Coach Z

Larry Zierlein has some big shoes to fill, but he has some stylistic and philosophical differences from former Steelers offensive line coach Russ Grimm. Here's the breakdown from Jim Wexell:

LATROBE – On the other field, the quarterbacks and receivers were engaged in some touch football with the defensive backs, and only the TV reporters seemed to care.

The rest of the football media, not to mention the scouts and the coaches and the front office, stood around the pit to watch the linemen go to war, mano a mano.

The smartest guy I knew was standing next to me, so I asked him what he was learning.

"The new O-line coach has a different philosophy than Russ (Grimm) did," he said. "He wants them to use more short sets in pass pro, you know, so they can get their hands up quicker. Russ wanted them to back up a step or two and absorb the defensive linemen."

Well, the short set only makes sense, I told him. It doesn't give the defensive player as many options to get to the quarterback.

"Yeah, but it's riskier," the smart man said. "If you lunge just a bit in a short set, you're cooked. And you have to have quick hands to do it right."

So, who has the quick hands?

"Well, Chukky (Okobi) is not bad. (Chris) Kemo(eatu) has quick hands. Kendall (Simmons) is probably the quickest, he and Alan (Faneca). Max (Starks) isn't too quick; neither is Trai Essex."

Just as the words came out of his mouth, Essex used a quick hand punch to knock Brett Keisel on his can.

"But there are exceptions," he said with a chuckle.

A moment later, Willie Colon drove rookie LaMarr Woodley wide, and then he knocked him down, and then he drove him into the ground. The new offensive line coach, Larry Zierlein, went off.

"That's the way, Willie! That's perfect!" he shouted.

Zierlein, the 61-year-old ex-Marine, had been more a quiet teacher throughout the week, but on this day he was happy, even excited. But he wasn't so sure the "short sets" really differ from what Grimm taught here the previous six seasons.

"A short set means that you get your hands on him now," Zierlein said. "I don't think for Alan or Kendall it's anything different because I've always seen those guys get their hands on them pretty quick. Now, tackles are a little different story."

Zierlein explained that instead of forming a cup to protect the quarterback, he wants them "to get the hands on a little quicker, keep the pocket wider, and eliminate some of the things that the defender can do." He pointed out, and praised, the practice play Thursday of Colon and Marvel Smith. And it was obvious during the drill that Zierlein was pleased with Colon's mauling of Woodley.

"Yeah, and that was a short set that he used," Zierlein said. "Now he did jump, but he's done it in college so he's got a background. If you go back and look at the tape, he did jump-set him and it completely surprised Woodley."

Has Zierlein narrowed his open competitions down a bit? Does he like Colon over Starks? Has Simmons's 13-pound weight loss, after a great spring, given him the right guard spot? And no less an expert than Casey Hampton gave the edge at center to Sean Mahan, because of the veteran's deeper bag of tricks, such as holding.

"There is no holding in this league," Zierlein said with a grin. "That's illegal. That's a penalty. Now, if you clutch, there is nothing in the rulebook about clutching."

Okay, Mahan can "clutch" better than Okobi. So, do we have the winners established yet?

"You know," Zierlein said, "I'm grading every guy on every play in all the nine-on-sevens and everything, and there is nobody separating yet. One day, Willie might have won more; he might've gotten more pluses than Max did. The next day it may be the other way. It's the same way at every position that's being contested, so there are no winners or losers yet."

But they are responding to the new methods, aren't they?

"Well, I hope they are," he said. "But Russ did a helluva job with these guys. Russ is a great football coach and I'm trying not to change a whole lot. Obviously, technique things, there are some things that I believe in, but I don't know how much of a difference there is."

Simmons may have summed it up best:

"Russ's whole deal was he didn't care if you lined up and leaped out ass backwards. He didn't care as long as you got him blocked. He went over schemes and stuff like that and said, ‘I'm not going to change the way you do things. I just want the group to work as one.' And Coach Z is more about fundamentals and stuff like that.

"It's still about the same the same thing: Get them blocked the way you know how, and if you have to revert to your old way, whatever, just get the job done.

"They're different. They're different. I think Z is a little bit more outgoing and Russ is a little bit more laidback. To me that's the only difference."

To read the complete interview with Larry Zierlein, click here.


Steel City Insider Top Stories

\r\n\r\n\r\nLATROBE – On the other field, the quarterbacks and receivers were engaged in some touch football with the defensive backs, and only the TV reporters seemed to care.\r\n\r\n

The rest of the football media, not to mention the scouts and the coaches and the front office, stood around the pit to watch the linemen go to war, mano a mano.\r\n\r\n

The smartest guy I knew was standing next to me, so I asked him what he was learning.\r\n\r\n

\"The new O-line coach has a different philosophy than Russ (Grimm) did,\" he said. \"He wants them to use more short sets in pass pro, you know, so they can get their hands up quicker. Russ wanted them to back up a step or two and absorb the defensive linemen.\"\r\n\r\n

Well, the short set only makes sense, I told him. It doesn't give the defensive player as many options to get to the quarterback.\r\n\r\n

\"Yeah, but it's riskier,\" the smart man said. \"If you lunge just a bit in a short set, you're cooked. And you have to have quick hands to do it right.\"\r\n\r\n

So, who has the quick hands?\r\n\r\n

\"Well, Chukky (Okobi) is not bad. (Chris) Kemo(eatu) has quick hands. Kendall (Simmons) is probably the quickest, he and Alan (Faneca). Max (Starks) isn't too quick; neither is Trai Essex.\"\r\n\r\n

Just as the words came out of his mouth, Essex used a quick hand punch to knock Brett Keisel on his can.\r\n\r\n

\"But there are exceptions,\" he said with a chuckle.\r\n\r\n

A moment later, Willie Colon drove rookie LaMarr Woodley wide, and then he knocked him down, and then he drove him into the ground. The new offensive line coach, Larry Zierlein, went off.\r\n\r\n

\"That's the way, Willie! That's perfect!\" he shouted.\r\n\r\n

Zierlein, the 61-year-old ex-Marine, had been more a quiet teacher throughout the week, but on this day he was happy, even excited. But he wasn't so sure the \"short sets\" really differ from what Grimm taught here the previous six seasons.\r\n\r\n

\"A short set means that you get your hands on him now,\" Zierlein said. \"I don't think for Alan or Kendall it's anything different because I've always seen those guys get their hands on them pretty quick. Now, tackles are a little different story.\"\r\n\r\n

Zierlein explained that instead of forming a cup to protect the quarterback, he wants them \"to get the hands on a little quicker, keep the pocket wider, and eliminate some of the things that the defender can do.\" He pointed out, and praised, the practice play Thursday of Colon and Marvel Smith. And it was obvious during the drill that Zierlein was pleased with Colon's mauling of Woodley.\r\n\r\n

\"Yeah, and that was a short set that he used,\" Zierlein said. \"Now he did jump, but he's done it in college so he's got a background. If you go back and look at the tape, he did jump-set him and it completely surprised Woodley.\"\r\n\r\n

Has Zierlein narrowed his open competitions down a bit? Does he like Colon over Starks? Has Simmons's 13-pound weight loss, after a great spring, given him the right guard spot? And no less an expert than Casey Hampton gave the edge at center to Sean Mahan, because of the veteran's deeper bag of tricks, such as holding.\r\n\r\n

\"There is no holding in this league,\" Zierlein said with a grin. \"That's illegal. That's a penalty. Now, if you clutch, there is nothing in the rulebook about clutching.\"\r\n\r\n

Okay, Mahan can \"clutch\" better than Okobi. So, do we have the winners established yet?\r\n\r\n

\"You know,\" Zierlein said, \"I'm grading every guy on every play in all the nine-on-sevens and everything, and there is nobody separating yet. One day, Willie might have won more; he might've gotten more pluses than Max did. The next day it may be the other way. It's the same way at every position that's being contested, so there are no winners or losers yet.\"\r\n\r\n

But they are responding to the new methods, aren't they?\r\n\r\n

\"Well, I hope they are,\" he said. \"But Russ did a helluva job with these guys. Russ is a great football coach and I'm trying not to change a whole lot. Obviously, technique things, there are some things that I believe in, but I don't know how much of a difference there is.\"\r\n\r\n

Simmons may have summed it up best:\r\n\r\n

\"Russ's whole deal was he didn't care if you lined up and leaped out ass backwards. He didn't care as long as you got him blocked. He went over schemes and stuff like that and said, ‘I'm not going to change the way you do things. I just want the group to work as one.' And Coach Z is more about fundamentals and stuff like that.\r\n\r\n

\"It's still about the same the same thing: Get them blocked the way you know how, and if you have to revert to your old way, whatever, just get the job done.\r\n\r\n

\"They're different. They're different. I think Z is a little bit more outgoing and Russ is a little bit more laidback. To me that's the only difference.\" \r\n\r\n\r\n \r\n

To read the complete interview with Larry Zierlein, click here.","mobileBody":" \r\n\r\nLATROBE – On the other field, the quarterbacks and receivers were engaged in some touch football with the defensive backs, and only the TV reporters seemed to care.\r\n\r\n

The rest of the football media, not to mention the scouts and the coaches and the front office, stood around the pit to watch the linemen go to war, mano a mano.\r\n\r\n

The smartest guy I knew was standing next to me, so I asked him what he was learning.\r\n\r\n

\"The new O-line coach has a different philosophy than Russ (Grimm) did,\" he said. \"He wants them to use more short sets in pass pro, you know, so they can get their hands up quicker. Russ wanted them to back up a step or two and absorb the defensive linemen.\"\r\n\r\n

Well, the short set only makes sense, I told him. It doesn't give the defensive player as many options to get to the quarterback.\r\n\r\n

\"Yeah, but it's riskier,\" the smart man said. \"If you lunge just a bit in a short set, you're cooked. And you have to have quick hands to do it right.\"\r\n\r\n

So, who has the quick hands?\r\n\r\n

\"Well, Chukky (Okobi) is not bad. (Chris) Kemo(eatu) has quick hands. Kendall (Simmons) is probably the quickest, he and Alan (Faneca). Max (Starks) isn't too quick; neither is Trai Essex.\"\r\n\r\n

Just as the words came out of his mouth, Essex used a quick hand punch to knock Brett Keisel on his can.\r\n\r\n

\"But there are exceptions,\" he said with a chuckle.\r\n\r\n

A moment later, Willie Colon drove rookie LaMarr Woodley wide, and then he knocked him down, and then he drove him into the ground. The new offensive line coach, Larry Zierlein, went off.\r\n\r\n

\"That's the way, Willie! That's perfect!\" he shouted.\r\n\r\n

Zierlein, the 61-year-old ex-Marine, had been more a quiet teacher throughout the week, but on this day he was happy, even excited. But he wasn't so sure the \"short sets\" really differ from what Grimm taught here the previous six seasons.\r\n\r\n

\"A short set means that you get your hands on him now,\" Zierlein said. \"I don't think for Alan or Kendall it's anything different because I've always seen those guys get their hands on them pretty quick. Now, tackles are a little different story.\"\r\n\r\n

Zierlein explained that instead of forming a cup to protect the quarterback, he wants them \"to get the hands on a little quicker, keep the pocket wider, and eliminate some of the things that the defender can do.\" He pointed out, and praised, the practice play Thursday of Colon and Marvel Smith. And it was obvious during the drill that Zierlein was pleased with Colon's mauling of Woodley.\r\n\r\n

\"Yeah, and that was a short set that he used,\" Zierlein said. \"Now he did jump, but he's done it in college so he's got a background. If you go back and look at the tape, he did jump-set him and it completely surprised Woodley.\"\r\n\r\n

Has Zierlein narrowed his open competitions down a bit? Does he like Colon over Starks? Has Simmons's 13-pound weight loss, after a great spring, given him the right guard spot? And no less an expert than Casey Hampton gave the edge at center to Sean Mahan, because of the veteran's deeper bag of tricks, such as holding.\r\n\r\n

\"There is no holding in this league,\" Zierlein said with a grin. \"That's illegal. That's a penalty. Now, if you clutch, there is nothing in the rulebook about clutching.\"\r\n\r\n

Okay, Mahan can \"clutch\" better than Okobi. So, do we have the winners established yet?\r\n\r\n

\"You know,\" Zierlein said, \"I'm grading every guy on every play in all the nine-on-sevens and everything, and there is nobody separating yet. One day, Willie might have won more; he might've gotten more pluses than Max did. The next day it may be the other way. It's the same way at every position that's being contested, so there are no winners or losers yet.\"\r\n\r\n

But they are responding to the new methods, aren't they?\r\n\r\n

\"Well, I hope they are,\" he said. \"But Russ did a helluva job with these guys. Russ is a great football coach and I'm trying not to change a whole lot. Obviously, technique things, there are some things that I believe in, but I don't know how much of a difference there is.\"\r\n\r\n

Simmons may have summed it up best:\r\n\r\n

\"Russ's whole deal was he didn't care if you lined up and leaped out ass backwards. He didn't care as long as you got him blocked. He went over schemes and stuff like that and said, ‘I'm not going to change the way you do things. I just want the group to work as one.' And Coach Z is more about fundamentals and stuff like that.\r\n\r\n

\"It's still about the same the same thing: Get them blocked the way you know how, and if you have to revert to your old way, whatever, just get the job done.\r\n\r\n

\"They're different. They're different. I think Z is a little bit more outgoing and Russ is a little bit more laidback. To me that's the only difference.\" \r\n\r\n\r\n \r\n

To read the complete interview with Larry Zierlein, click here.","skipOnMobile":true,"skipOnMobileReason":"Unsupported Markup","unsupportedMarkup":"body","media":[],"dateOverride":"2007-07-27T12:50:00","authorOverride":"Jim Wexell","role":"SteelCityInsider.com","isPremium":true,"isHotNews":false,"isRumor":false,"syndicationFlag":true,"isClassified":true,"hotNamesLinked":true,"storyImage":"[MEDIA:452116]","mainImage":{"url":"[MEDIA:452116]"},"thumbnailImage":"[THUMBNAIL:452116]","heroImage":{},"authorImage":"","tags":[{"id":"182","name":"Pittsburgh 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