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Ex-Steeler Colon adds spark to Jets' offensive line

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Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013, 10:24 p.m.

Willie Colon and the Steelers split, in part, because of a series of injuries that forced him to miss 20 games the previous two seasons.

The Steelers weren't sure a 30-year-old offensive lineman could hold up for an entire season after coming off the injured reserve list for the third time. So they opted to pay Ramon Foster, a decision that practically left Colon out in the cold.

However, Colon resurfaced in New York where he's become an integral part of an already talented Jets' offensive line — including Pro Bowlers Nick Mangold and D'Brickashaw Ferguson — that lacked only his brand of toughness.

“Once Ramon was signed, the writing was on the wall,” Colon said Wednesday. “I knew they couldn't keep both of us. To be honest, I expected a pay cut. It was a business decision for them to move in a different direction.”

Colon added he has no hard feelings toward Steelers' management, but carries a big chip on his shoulder because he perceived himself to be labeled a liability or damaged goods.

“I know how hard I trained in the offseason. I know how much work I put in to be the best I could be,” said Colon, who signed a one-year, $1.2 million contract in March. “I never want anybody to put me in a box.

“It's a new start. It's a new chapter. I gave Pittsburgh everything — the good, bad and ugly. At the end of the day, it was time for me to move on.”

On Sunday, Colon faces a winless Steelers team (0-4) trying to piece together a serviceable offensive line ravaged by inconsistency and injuries — including Foster, who remains slowed by a pectoral injury.

Colon is anxious to prove he's as tough and nasty as ever when the teams hook up at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. And he can't wait to take on the Steelers' rebuilt defensive front that consists of two new starters, defensive tackle Steve McLendon and defensive end Cam Heyward, a former No. 1 pick who often challenged him during training camp.

“Willie is crazy and extremely loyal,” safety Ryan Clark said. “I worked out with him this summer, and it's the first time I saw him grind like that. Being injured the last couple of years sparked something in him.

“He knew he had to get his body together. He adds a nastiness that you can see on the film. He is hitting guys with forearms and cutting guys downfield. That's the way Willie plays. When he's a teammate you love it, but when you play against him you know you have to strap it up because there's going to be a fight.”

“Willie is as strong as an ox,” defensive end Ziggy Hood said. “He looks good on tape, and we have to take account of him coming off the line like a raging bull.”

Colon couldn't agree more.

“It's just my game,” he said. “Nick and Brick aren't necessarily maulers. Those guys are technicians. I had an opportunity to bring that spark, and let them know they don't have to take (stuff) from nobody.”

Jets coach Rex Ryan said everyone knew of Colon's toughness. But his locker room presence has helped the organization put behind it the bizarre, circus-like atmosphere that existed the previous two seasons.

“He's brought so much leadership to us and is still just doing a tremendous job for us as well,” Ryan said.

Colon, though, credits much of the Jets' surprising 3-2 start to the emergence of rookie quarterback Geno Smith. The former West Virginia quarterback, he said, has helped settle an offense that struggled with Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow at the helm.

“They care about winning,” Colon said. “They care about being a better franchise, and not a circus. I came here with the attitude that this team was missing a lot, including chemistry and the belief in one another.”

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