Never Write in Absolutes, Especially on Willie Colon

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.

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  • Jason

    Never write in absolutes? YOU DO THAT ALL THE TIME!!!!!!

    • GlennW

      I took that line as intentional self-deprecation, and I’m absolutely positively 100% certain that this was Ted’s intent… ;-)

  • Cols714

    “Many Pittsburgh fans have long desired to move Colon inside due to his size, strength in run-blocking,…”

    You mean, many Pittsburgh fans read on draft sites that Colon would be a guard so they spent the first 5 years of Colon’s career writing thousands of posts about how Colon should be a guard. Meanwhile, he became one of the better RTs in the league over the same period.

    However, now that they have Adams, they might actually do it this year, assuming he returns of course.

    • Ted

      I agree with what you just wrote, but he sure did look like a guy who should be at guard for his first year and half or so as a starter. That said, he was very good at RT in 09 and clearly our best o-line that year. Now, though, he would be one of our five best offensive linemen next year if he returns (I think most everyone would agree with that sentiment) and I don’t see Adams or especially Starks being asked to move to guard.

      Moreover, he may now struggle more at tackle post-injury, because despite what Dulac wrote, he got beat in pass-pro in part because of his quick feet. But his strength is in run-blocking, especially at the second-level. The guy was a good/very good RT, but he could be a great guard. That is not a very hard transition for most players, especially one with his frame. If he is on the roster next year, I think we could have our best run-blocking o-line since 04 and best overall line since at least 01.

  • Mike L

    I was under the impression that Colon was a good pass blocker. On this website last season it was pointed out that the Steelers had become a right handed running team with Flozell at RT
    , I understand that with Starks out it was more difficult to run to the left, but much of that also is praise on Flozell’s run blocking. Either way it would be good to have Colon back preferably at RG, can we just give him Kemo’s contract?

    • Ted

      By 2009 Willie had developed into a good pass blocker. However, IMHO his strength by that point was run blocking, especially second-effort, downfield blocking. Remember how it seemed like it was always Pouncey downfield helping a back up after a good run this year? Well, that was usually Colon in 2009. He showed excellent athleticism and versatility, which is why I am baffled by the “He can’t run well enough” to play guard argument. JJ is the o-line expert and can give the exact #s, but I bet we ran to the right side 60% or more in 2009. Now, granted that was matchup specific.

      We started off last season trying to run primarily to the left slightly due to Flozell being new at RT, but mainly due to the superiority of Kemoteau as a run blocker at LG to whomever we had in the game at RG. However, you are correct, because by the end of the year, we were running mainly to the right due to Flozell being much more dominant than Jonathan Scott. If Colon moves to RG and adopts quickly in the fall, we would have a dominant run game, especially on the right side, so long as our stud TB stays healthy and is not killed for his absurdly idiotic tweets.

  • Anonymous

    I’m hoping that someone agrees that Colon was one of top right tackles in the league (I don’t) and signs him over the tender, giving the Steelers their first round pick next year in the process.

    • ryan

      I’m on board with this (and agree that Colon wasn’t one of the top RTs in the NFL in ’09).

    • Ted

      I would do cartwheels if that happened, but there is no chance of that with him coming off such a serious Achilles injury. Plus, it didn’t happen last offseason when he was coming off his best season by far and was healthy

  • ROb D

    I forget who it was but I am pretty sure it was Tunch Ilkin or Craig Wolfley that shot down the Colon as guard idea when it was repeatedly brought up. I just gave up on it at some point because I’m not crazy about Willie in general mostly because I think he’s below average and yet seems to get a higher rating from folks who should know better. He’s servicable but watching an almost over the hill Adams give up superior RT tackle play was eye opening. Adams is IMO,,,much better than Colon. IF Colon was amongst the elite we shouldnt’ notice that much of an improvement from a guy like Adams. That’s my logic on the matter anyway..feel free to disagree..hee hee..

    Colon wants tackle money and he’ll get it from someone. I hope its not the STeelers. We can and should be able to do better than some short armed mediocrity. It’s like having Tommy Gun and Kordell at QB and thinking “WE’re ok at that position” Then Ben comes in and the scales fall from your eyes and you wonder what the heck you were thinking. We get used to mediocrity and call it average. It’s not.

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