8. Zierlein makes chicken salad.
With a suspect offensive line in 2007, the Steelers didn't do much to improve it in the offseason. Alan Faneca walked away as a free agent, and nearly $7 million was committed to underachiever Max Starks. The only new arrival was center Justin Hartwig, who at the time of his signing was viewed as an unnecessary luxury, given the presence of Sean Mahan. In the draft, the Steelers watched seven tackles go in the first 21 picks, doing nothing to move up from No. 23 to snag one of them.
So offensive line coach Larry Zierlein worked with what he had, and got them ready to play. When Marvel Smith was lost with a back injury, Starks was there to unexpectedly keep things moving in the right direction. And after beating out Mahan for the starting job at center, Hartwig anchored the line with 16 regular-season starts. Though the line allowed 49 regular-season sacks (fourth-worst in the league), they played their part in more than a few late-game victories, holding things together long enough to open up running lanes and/or buy time for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to make key throws. So while what was expected to be a major weakness for the Steelers hasn't exactly been a strength, the offensive line under the leadership of Zierlein has helped, not hindered, the team's unexpected return to the brink of the Super Bowl.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Praise for Coach Zierlein?
I'm normally a big fan of Mike Florio from the Sporting News and ProFootballTalk.com, but his recent article, 10 moves that shaped the Final Four, gives praise where praise isn't do (see below). Yes, the Steelers just played a great offensive game against the Chargers and the O-line played extremely well, but one good game doesn't erase a season's worth of poor coaching. Giving credit to Larry Zierlein for coaching the weakest link in our team is preposterous. We won in spite of our offensive line, not because of it.