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Steelers offensive line braces for challenge vs. Jets

| Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012, 11:20 p.m.
Steelers offensive lineman Ramon Foster plays against the Broncos at Sports Authority at Mile High Sept. 9, 2012. Chaz Palla | Tribune Review

The Steelers' offensive line has been hammered often for its inability to carve out alleys in the run game. It's been criticized for failing to keep quarterback Ben Roethlisberger upright against the league's best pass rushers.

Again, the hammer dropped on Sunday in a season-opening 31-19 loss in Denver. The Steelers netted only 75 rushing yards and Roethlisberger was sacked five times.

More troublesome than the numbers were the losses of guard Ramon Foster and right tackle Marcus Gilbert. Foster left early in the first quarter with a migraine that impaired his vision, while Gilbert suffered a hyperextended knee.

Foster and Gilbert said they expect to play Sunday in the Steelers' home opener against the New York Jets at Heinz Field. If they are unable to go, Doug Legursky will replace Foster and rookie Mike Adams will step in for Gilbert.

Foster said he was back to “feeling normal,” but the Steelers' medical staff monitored him throughout Wednesday's practice.

“There was a hit on my head while I was on the field, but nothing major,” Foster said. “I finished the series out, then I sat on the bench, and my vision was a little distorted. I looked at (center Maurkice) Pouncey, and said, ‘I think I have a concussion or something.' ”

Foster said he passed a series of concussion tests and a CAT scan proved negative. He added he wasn't sure if the condition was caused by sinuses or Denver's high altitude, which prevented safety Ryan Clark from playing because of his sickle cell trait.

“I was glad I was taken out of the game before something worse happened,” said Foster, who had a mild migraine when the team arrived in Denver last Saturday.

Foster and Gilbert dressed for practice as the offensive line tried to figure out how to handle the Jets' swarming defensive line, which uses multiple fronts to disguise its pass-rushing schemes and to create controlled chaos.

The Jets' defensive front is somewhat similar to Baltimore, which held the Steelers to 66 and 70 yards rushing in last season's sweep.

“The Jets are a smart and complicated defense,” Foster said. “There might be a few clips pulled from the Baltimore games that have some stuff the Jets might do.”

“They try to mix things up to try to cause confusion,” left guard Willie Colon said. “It'll be a key for us to stay (in position) and identify where they're coming from.”

The Jets appear to have a decisive advantage on the offensive line, especially after an impressive 48-28 thumping of Buffalo.

“It starts up front,” Jets coach Rex Ryan said. “I think we are the only team in the NFL with three Pro Bowl offensive linemen (tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson, center Nick Mangold and guard Brandon Moore). We lean heavily on those guys, no question about it.”

Ralph N. Paulk is staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at rpaulk@tribweb.com or 412-320-7923.

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