Looking at the offense for 2003

Despite the prolific scoring of the Pittsburgh Steelers last season, there are a few concerns heading into 2003. Steeler fan Eugene Mannarino provides his take, another view from the 12th man.

First, let's look at the quarterback spot. The starter is Tommy Maddox, who had a breakout season last year taking over for Kordell Stewart. Since Maddox is getting paid less than backup Charlie Batch, a quarterback controversy could ensue if Tommy does not cut down on his interceptions. The Steelers did not use a high pick on a quarterback, so they must feel that Charlie will be a solid starter, if needed. There seems to be an interesting battle developing for the third quarterback spot between fifth round pick Brian St. Pierre and big-armed free agent Tim Levcik.

The running back spot should be solid with a healthy Jerome Bettis and Amos Zereoue battling out for the starting job. The best case scenario is for both backs to split the carries. The 3rd down back will be decided between Verron Haynes and Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala. If Verron can stay healthy and with Fu's salary and being injury-prone, Chris might have seen his last season with the Black and Gold. The fullback spot is Dan Kreider's job, but it looks like the Steelers will give a long look at J.T. Wall, considering that Kreider might be a free agent after next season.

At wide receiver the first 3 spots are taken with Plexico Burress, Hines Ward, and Antwaan Randle El. Minicamp reports indicate that Lee Mays looks to be the fourth wide receiver. The fifth and maybe sixth are up for grabs in a battle between Chris Doreing and a bunch of rookies. The one to watch out for is the speedster from Tennessee, Leonard Scott.

The tight end position should be very interesting The Steelers signed free agent Jay Riemersma and resigned Jerame Tuman to a 3-year deal.The biggest question mark is whether Mark Bruener will take a pay cut to stay with the Steelers. His blocking skills would definitely help out new left tackle Marvel Smith.

The offensive line's starting five is set, at least on paper, with Smith shifting to left tackle and Oliver Ross going to right tackle. The guard spots are manned by Pro-Bowler Alan Faneca and last year's first-rounder Kendall Simmons, who recently had surgery on his elbow.

There is solid depth at guard, with Keydrick Vincent and Chucky Okobi; and at center, with Okobi backing up Jeff Hartings and the recent free agent signing of Calvin Collins, who can also back up at guard. The tackle depth is provided by Todd Fordham, who will battle Ross, and the loser of that match will be the first backup. Fordham has also played at left tackle during his NFL career.

The sole question is if Mathias Nkwenti has the talent to come in at left tackle, or just the looks. Dave Costa, Jack Fadule, and Josh Burr will also be given a chance to make the team, based on their play at the left tackle spot.

If the Steelers do look to add anyone, it might be a veteran tackle.

Eugene Mannarino

12th Man articles are those submitted by the Steel City Sports online community.

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