The Steelers have finally moved Willie Colon to guard. After seven years in the league, i think Willie has been expecting this move for a while as it seems Willie and i have talked about a possible move to guard ever since he came to the Burgh.
I chatted up the “320lbs of educated Big Nasty” when he came to the Light of Life “Walk For the Homeless.” He was very enthusiastic about the move to guard and the prospects of lining up next to his good bud Maurkice Pouncey.
It was great, first of all having Willie on board as a special guest at the walk because unlike his on-field demeanor, he is very fan-friendly. Secondly, Willie has always held a special spot in my heart because he plays the game like it was meant to be played. Big Willie asks no quarter and gives no quarter.
Too, let it be known that i’ve always secretly rooted for the under-sized guys. The frustration that i used to feel from post-workout interviews with scouts in my senior year at Syracuse University after they would casually mention, “If you were just an inch or two taller…”
But yes i do like the move, however deep down my gullet isn’t totally convinced that it’s a done deal.
Prior to back-to-back season ending injuries Colon was heading for Hawaii in my most humble opinion. Despite his lack of heigth and arm-length, Willie had learned to time his grappling-punch correctly and combined with excellent footwork, he’d position himself to use his low center of gravity to frustrate would-be sackers.
Willie was never a classic punch and move guy in the tradition of Larry Brown, Jon Kolb and Tunch Ilkin. Colon pass protected like a guard playing tackle. He used his quick feet on his kick-step (notice i said quick, not fast-there is a difference) to mirror and ultimately force a pass-rusher to come to him at a bad angle.
It’s kind’a like King Leonidas and his Spartan warriors forcing the superior Persian army to battle at the “Hot Gates” of Thermopylae. The Persians couldn’t do what they do best because the Spartans and their Phalanx battle formation along with a narrow passage way forced the Persians into close-quarter-combat. So the Persians had to pay the price and go right down the middle.
That’s how Willie survives on the edge in pass pro. Quick feet that keep him in a postion of power, not biting on the trickeration tactics (head and body fakes, stagger-sprint footwork etc.) that a superior athlete might throw at him out on the edge, but patiently biding his time mirroring his opponents movements until the taller, faster, better athlete HAD to come into the Hot Gates of Willie and his massively muscled upper body. And that meant they had to fight their way through the center of Colon, not the edge.
To play in this style takes a certain amount of bravado, guts and determination, not to mention a “willingness to ruthlessness.” One has to be supremely confident in his abilities to throwdown with anybody physically, rather than to out-superior a man with technique.
If you like to watch boxing, look how few boxers like to sit in the pocket and have at it. Rather than throwing down in a phone booth, most prefer to stay on the outside where it’s not quite so brutal.
You only have to spend a single afternoon up at training camp and listen to Steelers defensive line guru John Mitchell and count how many times he barks at his players to fight through the edge of a man in one-on-one pass rush, not the center to realize how key this concept is.
As far as run-blocking goes, the hamhocks on Colon are so wide you could “Show the 2011 and the 2012 highlight films” simultaneously on his keester. But that is where ground’n pound power emanates. Because Willie is “Vertically challenged,” and has that low base, he can get under and up, a rising blow if you will, which was a Charles Henry Noll staple in run-blocking.
Under and up is nothing more than a basic centuries old Sumo wrestling concept of how you up-root a man and move him from “A to B against his will.” (Legendary Pitt line coach Joe Moore). Anything else ends up looking like fat-guys square dancing.
All said and done, this group has the capabilities on paper to be the best Steelers line we have seen for quite some time. It will be interesting to see how rookie Mike Adams handles the left tackle duties. If he’s not starter capable this year, then we may see Marcus Gilbert have a shot at the LT. If that would happen, then maybe the LG spot isn’t set in stone for Willie….then again, Max Starks is still out there too.
Can’t say for sure yet. My gullet isn’t talking, just rumbling.
Craig’s BioCraig Wolfley is a 12-year veteran of the NFL who played 10 years with the Pittsburgh Steelers and 2 years with the Minnesota Vikings. [read more]
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Event Video: 2015 T&W Walk for the Homeless