Well, it appears day one of free agent watch 2009 went swimmingly. Good thing I haven't been paying attention enough to know that Byron Leftwich wants to be a starter again. Not like that was any kind of well kept secret or anything. It's just, to be honest with you, news about Byron Leftwich's life isn't very high up on my list of things to follow. But, you know, good for him. And when he can't find a decent starting job, I'll be happy to welcome him back with open arms.
So anyway, yesterday we covered the two QBs and Jeff Reed's life partner.
Today, I feel like the universe is trying to tell me something, but I just can't quite figure out what it is. It's like it's calling out to me...
Right, so if that was a little too cryptic for you, I'm saying today we should talk about the state of the O-line, specifically the Tackles.
From where I stand, while I appreciate the way the line turned it on in the playoffs, I can't really accept that as the norm considering Ben was still sacked 46 times during the regular season. And eight times in one game against the Eagles at that! You can argue until you're blue in the face that they aren't that bad, and maybe they're not. But 46 sacks, countless false starts, untimely holding penalties, unsportsmanlike conduct penalties [thy name is Kemoeatu], I mean, none of that is indicative of a solid unit.
Still, for most of the season we had two first year starters at guard and a "backup" at Left Tackle (a $7 million dollar backup, mind you...looks like a smart decision now, though, doesn't it?). Plus, Hartwig was new to the team. And then there's Willie Colon. I really don't have anything to say about that guy that I haven't already said about going to the Dentist. Put a little Kenny G on in the background of a game and watching him is pretty much the same thing. I don't see how he hasn't lost his job on that side other than the fact that we have jack shit for depth at Tackle beyond Max Starks. Well, ok, not EXACTLY jack shit - Trai Essex, Jason Capizzi and Tony Hills - but close enough.
So, I can see where you might think this is a serviceable unit, a fact I will not deny. I mean, we did just win a Super Bowl with them. I just frankly don't think they did a satisfactory job overall, even with Ben's tendency to hold the ball longer than one mountain of a human being blocking for him might like.
Wherever you come out on this whole thing, let us all know in the comments. For now, allow me to present to you the free agents of the 2009 Steelers Offensive Line, beginning with...
Max Starks - I think you almost have to re-sign him?
I mean, at this point, it's either Starks, Marvel Smith (see below), Trai Essex (also see below), develop Tony Hills and/or Jason Capizzi or draft a Tackle in April. Y'all may know that I'm a Max Starks apologist. I really never thought he was that bad. But since Mike Tomlin disagrees, I have to defer to his judgment.
Still, which would you rather have - a guy who's started in two Super Bowls and done alright, a guy who's 30 and coming off multiple seasons cut short by back injuries, a guy who's probably a career backup, or either of two unproven current practice squadders? Money is obviously an issue, since Starks apparently ranks among the most attractive free agent tackles. But I feel like the Steelers ought to seriously consider bringing Starks back AND starting him at Left Tackle.
Marvel Smith - Just like when it comes to drugs, I gotta say no.
I don't want this. You don't want this. But like I said above, the guy's 30 and just had his second straight season cut short by back problems (and potentially needs a second back surgery, though I haven't heard anything about this in a while). Remember, you're protecting a $100 million dollar QB back there. Max Starks is no Jonathan Ogden, but he's battle tested and isn't a complete dunce.
That said, I'm not going to throw a hissy fit if the Steelers decide to bring Smith back over Max Starks. So long as the discs in his back can stay in place, he's still a solid Left Tackle. I just worry about the injury sitch, which you may have gathered from the first 15 references I made to it.
Next, you've got...
Willie Colon - Can I defer?
I don't even know what to say. Needless to say, I make no secret about the fact that I'm not a Willie Colon fan, but what are the alternatives? We have no other natural Right Tackles currently on the roster. Sure, you could go with Trai Essex or one of the practice squadders I mentioned above, but I'm not sure I like Essex as a potential 16 game starter, and both of the practice squadders are still young and have no experience even in limited action. So, I really just don't know. I guess keep him? God, I can't believe I just said that...
And finally, there's...
Trai Essex - I say go for it. If you blow chunks and she comes back, she's yours. If you spew and she bolts, then it was never meant to be. Or something like that. He's a sold backup Tackle. No two ways about it. And no doubt you can get him on the cheap. So where exactly is the debate here? PS - Do I want to spend my time photoshopping something for Trai Essex? No, I don't.
And now that I've said my piece, what do y'all think about all this?