Kemoeatu (signed in ’09, cut in ’11 off season)
- Willie Colon (signed in ’10, cut after ’12)
- Trai Essex (signed in ’12 off season, cut in training camp)
- Sean Mahan, (signed in ’07, traded to Tampa before ’08)
- Justin Hartwig (signed in ’08, resigned in ’09, cut before ’10)
No other position area has suffered from such schizophrenia. A “close second” doesn’t even exist.
Building an Offensive Line via the Draft is a Start, but Only That
During Bill Cowher’s tenure, the Steelers almost seemed to have an unofficial policy of using a top-three pick on an offensive lineman in every draft. The tendency was strong during Tom Donahoe’s time, but it continued to a lesser extent after Kevin Colbert’s arrival in 2000.
But for three straight drafts, 2006, 2007, 2008, the Steelers never picked a lineman before round 4. One of those was Colon, the other Tony Hills. In the 2009 Draft the Steelers picked Kraig Urbik in the third, but never got any value out of him. He now starts in Buffalo.
- The Plug and Patch offensive line personnel policy depicted above was a consequence of this cumulative neglect of the line in the draft.
For however wise and necessary the strategy shift was in on the part of the Steelers braintrust the move was ultimately not sufficient, as one statistic shows.
- David DeCastro played in 4 games and started 3in in 2012. Kelvin Beachum appeared in 8 and started 5….
And that’s where the Steelers likely erred in letting Doug Legursky go.
Steelers Rolling the Dice on the Offensive Line
According to the Steelers Digest, Pittsburgh started six different offensive line combinations in 2010 and nine different combinations in 2011.
And that doesn’t count in-game juggling such as what occurred in the 2010 victory over Tampa, where Mike Tomlin himself admitted to not knowing who was cycling in and out of the game. That spectacle repeated itself several times since then.
- During all of those shuffles, Doug Legursky started in four configurations as a right guard, two configurations as a left guard, and three configurations as a center for a total of 14 starts in 2010 and 2011.
Yet, in spite of an established track record and excellent “position flexibility” the Steelers let Legursky walk to the Bills.
- Why? Steelers Nation can only ask.
In Doug Legursky the Steelers had an excellent 4th interior lineman who could and did step into the lineup at a moment’s notice. That type of ability and reliability is priceless, especially with the premium on protection Ben Roethlisberger.
In drafting Maurkice Pouncey, Marcus Gilbert, Mike Adams, and David DeCastro in resigning Ramon Foster the Steelers have (potentially) given themselves a solid starting foundation on offensive line.
- But the Steelers experience of the last several seasons has shown that good starters are not enough. You need depth. You need quality back ups.
But Beachum will only give the Steelers one quality backs up. History has shown the Steelers will likely need more. And they just let one go in Doug Legursky.
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