Wolfley: Coaching up the offensive line

All right, the kid gloves come off. I just named myself the new cyberspace Steelers offensive line coach. I put on my thinking cap, and here's what I would do. Besides, Russ may have some bigger things going on pretty soon.

We'll start with Pittsburgh Steelers left tackle Marvel Smith. Here's what I'd tell Marvel:

You're a terrific player and possess all the qualities of a Pro Bowl guy, but you are also coming to the age in a player's career where technique starts to take precedence over strength. You're depending too much on the gifts God gave you. You should be farther along in your technique.

As far as pass blocking, let's expand on what you do well, and where you can improve. You've got terrific upper body strength, great hand speed, great feet, and you lose all that with your technique in certain situations. Run blocking is also a strong suit of yours, I've seen you humble Richard Seymour with my own eyes, but I'm not settling for where you are when you can be so much more dominant. Let's get to the nitty-gritty.

Your kick-step is fine on an edge guy. Good foot placement, nice and balanced stance. You cut a wide guy's angle initially, and your quick feet keep you in the fight. Now STAY WITH IT! Too soon you drop anchor, drop your head, play catcher and wrestle. You have a tendency to stop your feet while you punch on an edge rusher. Keep hoofing it! God gave you those long, strong arms so you could punch, re-direct a Kamerion Wimbley, and use your athleticism to run him around the pocket. Sound familiar?

Job one is to work on punching with timing, then timing the punch delivery with your feet. Work the line and keep your head back, punch and kick-step, over and over again. When you take your wife out on the dance floor on a Friday night at some club in LA, I want you to kick-step and punch. Hey, it's LA, nobody will notice. Just don't accidentally lockout on your wife. When you work out with your off-season boxing trainer, stress working from a southpaw's stance. Prioritize throwing combos from a counter-punching perspective.

When a guy takes the inside, step with the inside foot, not the outside. Just like a boxer. Always step with the foot closest to the direction you're going. If you're going to your right, step with the right foot first, and going left, well you figure it out. Never cross your feet. Boxers get knocked out when they do and quarterbacks get sacked when you do.

Another thing, anytime a guy takes that inside rush with an uppercut, punch his hip with that monstrously powerful left arm to keep separation. If his hip can't get past yours you will flat-line his rush. If you want to old school it, curl that paw up and throw an uppercut to that exposed liver. It tends to get the Doberman's on-the-hunt attention when they feel nothing but fire from the waist down. Expect to have to defend yourself when that guy recovers.

Run blocking, let's talk the stretch first. Good aiming point, great leg drive, and not-so-good hand placement. Work that left hand inside your antagonist's arm and grab a load of armpit hair. Lock onto the chest plate and work the push-pull rag doll drill we used to do. Get yourself to an old Judoka's training hall, put on a gi, and learn the eight directional off-balancing techniques used by Judo players.

Now how about some straight talk on straight blocking. No arguments here Marvel, stay with what your doing. Roll those hips with a little more authority after contact. Keep squatting in the off-season and throw in a couple sets weekly right through the season. Steve Courson once squatted 500 pounds for a few reps the day of a pre-season game, just to "loosen up the legs, " according to the Amazing C, as we called him.

Backside cut-off is a strength of yours, too. Go ahead and cut block more. It makes those defensive turds a little nervous when big bodies crash around their knees. It tends to keep their hands low, and their heads high.

Just some thoughts to make you a better player in '07.

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