'Don't Need Five All-Pros' Up Front

The Steelers' offensive line has again taken its annual share of hits, but no one who's involved in the process is worried.

LATROBE — Listen to the fans and sometimes the media and you'd believe the Steelers have the worst offensive line ever to make it to a Super Bowl.

Talk to the players and coaches and you'll learn that the argument is moot. They'll accept that assessment and move on, hopefully collecting more jewelry along the way.

"It's just the nature of the job for offensive linemen," Doug Legursky said. "We're always the first ones to get blamed, but we take it all in stride. You just play your best five and we made it to the Super Bowl doing that last year.

"Any team you're on, all you need is five up there. You don't need five All-Pros, just five who can work together and play within the scheme."

However, as the Steelers learned again last season, offensive line play is about more than just the five starters. Versatility and depth have been Steelers benchmarks for years. Subs must know more than one position and often are taught more than two.

Jonathan Scott joined the team last year and felt his way through well enough to earn 12 starts, including the last half of the regular season and through the playoffs. He did well enough to earn a new contract and is the odds-on favorite to start at left tackle, where he filled in for Max Starks last year.

"I played my role," was how Scott described his success.

"How we work so well together is because we all get a taste of every position in training camp," Scott said. "It's not like we haven't been out there. Look at Ramon Foster. He played everywhere on the line except center last year. Just how the league is set up, there are only so many players. When Trai Essex was injured last year, the worst case scenario had me as the backup center."

Besides missing Starks for half the season, the Steelers went without Willie Colon throughout and lost Essex for four games.

When center Maurkice Pouncey went down and out in the AFC Championship game win over the Jets, Legursky stepped in and the line didn't miss a beat.

Any coach on any team would like to have five All-Pro guys to line up with. Steelers line coach Sean Kugler realizes that won't happen anywhere, least of all here. He knows he has a very good and potentially great one in Pouncey and he also knows he can't surround Pouncey with Moe, Larry and Curly.

"You want five guys that compete, five guys that believe in each other," Kugler said. "If you're not in the top five, you have to be versatile."

And it's always a work in progress. Gone from last year are Essex (still on the open market) and two opening day starters (Starks and Flozell Adams). The team added Marcus Gilbert and Keith Williams through the draft and a handful of rookie free agents. Foster made the team as an undrafted rookie in 2009 and gives all of the props for the team's success to Kugler.

"His game plans are excellent," Foster said. "He tells us how we're supposed to play. The way we prepare, you throw somebody into a situation; they show up; they come through. There is nobody here who doesn't know more than one position."

The faces and names are different but as all well-read Steelers fans know, the standard doesn't change.


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