Monday, May 21, 2012

New Offense Makes For Positive Headlines For Roethlisberger and Colon This Offseason.

It was late February in 2010 when I got a call from my buddy who ran the floor crew of the Thomas and Mack center here in Las Vegas where the UNLV Runnin' Rebels play their home basketball games: "You'll never guess who's in my house!" I'm thinking, "you're right."

You see, my buddy is an avid Steelers fan too and, after a few back-and-forths, it turned out that Ben Roethlisberger, Willie Colon and some other players/guys he didn't recognize had rented the floor for a while to play a few games of hoops. I begged twitch him to find a way to get down to get in somehow and see them, meet them, ask one of them to be the godfather of my firstborn, anything...but to no avail. Little did I know what was to come less than two weeks later.

But this article isn't focusing on anything negative, nor will it reopen old wounds. Both Big Ben and Colon have been in the news for basically positive team-related reasons this offseason, and that deserves attention too.

Sure, we had some potential doubt with the 'Big Ben hasn't met with Haley' and 'Colon won't take a pay cut' articles, but those were overblown and TMZ-like articles based on having little else to write about regarding the team.

What has actually been the case is that Big Ben went back and completed his degree nine years after he left school for the NFL. The 30-year-old quarterback received his bachelor's degree in education.

Big Ben has also had to ingest a new playbook that he has referred to as the "Rosetta Stone." That notwithstanding, he has been clear about delving into it to learn it as best he can. He's even pointed out that he is seeing quite a bit of the no-huddle to the new offense. That may be a good thing.

According to some raw stats, Big Ben has a 64% completion rate and about a 7.5 yard per completion average over his career. In 4th quarters Big Ben has an approximate 70% completion rate and a 7.58 YPC average. Again, these are raw numbers, but they give an idea of how good this could potentially be. 

Another reason why this is potentially very good for Big Ben and the offense is this - the most sacked quarterbacks since 2009: Joe Flacco = 107; Jay Cutler = 110; Aaron Rodgers = 117; and Ben Roethlisberger = 122.

The no-huddle in part means a more fast-paced offense and potentially a quicker release. That coupled with the 24th, 83rd and maybe even the 248th pick in the 2012 draft, and the recently announced offensive line changes, and Big Ben may see a former liability may become a strength sooner than later.

Which leads me to the other side of this coin: "I've made the transition to left guard," Willie Colon said in an interview with Mike Prisuta of WDVE. "I like it. It's just a matter of learning the verbiage." Colon told Prisuta that the coaches called him right after the drafting of Mike Adams to tell him about the switch. 

That will provide a level of athleticism on the inside of the line which the Steelers haven't had in a while and which will allow both Colon and DeCastro, the number one draft pick who'll play right guard this season, to pull. The Steelers traditionally take the counter pike/trap/pull to the right, but now will have both options. Colon verified this.

"You should expect both of us pulling," Colon continued. "I think we're going to be a lot more balanced."

The addition of Colon and DeCastro to the interior will give the line a lot of power to create a push in the running game, which, despite now having more size on the outside for pass protection, is what should be seen more so early in the season. Lining up and punching the opposing defensive line in the mouth is easier than getting timing down in the passing game. So expect more of that early on.

Also to be considered in that is the fact that Mike Adams has the talent, but is unpolished and green. He may need some help and time to maturate before he starts. In my opinion, expect Max Starks to be back, if healthy, to start the season.

Ed Bouchette did say, though, that Adams has a chance to start. Colon echoed those words.

“I am excited to get out there. I know the sky is the limit for us as a line. We have the young kids DeCastro and Mike Adams," said Colon in the interview. "The biggest thing that always gets us is the injury bug, but if we can stay strong and healthy, we should be the one or two best line in the league.”

As was reported on Friday, Trai Essex will be given a chance at the back up spot at tackle. There is also newly signed Kyle Jolly who'll have a shot at back up now that Trevis Turner has been deemed expendable and released. I simply hope that this means the end of Jonathan Scot...AAARGH!!!... Sorry, I get that reaction whenever I say or hear his name. Hopefully, though. Hopefully.

Not everyone sees this as necessarily a good thing, though. David Todd, @hammerspeaks on Twitter, tweeted: "Colon at left guard may mean Adams at LT so two rookies aren't playing next to each other. That is how I read things." Very possibly so. This would, after all, be the first time that the offensive line has started two rookies in almost 40 years.

Another outlook on this is from Lance Williams of when he wrote: "I think the Steelers could be making a very big mistake with the offensive line. I think it's really premature to name Adams the starting LT. He has gone from off the board to drafted to starter without playing a snap with pads. You couple that with starting two new guards and you have a high level of uncertainty. Mix that all up with a new offense and you have the potential for an explosion."

Or you could also have the potential for explosion.

Lance may be correct: the starting of two rookies is like mixing Nitric Acid and Glycerol, two chemicals which unto themselves aren't a problem but volatile when mixed. But that volatility may manifest itself in the form of young, vibrant, hellbent-for-leather nastiness that this offensive line could use.

So when you consider what is now behind us and add in some youth and veteran leadership to a new offense, our front five and no. seven could very well lead to Ring number seven.