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New coach in a better spot with Steelers

Things are looking up for new Steelers offensive line coach Sean Kugler, who experienced a nightmarish 2009 season with the Buffalo Bills.

Kugler is joining a team whose offensive line was relatively intact all season. Right guard Darnell Stapleton missed the year with a knee injury, but the other four starters lined up nearly every week.

At Buffalo, Kugler was in charge of a unit that didn't return a single offensive lineman who played the same position from the previous season. Center Geoff Hangartner, a newcomer, was the only lineman to play every game at the same spot. Four linemen who started during the season finished on injured reserve, forcing Kugler to come up with more than a half-dozen starting combinations.

During one game, the Bills committed eight false starts.

"This has been extreme," Kugler told reporters during the season. "I tell these guys, 'You're going to look back on it and laugh. That's all you can do. You just can't sit there and dwell on it. You have to keep grinding.' "

Buffalo ranked No. 30 in offense this season, averaging 273.9 yards a game. The Bills were No. 16 in rushing and No. 30 in passing. Despite the rash of injuries, they featured a 1,000-yard rusher in Fred Jackson.

Buffalo's quarterbacks were sacked 46 times in 441 passing attempts. By comparison, Steelers quarterbacks were sacked 50 times in 536 attempts.

In 2008, when Kugler had Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters (who was later traded to Philadelphia), Buffalo was No. 25 in offense (305.1 yards) but ranked in the top half of the NFL in rushing (No. 14).

After former line coach Larry Zierlein was fired last week, starting left guard Chris Kemoeatu said the players have an obligation to pull together for their new coach.

"Seeing that Coach Z got fired, we're going to have to go back to the drawing board and see how good we communicate with who whoever the new coach is. That's a priority,'' Kemoeatu said.

Kugler has been an NFL assistant for eight seasons. He coached three seasons in Buffalo, the last two as offensive line coach. He was assistant head coach at Boise State in 2006 when the Broncos were 13-0 and finished No. 5 in the country. From 2001-2005, Kugler was an assistant with the Detroit Lions.

Note: Bobby April, who interviewed for the Steelers' special-teams coordinator vacancy, signed with the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday.

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