Steelers Notebook: Tomlin -- Matchup favored Essex
Share with others:
A Steelers offensive lineman was involved in another miscommunication yesterday, but this time it did not occur on the field and it was not his fault.
The communication error occurred when a gaggle of reporters gathered around tackle Max Starks yesterday to get his opinion on why Trai Essex replaced injured Marvel Smith at left tackle in the fourth quarter Sunday night in Jacksonville and not him.
A few minutes earlier, coach Mike Tomlin gave his reason:
"Well, Starks is our third tackle and that has been obvious. Essex had an opportunity to dress because we were down a man with Kendall [Simmons].
"Due to the game circumstances and the situation we were in from a matchup standpoint, we thought that Essex had the tools to fight that battle. They had Quentin Groves over there, an edge rusher, speed guy, kind of undersized. We thought that Essex gave us a legitimate matchup and we were in the situation that we were going to throw the ball a bunch. They knew it and we had to go the length of the field. That is why we went in that direction."
OK. What Tomlin said is Essex, who is listed at 6 feet 4, 324 pounds, is a better blocker on the left side against a lighter speed rusher than Starks, who is 6-8, 337 pounds, and more suited to the right side and better as a run blocker. Groves is listed at 6-3, 259 pounds.
But when Tomlin's answer was relayed to Starks, it was misrepresented as the coach saying Jacksonville had shorter, stockier defensive ends.
"That's what he said?" Starks answered. "You know, Quentin Groves is 6-5, 246, and Derrick Harvey's about 6-5, about 250. So I guess he was shorter and stockier. That was his decision, if that's what he says, then that's what it happens to be."
But then, Tomlin never said shorter nor stockier.
Anyway, Starks later said he wasn't upset that Essex was chosen over him, and, in essence, matched Tomlin's answer as to why.
"No, I wasn't disappointed," Starks said. "I knew both of us could play both positions. I know our strong suits -- Trai's naturally a left tackle and was a natural fit rather than what's been happening."
What was happening was Starks dressed for every game as the No. 3 tackle and Essex suited up only for the second time in five games on Sunday night. As Tomlin said yesterday, Starks remains his No. 3 tackle.
Starks, on a one-year contract as the Steelers' transition player that pays him almost $7 million, said he would like to return to play for the them next season.
"I'd love to come back here. This is where I was drafted, this is where I won my first Super Bowl, this is where I had 34 consecutive starts. I have a lot of great memories here. You always want to honor the organization that gave you your first start. So I would definitely look forward to coming back here."
Starks will become an unrestricted free agent Feb. 27 if the Steelers do not sign him by then.
Darnell Stapleton made his first pro start, at right guard, Sunday and Tomlin liked what he saw.
"He really did well; he did some nice things," Tomlin said. "We know what kind of guys that [Jacksonville] had inside in John Henderson and [Rob] Meider, some big, powerful men.
"Darnell is not small; he is short. He played with great leverage and did a nice job for us. We put together a winning performance in the second half of a Monday night game and we were on a short week, so we stuck with who we were playing in that regard. He had an opportunity and he delivered, which is encouraging. We will continue to move forward in that regard."
It sounds as if Stapleton, an undrafted player from Rutgers in 2007, will get his second start in Cincinnati.
There were not many solid injury updates other than defensive end Brett Keisel's return to practice and the positive outlook on kicker Jeff Reed's left calf.
Many players missed practice for minor injuries and some just earned a day off such as wide receiver Hines Ward and linebacker James Farrior.
But wide receiver Dallas Baker had his left arm in a sling, an injury Tomlin described as a "shoulder," and special teams ace Keyaron Fox has a hamstring injury. Wide receiver Santonio Holmes has an abdominal soreness that he said developed in Cleveland when he landed on someone's shoe.
Fox Sports reported that Steelers linebacker James Harrison was fined $20,000 for criticizing officials for his roughing the passer penalty in Jacksonville Sunday night.
Asked what he thought of the penalty for roughing the passer on linebacker James Harrison in the fourth quarter in Jacksonville, Tomlin said, "I have no comment in regards to the officiating."
First Published October 8, 2008 12:00 am