According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Doug Legursky will be the Steelers starting right guard when the season begins next week. After trying Chris Scott for a week and Tony Hills for two, the Steelers have decided to go with the safer choice.
Legursky’s short arms and small size (by offensive linemen’s standards) means that he sometimes struggles when he is lined up head-on on a big defensive tackle. Too often he can’t get his hands on his target before the DT gets his hands on Legursky, and that makes it a little too easy for Legursky to be shed. But on the other hand, he does do an excellent job of getting out to block linebackers on running plays, is good at pulling to lead the counter trey.
So why did the Steelers choose Legursky? From watching the line in the first three preseason games (plus all of last year), it appears to me that they’ve chosen the safest pick. I want to throw in my standard disclaimer here. I’m not an o-line coach, so if you want to take my observations with a grain of salt, feel free. But here’s what I’ve seen:
Tony Hills could end up being a better guard than Legursky eventually — he has longer arms, more size and what appears to be equally nimble feet. But Hills doesn’t execute his assignments as consistently as Legursky (after all, he’s been a guard for just a couple of weeks). And while Legursky’s kryptonite is short arms, Hills’ problem is his height. Hills has long legs, which has proven to be a detriment as a guard. Watch Hills on a goal line play, and you can pretty much expect that his man will get lower than he does, which means Hills gets driven backwards. Watch Hills pull and you’ll see it’s tough for him to get low enough to drive his man out of the hole, he is better off just screening his man and trying to stay out of the way.
Ramon Foster started at times last year, but he doesn’t really seem to have been a significant factor in the competition this August. If Legursky’s problem is getting shed at the line, and Hills plays too high, Foster is simply too slow. Play after play Foster was driven into the backfield because his man is quicker off the snap. On a running play, the first thing you want to see is whether the battle is being conducted on the defensive or offensive side of the line of scrimmage. In the case of Foster, he’s playing too often in the offensive backfield. Foster may be the strongest of the guard candidates, but he doesn’t pull well and struggles to effectively block linebackers.
So what do the Steelers get in Legursky? It probably helps their pass blocking because he’s good at recognizing blitzes and has the mobility to molly block (pull outside to help pick out edge rushers). In the run game, Legursky may give up the tackle for a loss every now and then because of his trouble sticking his blocks, but he also will provide chances for some longer runs because of his ability to effectively block linebackers.