Bob Labriola of steelers.com just completed his first interview with new offensive line coach Jack Bicknell Jr. on Tuesday and it included several great questions and answers.
Bicknell was asked by Labriola during the interview what blocking scheme he preferred.
“You have to be able to be multiple,” said Bicknell. “It depends on what you have offensively and what you’re facing defensively. Each game plan, each week, is different. With the Giants, we were more of a gap-scheme with big physical guys running power, and then when I got to Kansas City, we were more athletic, could move better and we had a running back who loved the outside-zone plays. A couple of things factor into this: what type of guys do you have up front, and also what type of running back do you have?
“If you have a big, physical back, you might tend more toward inside-zone and gap-scheme stuff, but if you have a back who can threaten the edge, that would open up more zone-scheme stuff. There are a lot of ways to go about it, but you have to know what you have on your team personnel-wise while also looking at the particular defense you’ll be playing. Then you figure out what’s going to work.”
Bicknell was also asked by Labriola if he thought offensive linemen around the league are too big nowadays and his answer certainly shows that he expects his linemen with the Steelers to be able to move.
“You can get too big,” said Bicknell. “Then again, it’s not about being too big, it’s about not being able to move. I don’t necessarily like those guys who get huge and then they can’t bend and move. And mainly it comes down to the run game, because sometimes those real big guys can stay in front of people and make them run around you, but if you cannot cut off on the back side of a run play, or you don’t have the quickness to go and reach somebody, you start to get limited in the run game. I want to be able to have guys who can move, run, and have some quickness off the ball to be able to get into people.”
While there is a good chance that a few of the old power run scheme elements will carry over with Bicknell as the new Steelers offensive line coach, it is hard to fathom him not implementing a lot of inside and outside zone blocking schemes to go along with the stretch zone as it is clear that he wants offensive linemen who can move.
So what does this mean for the Steelers offensive linemen on the roster, in addition to those who are set to be unrestricted free agents? For starters, Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro and Mike Adams are all players that should be able to function well in either a man, gap or zone blocking scheme as all are athletic and good on their feet out in space. While not an equal to those three, Kelvin Beachum has a unique build, but is generally regarded as an athletic type with good footwork and a solid first step. A zone scheme would fit him better than a man scheme, especially if the intentions are to play him at left guard next season.
Marcus Gilbert hasn\’t yet shown to be as athletic as he was billed to be coming out of college and he was likely asked to drop a few pounds during this offseason. If he accomplishes that, I think that he should be able to adept to a more zone slanted scheme, but he certainly would be the less mobile of the tackles.
Willie Colon, who is attempting to come back from surgery on his left knee, is more of a brawling type guard with straight line mobility. It is hard to know how Bicknell will ultimately view him, but in my opinion he is a better fit in a man scheme, so he certainly remains a candidate to be released over the course of the next several weeks. Releasing Colon only clears $1.2 million in salary cap space, however, and he is the most experienced offensive lineman that the Steelers currently have under contract.
Ramon Foster, an unrestricted free agent this offseason, can play both guard spots as well as right tackle. While he certainly is not as mobile as Pouncey, DeCastro and Adams, he should be able to adept to a more zone orientated scheme. Regardless, the Steelers will let him test the free agent market and will certainly not overpay to retain him. If Foster does ultimately re-sign, it would be done with the intentions of him being the starting left guard next season.
Max Starks will also be an unrestricted free agent this offseason and his lack of mobility almost certainly guarantees that he will not be brought back in 2013 despite playing every snap in 2012, Starks most likely will get attention during the free agent signing period from a team that uses a man scheme like the Steelers used.
Bicknell still has yet to evaluate all of the Steelers offensive linemen since being hired, but he said that he is already familiar with Pouncey, DeCastro and Adams.
“I’m just about to start looking at some real tape,” Bicknell told Labriola. “When I was with some other teams, I studied and wrote up Maurkice Pouncey, and then I also traveled and worked out David DeCastro and Mike Adams. I feel pretty familiar with those guys. The rest of the guys, I really haven’t delved into the tape yet. In general, I think it’s a very talented group with a lot of young guys, a lot of guys who still need to develop and mature into NFL offensive linemen. I’m very excited about them. I know it’s a very close-knit group. All of the things I’ve talked about earlier, I think this group has.”