As such, Steelers head coach Bill Cowher might want to head
desperation off at the pass.
And desperation is the point the team has reached on its
With Pro Bowl left tackle Marvel Smith - quite arguably the team's
most consistent lineman (sorry Alan Faneca fans) - out this
week and possibly longer, the team is set to turn to rookie Trai Essex at left tackle for the third straight game.
The Steelers have spent much of the past two games trying to
protect and help Essex, who has been thrown into the fire,
having to face Pro Bowl players Terrell Suggs and Dwight Freeney. They've had tight end Heath Miller line up next to Essex
to help out. They've helped him with running backs. They've even
had Faneca slide over to give the rookie some help.
But now it might be time for an even more drastic move. The last
time Smith was out for an extended period, the Steelers moved
Faneca to left tackle. Faneca wasn't a Pro Bowl player at left
tackle like he is at left guard, but he was more than adequate.
And that move allowed the Steelers to insert young and unproven
Keydrick Vincent into the lineup at left guard. It was a move that
proved beneficial the following season when Vincent was forced
to replace Kendall Simmons at right guard for the entire year.
Speaking of Simmons, his play hasn't been good enough to
consider him a viable part of the team's future. The former
first-round pick has had health issues since he joined the team
in 2002, battling elbow and knee injuries and diabetes. The
potential for greatness he once showed has not come to fruition.
Which brings us to rookie Chris Kemoeatu.
The Steelers' sixth-round draft pick outperformed Essex in
training camp and during the preseason games. And that's all
we have with which to judge his play by since he hasn't seen the
field since early September.
With that in mind, the Steelers need to put their best five
offensive linemen on the field Sunday in a do or die game
against the Bengals. With Smith out, those five include
Kemoeatu at left guard and Faneca at left tackle.
The Steelers might even find that when Smith returns, Kemoeatu
is still one of their five best linemen.
After failing to gain 100 yards rushing in each of the past two
games with Essex at left tackle - at least in part because they've
had to help him so much - the time has come for a change.
Besides, better to make such a move against Cincinnati's
defensive line rather than the following week against the
imposing Chicago Bears front four.