Is Hills what Pittsburgh’s O-line needs?

By Robert Rousseau  |   Sunday, May 04, 2008  |  Comments( 0 )

Pittsburgh Steelers
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On one hand, most analysts agree that the Pittsburgh Steelers did an excellent job of acquiring athletes during the 2008 NFL Draft. When you pick up talented players like Rashard Mendenhall, Limas Sweed and Dennis Dixon in one draft, it's obviously exciting. On the other hand, most analysts also agreed that the Steelers had two needs to fill entering last month's draft. Specifically, they were along the offensive line and at defensive end.

Well, the team didn’t take a defensive end. But it did draft an offensive tackle, albeit later than most were expecting (Round 4).

Regardless of where he was taken, the question is begged: Is Tony Hills a future starter on the offensive line?

During the 24 games the 6-foot-6, 305-pounder started at left tackle for the Texas Longhorns, Hills managed a grade of 83.21 percent for blocking consistency on 1,681 snaps. Beyond that, he accumulated 131 knockdowns and 17 touchdown-resulting blocks, and gave up only four quarterback sacks and seven pressures on 743 passing plays.

Evidenced by the numbers, Hills was a terrific player for the Longhorns. Good enough, in fact, to be named a Walter Camp First-Team All-American in 2007 and an All-Big 12 First-Team selection.

Here’s the negative, though: Hills has been injured on multiple occasions during his career. After starting 11 games in 2007, in fact, he went down with a broken fibula in his left leg. Adding to the injury concerns is the fact that he suffered a career-threatening knee injury which required reconstructive surgery that repaired nerve damage in the knee during high school.

With that in mind, can his body hold up to an NFL pounding?

On the upside, Hills showed tremendous heart in coming back from that high school knee injury to make it in college. After all, it was the kind of injury that required some grueling rehabilitation. What’s more, Hills was a tight end in high school; so he also had to change positions during the whole ordeal, and he did it very successfully.

When the Steelers decided to draft Hills, then, they took a guy with excellent athleticism and a proven track record at a big-time university. They also selected a guy with heart and determination. Yes, he’s been injured -- and that’s a concern.

But they got the guy in the fourth round, and therefore didn’t have to take a huge chance.

Figure on Hills getting a shot at the starting rotation in 2009, perhaps at the guard position. As long as Hills can stay away from the injury bug, he’s not a guy to count out.

Hopefully for the Steelers, Hills will prove to be just what they wanted when they grabbed him during the draft.

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About Robert Rousseau

Robert Rousseau is a sports writer that has been published in a variety of print and online venues. He’s been writing for for almost three years now. When Rousseau isn’t writing about college football he tends to be penning mixed martial arts pieces for or...
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