Colon has stabilized Steelers' guard position, provided 'violence'
Ask anyone in the Steelers' locker room to describe Willie Colon, and eventually they will refer to him as a mauler.
Probably because that's what he is.
That was one reason the Steelers moved Colon, one of their most experienced tackles, to a position he never played — left guard — during the spring.
They were looking for more physicality, more aggressiveness, more violence.
“I like Willie's violence,” offensive line coach Sean Kugler said with a smile.
That's what Colon gave the Steelers against the Bengals, and that wasn't more evident than a seemingly innocuous 2-yard Baron Batch run midway through the second quarter.
Colon pulled left to right, met rookie linebacker Vontaze Burfict in the hole and drove him back.
Colon continued through the whistle and ended up on top of Burfict.
Fellow guard Ramon Foster joked by saying it looked “like a killer whale on top of a seal,” but veteran tackle Max Starks viewed it as the mentality the unit has to have.
“Willie is definitely a beacon for that, as far as the physical, explosive blocks,” Starks said.
That play permeated the offensive line. The Steelers would go on to score 21 of their 24 points and rush for 100 of their season-high 167 yards after Colon's block.
“I heard somebody say it was a block that potentially could change our season,” Foster said. “Until that point, we weren't flat, but we didn't have that fire until after we saw that.”
Kugler isn't about to say one block could change a season for a unit that entered the game second to last in the league in running, but it was something that he welcomes.
“It was one play, but it was a play that brought some excitement,” Kugler said. “It was just an energizing play for those guys.”
It's been a tedious and sometimes frustrating process for Colon over the past seven months transitioning from tackle to guard. He struggled early in the season with his technique, which led to a league-high eight penalties in four games.
“I think I took a step in the right direction,” Colon said. “I knew I had to be patient and that the only way to get better was through competitive reps. There are a lot of little nuances that you have to learn that you wouldn't know unless you are playing out there.”
One of those is pulling. The Steelers expect their left guard to pull a lot.
“I definitely feel I am getting better,” Colon said. “It just a matter of me being consistent with it. A lot of it is mechanics. If you aren't clean on your mechanics, you can either run by the hole like I have done a couple of times or simply miss the block.”
Colon has missed his share of blocks — even against the Bengals when he allowed two of the team's three sacks — but he's made up for it with what quarterback Ben Roethlisberger labels “controlled violence.”
“He's not going to be perfect, but you want a physical and intimidating individual in there at the guard position,” Starks said. “And, seriously, who's more intimidating than Willie?”
Mark Kaboly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.