Willie Colon emerged from Sunday’s win in Cincinnati down more than one of his signature dreadlocks. At least he was unofficially awarded a takedown for a post-whistle body slam of Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict.
It was Colon’s kind of game, the perfect coming-out party for the Steelers offensive lineman continuing to settle in to his new position at guard.
“He had controlled violence last week,” said Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Colon, for his part, laughs off the “violence” descriptor.
“Controlled chaos,” Colon corrects. “That’s my type of play.”
The bleed-the-clock, straight-ahead running in the fourth quarter. The abundance of pulls to open up holes. The intensity of playing the first divisional game of the season under the lights.
Colon was arguably the Steelers’ best lineman in the 24-17 win over the Bengals, and there’s little arguing it was his best game of the season. After spending his first six NFL seasons as a tackle, Colon is increasingly showing an aptitude for playing on the inside for the Steelers (3-3).
“I’m starting to get more comfortable each and every week,” Colon said before practice Thursday.
“I can’t come up there and say, ‘Yeah, I’m a guard now.’ I was a guard when they put me in the lineup, and now it’s just a matter of me growing and becoming better. Each and every week I try to do it. I try to get smarter, I try to really own the position. And I think I’m getting better.”
With two starting linemen (center Maurkice Pouncey and right tackle Marcus Gilbert) and the top two running backs on the depth chart (Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman) out due to injury Sunday, Pittsburgh had its finest rushing performance of the season.
No coincidence it was Colon prominent in leading the way. The 6-foot-3, 315-pounder was often out in front of Jonathan Dwyer, pulling to his right side to seal off holes.
Those were the kind of visions coach Mike Tomlin and his offensive staff had in the offseason when they decided to move Colon to the inside. The Hofstra graduate excels in aggressive, run-blocking situations.
His “nasty” – a term several teammates affectionately use to describe Colon – mentality also is a better fit at guard, where huge defensive tackles sometimes do some not-so-kind things.
Colon had “not too many, but too many for me” dreadlocks pulled out by an unidentified Bengals lineman Sunday. “I have a feeling who did it,” Colon said with a sly smile, adding that it left him angry and in a better mindset to do his work.
Colon said the hair-pulling happened during the same drive as his after-the-play pancake of Burfict that had Colon appearing to try to bury the linebacker into the Paul Brown Stadium artificial turf.
Controlled violence, remember?
“Willie, he’s one guy you don’t want to mess with when he’s locked in,” Pouncey said. “The energy he brings, the leadership role that he plays is awesome.”
Colon had plenty of energy to burn after being limited to about a half of football over a span of almost three calendar years. Colon missed the entire 2010 season after sustaining a severe Achilles tendon injury during minicamp. Last season, he started the opener in Baltimore, but left the game with a torn triceps and was out the rest of the season.
“It feels good to kind of turn the corner, so to speak, on the season,” Colon said. “I’m just happy to be out there. I just try to stay humbled and I’m blessed to keep having another day to fight.”
An appropriate choice of words for a player who is gregarious and popular among his teammates off the field, but combative and antagonizing on it.
Those traits make him all the better suited for his new position.
“He is starting to show glimpses of that All-Pro guard I knew he could be,” said Roethlisberger, one of Colon’s closest friends on the team.
“We knew each and every game he was (at guard) and each and every practice that he was going to gain experience and get more and more comfortable,” offensive coordinator Todd Haley said. “I thought there was some great examples of him getting more and more comfortable with his job (against the Bengals), and that was a big part of that being able to do the things he did.”
NOTES: Dwyer returned to practice Thursday after missing Wednesday due to personal reasons. Mendenhall (Achilles tendon) did not practice Thursday but Redman (ankle) worked out in a limited capacity. Also limited were reserve LB Adrian Robinson (concussion) and K Shaun Suisham (ankle), and LB Brandon Johnson (hamstring) did not practice. Pouncey practiced fully, along with S Will Allen (ankle), LB Jason Worilds (illness) and LB Chris Carter (hamstring).