The offseason leading up to the 2010 season left a lot of fans wondering what was going to happen concerning the offensive line.
While the Steelers line was less than stellar in 2009, Willie Colon was statistically one of the better right tackles in the NFL, ranking third overall amongst offensive tackles.
Coming into the summer the Steelers had two sure starters with regards to the offensive line, Chris Kemoeatu at left guard and Willie Colon at right tackle.
Now that Colon is officially out for the season with a torn Achilles. The right tackle position may very well be the biggest position battle at Steelers training camp.
Here’s how it breaks down:
The Steelers signed one “veteran” offensive lineman over the offseason, and Jonathan Scott wasn’t exactly what most would have hoped for. Scott comes from Buffalo by way of Detroit, and was part of Buffalo’s injury ravaged line unit in 2009.
He played in 10 games last season (seven at left tackle, three at right tackle), and surrendered seven sacks, one quarterback hit, and 13 quarterback pressures.
While Scott was not the worst statistical tackle in the league last season, he certainly was not one of the best. Scott is an average to slightly above average backup caliber offensive tackle, and doesn’t really do any one thing better than another.
While Scott may still have his best football ahead of him, his first four years in the league have done little to impress two teams in the NFL that are starving for offensive line help.
His signing undoubtedly has to do with Steelers’ offensive line coach Sean Kugler, who was also Scott’s offensive line coach in Buffalo last season. The vote of confidence from the position coach is nice, but will Scott make the best of his one-year contract with Pittsburgh and develop into a starting caliber player?
Ramon Foster played a more significant role during his rookie season than anyone expected.
Foster, a former Tennessee Volunteer, showed great versatility playing in 14 games as a rookie and starting the final four of the season for the injured Chris Kemoeatu at left guard.
While Foster saw the majority of his action at left guard for the Steelers in 2009, he is more naturally a tackle, where he played more exclusively in college.
Foster’s performance as a rookie in the absence of Kemoeatu was quite impressive when considering his background and status. During his seven games at left guard last season (four as a starter) Foster never surrendered a sack.
That's an impressive stat considering that the Steelers gave up 50 sacks as a team last season.
For an undrafted free agent to only allow the quarterback to be hit five times and to be hurried a total of ten times in his rookie campaign makes you wonder what he is capable of should he be moved back to his more natural position.
With the return of Kemoeatu and the injury to Colon, this scenario makes a great deal of sense. He will start the season listed as a tackle, and should have as good of a shot to make the lineup as anyone else vying for the vacant position left by Colon.
Trai Essex would have been the biggest disappointment on the Steelers offensive line in 2009 had it not been for the money committed to center Justin Hartwig in the offseason.
Essex ranked dead last (84th) statistically amongst active guards in the NFL in 2009. The most eye-popping of all the stats was indeed his league leading 27 quarterback pressures.
There have been talks of Essex moving to left tackle in the shakedown of the offensive line, but it is highly unlikely at this point with what the Steelers are looking at.
Essex ranked third-worst in both pass and run blocking in the NFL last season. Moving him to the left side would be a crime committed to the Steelers quarterbacks this season.
His move to the right side would be less of a liability, and will most likely be the spot he finds his competition to stay in the starting lineup with the all but certain emergence of Maurkice Pouncey as the starting right guard.
1. Ramon Foster
2. Jonathan Scott
3. Trai Essex
While Essex has the experience as a starter, Foster is the most underrated lineman the Steelers have on the roster to date. Essex will likely go into camp as the leading candidate, but should be supplanted by the younger, better pass blocker in Foster.
If things shake down this way Foster will assume the starting right tackle position, Scott will be the backup at both tackle positions, and Essex will become the backup at the guard position.