Kimo: Four More Years

<b>PITTSBURGH - </b> Last year at this time, Kimo von Oelhoffen couldn't lift his arm above his head. This year he seems to press a new quarterback every other week. <br><br>"I feel like a young kid again," said von Oelhoffen, the 32-year-old Steelers defensive end. "I have absolutely no injuries, which I'm lucky for. And that is the whole key. When you play injured, you're very limited and up until this point I haven't been limited."

He's far from limited. In fact, von Oelhoffen stormed to the team's sack lead with his hat trick last week. Von Oelhoffen took down Rick Mirer of the Oakland Raiders three times and called it his best day as a pass rusher. And why not? It's the best game of his best season.

"I am getting better every year," he said. "Ask the coaches. From the first year I got here, it's been a steady climb and that's not going to change. Before I got in the NFL I played 16 games of football in my whole life, so I didn't get beat up and all that. I didn't touch a weight until my sophomore year in college, so I'm going to play a long time, barring injuries."

Von Oelhoffen predicted he'd play four more years, but he also made the prediction during an injury-free moment. Last year, a shoulder injury forced him to stop lifting weights after the fourth game of the season. This year, he's cranked it out three times a week, which he believes has set him up for the end of the season.

"Like right now," he said. "The first 10 weeks I probably lifted more than anybody on the team because I understand that last six weeks is where you usually get caught up. I did that. These last six weeks I've backed off and everything's coming."

Von Oelhoffen got a late start to his weightlifting career, but he gained natural strength by working with his grandfather as a boy. He grew up in Kaunakakai, Hawaii, and attended a high school that did not field a football team, so he was able to work 10 hours a day with his grandfather.

"I was a fisherman," von Oelhoffen said. "We pulled nets my whole life and I was always a worker. I was always just strong."

Von Oelhoffen began his college career in 1990 at the University of Hawaii but transferred to a junior college in 1991. He went to Boise State in 1992 and played only half of that season due to a stress fracture in his foot. He was slowed in his senior season by a sprained ankle, but was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in the sixth round in 1994. He joined the Steelers as a free agent in 2000 and has made steady improvement each year.

"I understand the game a lot more," he said. "I understand the muscles you're going to use, and the angles, and the leverage, then all season I get to work those muscles. I get to work my hands. I know each year if there was something I was lacking the year before, then I work on it that next year and when the season comes around it pays off. Every year for the last six, seven years I've been doing that."

"Last year I worked on my get-off, or getting around the corner. This year I worked on losing weight. I'm getting my core a little stronger so I can play more plays."

That's his current goal. Against the Raiders, von Oelhoffen logged 40 defensive plays. The week before he put in 38 and the week before that 45. More snaps would allow more chances for sacks, and he's hoping to become the first Steelers defensive lineman to lead the team in that category since Gerald Williams led with 6 in 1990.

"It would be cool," von Oelhoffen said. "But the way I see it, Aaron (Smith) is a hairline away from having the 8 sacks. Sacks are a piece of the puzzle, but it's really not the whole thing. If I played like Aaron this year, I'd be a lot more happy than I am now. Not because I haven't been playing good. I think I've been playing very well. But Aaron can play 20 more snaps than me. I can't do that. He plays 60, 70 snaps a game. I'm 40, 50. I mean I'm 15 pounds heavier, but I'd like to get to where I can play 60 plays a game."

Any other goals?

"I'm happy right now," he said. "What I wish and what I hope is that the younger players see the work that I put in and they do the same."

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