Steelers' Willie Colon placed on IR

Updated: September 13, 2011, 6:52 PM ET
Associated Press

PITTSBURGH -- Willie Colon's season is over before it really started. Again.

The Steelers placed their starting right tackle on the injured reserve list on Tuesday hours after the 28-year-old lineman underwent surgery to repair a torn right triceps sustained in a season-opening loss to Baltimore.

This is the second straight year Colon's season has been cut remarkably short. He missed all of last year after rupturing his Achillies tendon in mini-camp, but the team was so confident he would bounce back it signed him to a five-year, $29 million contract in July.

"For Willie, going down two consecutive seasons is a tough blow," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "We will keep him close and encourage him, and help him through what is going to be a tough time with rehab."

Rookie Marcus Gilbert will get the first crack at replacing Colon when the Steelers host Seattle on Sunday. Gilbert, taken in the second round of this year's draft, impressed during the preseason.

"He's a talented young guy," Tomlin said of Gilbert. "He doesn't have a great deal of experience but we are going to give him an opportunity to play and show what he's capable of."

Pittsburgh signed well-traveled veteran Jamon Meredith to fill Colon's roster spot. Meredith, who played a total of five games for three teams last year, was waived by the New York Giants this month.

Colon's injury is a significant blow to a line that looked overwhelmed at times against the Ravens. Baltimore sacked Ben Roethlisberger four times and forced a club-record seven turnovers as the defending AFC champions endured their worst opening-game loss in 14 years.

Gilbert is 6-foot-6, 330-pounds, nimble and versatile. He played multiple positions in college at Florida and held his own while going against the first-team defense in practice.

"He has done a nice job with the opportunities he has been given up to this point," Tomlin said. "It's enough for us to feel comfortable moving forward."

Gilbert's performance will be the least of Pittsburgh's concerns if the Steelers can't find a way to bounce back quickly after the Ravens thumped them in every phase of the game. Tomlin spent two days reviewing tape and still doesn't have an answer for what went wrong.

The offense couldn't hold on to the ball, and the defense looked a half-step behind. Though Tomlin isn't sure his team needed to be humbled, he allows it was done anyway. He expects his players to take the loss personally and figures there will be some anger that will need to be vented when the Steelers return to practice on Wednesday.

"If we channel that anger properly then it can be a good thing," Tomlin said. "If we don't it can be an increasingly frustrating thing. We are aware of that."

The team is also aware it can't afford to let the Ravens get out and run away with the division. Early September is hardly panic time, particularly for arguably the most veteran-laden club in the NFL. Still, whatever momentum was gained during training camp vanished in 60 frustrating minutes.

Asked if there's anything he liked about the game, Tomlin pointed toward the play of punter Dan Sepulveda. Not exactly the kind of talking point he expected a week into the season.

"I think the people that know and competed in this league understand that there is a fine line between drinking wine and squashing grapes," Tomlin said. "Obviously, last weekend we were grape squashers."

Meredith's signing likely means the team won't pursue veteran Flozell Adams, whom the Steelers released shortly after camp began as a cost-cutting move. The 36-year-old Adams started 16 games at right tackle as Colon's replacement last season but would command too high a salary for the team to fit under the cap.

The Seahawks won't present the same problems as Baltimore, though Seattle's loss to San Francisco last week had less to do with its defense than a special teams unit that allowed two returns for scores.

Not that it matters to Tomlin. The Seahawks present a chance to move on, even if he knows even a decisive victory wouldn't erase what happened in Baltimore.

"The reality is the tape tells the story," Tomlin said. "We embrace that as our walking, talking and breathing resume. Unfortunately, it's not something we are proud of. We have to wear it, and we will."


Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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