Guard's feistiness paying off for Steelers
Willie Colon's run-blocking ability has opened lanes for Steelers running backs, especially in the win last week against Cincinnati.
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"I think your dreads are over there," Sanders said.
Sure enough, two strands of dreadlocks that flow from under Colon's helmet were lying on the field at Paul Brown Stadium -- ripped from his head by an unknown Cincinnati Bengals player while Colon was at the bottom of a pileup.
For most of the night, though, it was Colon's opponents who were lying on the field.
"I have a feeling I know who it was, but I don't know who exactly," Colon said. "I don't know what part of the game it happened. There was so much going on, I don't know when it happened. I just remember feeling my hair, and it felt lumpy."
- Game: Steelers vs. Redskins, 1 p.m., Heinz Field.
- TV: WPGH.
Colon said it did not happen when he wrestled with rookie linebacker Vontaze Burfict at the end of a play, eventually throwing him to the ground and rolling on top of Burfict as if he were going to pin him for the three-count.
"That had nothing to do with it," Colon said.
That play, though, served another purpose. It was just another example of the tenacity with which Colon played in the 24-17 victory against the Bengals -- something coach Mike Tomlin later acknowledged and applauded. And something the offensive line needed for inspiration.
The Steelers finished with 167 yards rushing and had their two longest runs of the season (21 and 32 yards by Jonathan Dwyer) against the Bengals, and Colon was one of the main reasons.
Now it remains to be seen if they can do it again Sunday when the Steelers (3-3) play the Washington Redskins (3-4) at Heinz Field.
"I did feel like we were kind of flat," Colon said. "I was just flat-out ready to play football and, sometimes, my temper gets the best of me. One thing we miss about Hines [Ward], he was kind of that tone-setter for us. And if I got to be that guy by getting into scuffles, kind of let this team know we got to play and we can't let things like that happen, then that's what I have to do."
Colon was more than happy to oblige.
"I try to bring it, no matter who is in front of me. We just really needed that game, we really needed to get the run game to get going. It was one of those games where we were able to get a rhythm and able to get after it.
"We definitely got back to Steelers football. I remember coach [Sean Kugler] saying, 'That's Steelers football.' That's how we have to play, that has to be our identity. This week, we have to respond to it and make it happen again. That's what we're shooting for."
It wasn't just Colon's feistiness that appeared to ignite the offensive line, which was playing without two starters -- center Maurkice Pouncey and right tackle Marcus Gilbert. It also was because he made a number of big blocks pulling from left guard on counter plays, none bigger than on the winning 11-yard touchdown run by rookie Chris Rainey.
The counter is one of the team's bread-and-butter running plays, especially to the right side. But it has not been very effective while Colon has transitioned from right tackle and tried to learn the nuances of pulling from the left side. He has admitted he struggled with it.
That started to change against the Bengals.
"We knew with Willie it was going to be a learning curve going inside for the first time," said offensive coordinator Todd Haley. "We knew each and every game he was in there, each and every practice, he was going to continue to gain experience and get more and more comfortable. I thought there were some great examples [against the Bengals] of him getting more and more comfortable with his job in there."
Running back Isaac Redman was a surprise participant in practice Friday and has a chance to play against the Redskins. He is listed as questionable.
But Rashard Mendenhall (Achilles) has not practiced all week and will miss his second game in a row. He has been listed out along with Gilbert, safety Troy Polamalu and linebacker Brandon Johnson.
Redman sprained his ankle Oct. 11 against the Tennessee Titans and did not play Sunday in Cincinnati. After he ran and participated in individual drills Wednesday, he said his ankle felt sore.
But, when he woke up Friday, his ankle felt so much better that he said "it was like night and day." He decided to practice with the scout team and, when that went well, he said he got a couple series with the regular offense.
Asked if he will play against the Redskins, Redman said: "It's up to coach Tomlin now. I feel like I can. It's amazing how much better it feels."
Even if he does, Jonathan Dwyer is expected to start against the Redskins.
Also, kicker Shaun Suisham, who has been bothered by a left ankle injury, worked and will kick against the Redskins. If Suisham couldn't kick, punter Drew Butler would have handled the placements.
First Published October 27, 2012 12:00 am