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(Most) Pittsburgh Steelers Begin OTAs

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The 2012 season begins today for the Pittsburgh Steelers. This afternoon’s OTAs will be the first time most of the team has been on a field since we saw Tim Tebow smite them from the playoffs back in January. We’ll get our first look at the new look offense being installed by coordinator Todd Haley. We’ll get our first glimpse of the revamped offensive line. And we’ll get a chance to see what the secondary looks like now that Willie Gay has taken his talents to Pittsburgh West.

Well, we WOULD get to see these things if OTAs were open to the public. In reality, all we’ll actually learn is whatever minor nuggets of information the Steelers’ media puppets are fed by their “sources.” Normally I don’t pay OTAs much mind because I’m fairly confident that running Zip Buttonfly 501 Blues fifty times in May has zero bearing on being able to execute it in December. I’m sure teams like the Cleveland Browns work as hard during OTAs as any other team but it’s not gonna make much difference when you have Colt McCoy throwing to Mohammad Massawhatever.

I am interested in Steelers OTAs this year because 2012 is a season of change. Starting of course with Haley and his shiny new offense. I’ve already mentioned Ben Roethlisberger, among others, have been telling the media that tackling Haley’s new playbook has proven to be quite the challenge. Given Ben’s penchant for exaggeration, I’m sure some of that is just him being his usual Drama Queen. At the same time, I recognize Ben came into the league under Ken Whisenhunt who was replaced from within by his receivers coach, who basically kept the playbook as is. While Haley also worked under Whiz (in Arizona) so I expect some level of familiarity, he’s still an outsider coming in with an entirely new playbook.

The last time the Steelers went completely outside the organization to bring in a new offensive coordinator, they didn’t score an offensive touchdown their first three games of the season.

OL coach Sean Kugler also has a lot of work to do with our new look offensive line. Unfortunately, David DeCastro and Mike Adams won’t be able to attend OTAs because their schools are still in session. Oh, didn’t you hear? The NFL has a deal with the NCAA that says drafted players can’t report for NFL duty until their final semester has ended. I can sorta understand DeCastro sticking around school seeing as Stanford, while not as prestigious as my alma mater, Carnegie Mellon, is still one of the most renowned universities in the country. But the idea that they’re forcing Adams to stay at Ohio State to complete his degree in bong hits whatever nonsense major they give football players in order to keep them academically eligible is downright laughable.

Kugler will still have plenty to keep him busy even without his two prize prospects in the mix. His most daunting task will be Willie Colon’s impending move from tackle to guard. I’ve recounted Colon’s story too many times but in brief, Mike Tomlin inexplicably fell in love with him back in 2007 and has held him in high regard despite being part of an offensive line that surrendered a smidge under 120 sacks during his two seasons at RT. In 2010, he tore his ACL during OTAs yet the Steelers still signed him to a five year $29 million deal during the off-season. He rewarded their faith by blowing out his tricep against the Ravens in week one of last season. Two mediocre healthy seasons and two seasons missed due to injury and the Steelers were STILL counting on this guy to be a big part of their O-line in 2012. It’s like they want Ben to die.

Anyway, it appears they’ve finally watched some game tapes from 2008-9 and noticed Colon allows more penetration than a sorority girl on spring break. His downfall as a tackle was always his poor footwork and below-average athleticism. Theoretically, those weaknesses would be less glaring at guard where you don’t have to be as quick nor worry about matching up in space. Of course, Colon has never played guard and is somewhat undersized for the position so it’s not a perfect fit. However, I have a feeling the Steelers want to get SOME value out of their investment so this is their last ditch effort to find some use for him. Barring catastrophe, DeCastro will start at one guard position which leaves a two, now three, way battle between Doug Legursky, Ramon Foster and Colon for the other starting spot.

Finally, a few off-season tidbits. For those hoping Shaun Suisham will have competition in camp, UFA Grant Ressel has already been cut. I noted in my rundown of undrafted free agents that I had no idea what the Steelers saw in him coming off a lousy 2011. They did sign another kicker, Danny Hrapmann from Southern Miss. Hrapmann’s college numbers were marginally better than Ressel’s, although he still hit only 23 of 34 attempts last year with his numbers from 40+ (slightly more than 60% career) and 50+ (0 for 3 although two were blocked, he hit 2 of 3 the year before) not particularly impressive.

Looks like another long year with Miss’em Suisham.