Pittsburgh Steelers: The Understated Aspects of Willie Colon's Move to Guard
Colon's move to guard has most people fascinated with the prospect of having a better overall line and improved guard play in the running game. It is true that Colon will improve the line with this move because he will allow the Steelers to put more talent on the field and keep Marcus Gilbert away from left tackle where he would struggle. It is also true that he will improve the running game and provide the team with a pair of pulling guards.
However, what most appear to be ignoring is that Colon's move inside will also drastically improve the team's overall ability to protect Ben Roethlisberger.
While Colon was never an amazingly gifted pass blocking offensive tackle, he will likely be an above average pass blocker at the guard position. In last year's preseason, Tony Hills showed the different level of comfort that tackles have playing the guard position while Ramon Foster proved that his experience as a tackle in college helped him in the regular season.
Playing left guard is not the same as playing left tackle, but the ability to pass protect is more important for that position as opposed to right guard. With Colon at left guard Ben Roethlisberger should get better pass protection not only from whoever plays left tackle, but also from Colon himself.
Having a pair of strong blindside protectors is a major addition to an offense that should be moving even further towards a pass reliant playbook.
The playbook is going to be vital. Colon playing guard adds a new dynamic to the offense. His ability in space will allow the Steelers to be more creative with their screens or it will simply make them better at executing the simple ones they intend on using.
Screens are going to be vital for the Steelers this year as they try to overcome the loss of Rashard Mendenhall. With David DeCastro and Willie Colon playing inside, the Steelers have two guards not only capable of pulling, but also of playing in space.
With Chris Rainey likely to be featured in the offense, the ability to run multiple screens to both sides of the field will slow down any potential pass rush from the defense. Creating hesitation on the opposite side will be just as important to protect Roethlisberger as having better pass protection will be.
Keeping the defensive line guessing could save the Steelers up to 10 sacks per season if done well enough.
The way I view Colon is as a better version of Ramon Foster. Recently I wrote an article praising Foster for his displays in recent seasons as he is one of the team's most underrated players. With Colon now at guard, the Steelers have a proven sixth man who can cover both tackle and guard positions.
Foster dropping to the bench removes the need for the Steelers to carry a veteran like Trai Essex and allows them to concentrate on keeping the more talented players with potential for the future such as Kelvin Beachum.
Essex should remain a free agent throughout the season if the Steelers need to bring him back in an emergency situation. With Foster covering both guard spots and indirectly covering both tackle spots in the process, the need for Jonathan Scott and Essex isn't there because every spot on the offensive line is backed up between Foster and Doug Legursky.
Of course the left tackle position is still in need of a true backup/starter depending on the respective situations of free agent Max Starks and rookie Mike Adams. That is a totally separate matter however.
Fans have been desperate to see Willie Colon move to guard for years. Now that he has made the move, the only downside is that Colon's injury issues will now face even tougher tests against bigger defensive tackles.
Violence and pain come whether you play inside or outside, but the prospect of Colon having to deal with Haloti Ngata instead of Paul Kruger or Courtney Upshaw must not be overlooked considering the fact that Colon is coming off of essentially two missed seasons due to injury.
This is definitely a positive move from the Steelers coaching staff, but it is up to Colon to find his comfort at his new position and prove his durability.
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