Long-time and respected Steelers’ reporter Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette blogged that there is no chance whatsoever that Willie Colon will move to guard because “he does not run well enough to play the position.”
First, people should never speak or write in absolutes outside of tested research in the hard sciences. Second, every single draft and scouting service listed Colon as a guard prospect when he came out of Hofstra in 2006, so it is certainly not absurd to think he could play that position. It should be noted that many current NFL guards also played tackle in college; and at 6-foot-3, 320 pounds, Colon physically looks much more like an NFL guard than tackle.
It is true that Colon has only played tackle in the NFL, and had his best season in 2009 before missing all of 2010 after suffering a torn Achilles tendon last summer. Many Pittsburgh fans have long desired to move Colon inside due to his size, strength in run-blocking, and due to his problems handling speed pass rushers earlier in his career at right tackle. Fortunately, opponents’ best pass rushers generally line up outside of the offensive left tackle to attack most quarterbacks’ blind side.
We do not even know if Colon will be with the Steelers in 2010. Under pre-2010 rules, he was slated to be an unrestricted free agent before the 2010 season. However, since no new CBA was agreed upon, a provison kicked in that allowed teams to issue 1-year tenders to retain the rights of fourth- and fifth-year players. The Steelers have done that with Colon each of the last two off-seasons, issuing him a first-round tender for 2011 that would pay him roughly $2.7 million.
However, if a new CBA is reached that allows fourth- and fifth-year playesr to again become unrestricted free agents this offseason, Colon is likely to leave the Steelers, since the team’s front office has never seemingly valued his services as much as the coaching staff. Moreover, both the front office and coaching staff recently said that they want Flozell Adams to return as the team’s starting right tackle in 2011, with Max Starks back at left tackle.
Still, if a potential 2011 season is played under 2010 rules – a very real possibility, even more so if the owners’ lockout is again lifted by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals – Colon would remain property of the Steelers, and a bargain at that price if healthy.
We do not know if Colon can effectively pull from the right guard position, although the Steelers’ historically have pulled their left guards more often. We also do not know how much his Achilles injury will limit his mobility in 2011. However, Dulac’s emphatic notion that there is no chance Colon will ever play guard, which he has been repeating on his Twitter account without attribution from anyone in the Steelers’ organization, could easily be wrong just like his definitive writing that the Steelers would only keep eight linebackers on their opening-day 53-man roster in 2010 because that was the same number they kept in 2009 (the team ended up keeping nine like most others expected).
His reasoning about Colon’s inability to run is laughable. The Steelers’ Sean Kugler, like most offensive line coaches, wants position flexibility amongst his players. If Colon is with the Steelers in August and healthy, the team’s five best offensive linemen will be center Maurkice Pouncey, Adams, Colon, Starks and left guard Chris Kemoteau. There is a clear drop-off in proven NFL productivity afterward, with reserve tackle Jonathan Scott probably next on the list.
That top-five does not include Ramon Foster, a former undrafted college free agent who was serviceable after he replaced Trai Essex and Doug Legursky as the team’s starting right guard last season. Colon, who cannot run well enough to play guard per Dulac, had respectable 40-yard dash times of 5.26 and 5.36 seconds at the 2006 NFL scouting combine.
Forster, ironically, was clocked at 5.61 seconds in the 40, the worst time of any player who attended and ran the 40 at the 2009 NFL scouting combine. At 6-foot-6, Foster has more of a tackle-frame than Colon, and Foster only saw action at tackle over his last three years at Tennessee.
Now, I am not arguing that Foster could be a quality starting tackle in the NFL. But how can Dulac conclude that Colon cannot play guard just because he has not been tried at the position in the NFL yet? Based on 40 times, it certainly is not because Colon cannot run, and theoretically it should be much easier for a tackle to convert to guard than the opposite.
The Steelers have needed Colon much more at tackle in years past. However, if Starks and Adams are both healthy in 2011, they would need him more at right guard and will likely give him a look at that position if all three players are on the roster and healthy. I am not saying he will start start at right guard in 2011, particularly since he may not even be with the Steelers or could easily move back to tackle in the event of an injury to Starks or Adams, or after a failed experiment at guard. That said, trying Colon at guard this fall is a possibility, something acknowledged by head coach Mike Tomlin at his pre-draft press conference this year.