Steelers' Foster, Colon on guard against Giants
Jonathan Dwyer has staked his claim as the feature back for a revamped Steelers run game but not without the benefit of tireless effort from guards Ramon Foster and Willie Colon.
The guards were hardly considered the strength of the offensive line when the season began. Now they are arguably among the most consistent tandem in the AFC.
Foster was plugged into the starting lineup after top draft pick David DeCastro suffered a potentially season-ending knee injury in the preseason. Colon, who missed all but one game the previous two seasons, continues to make adjustments at left guard after switching from right tackle.
On Sunday, Foster and Colon will face perhaps their stiffest challenge this season against the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
“I trust and believe in those guys giving me the holes,” Dwyer said. “Right now the Giants are playing good football, and it's going to be a good test for us.”
The Giants possess one of the league's best defensive fronts. Defensive ends Justin Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul (5 1⁄2 sacks) and Osi Umenyiora spearhead a relentless pass rush that has totaled 69 sacks over the past 24 regular-season games — including 21 sacks this season.
“We've got to control those guys the best we can,” Foster said. “They are built for the pass rush because of their speed and athleticism, which I don't think many teams in this league have.
“They are long guys who can bat balls down. We have to start this game fast and stay consistent. We definitely have to control them so our guys can make plays.”
Colon is confident the Steelers can run the ball like they did while beating Cincinnati (167 yards) and Washington (140), in part, because the Giants' defense appears somewhat vulnerable. The Giants might be 6-2 but not because their 24th-ranked defense has put together intimidating numbers. Their defensive deficiencies are offset by an offense that is third in points (29.2) and fourth in total yards (397 yards).
The Giants are 19th against the run, and their pass defense is 26th. Yet their defensive front — including defensive tackles Chris Canty and Linval Joseph — has an uncanny knack for playing its best in big games. It manhandled San Francisco's offensive line in a 26-3 victory earlier this season and defused New England's high-octane offense in the Super Bowl.
“We have to respect their résumé,” said Colon, a Bronx native. “The bottom line is we have to play hard and set the tone early.
“Athletic-wise, this is probably the best (front) we've seen. Obviously, they do a lot of good things, getting after it with the pass rush.”
The Steelers, though, will try to lean on a suddenly effective run game to slow down the Giants' pass rush. The offensive line didn't yield a sack the past two games, and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been dropped only 13 times this season.
“The run game takes some pressure off of (Roethlisberger's) arm,” Colon said. “Everyone is stepping up to the challenge, and this is another challenge for us.”
Ralph N. Paulk is staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-320-7923.