John Biles - SFIllustrated.com
June 25, 2003 at 9:47am ET
The cards are on the table and Kimo von Oelhoffen better hope his bluff wins.
While the recent addition of NFL Europe DE Jabbri Issa is not a reason to call Zambelli, Tim Lewis still holds a "full house" in the defensive line. Someone won't win this hand and it's looking more and more like von Oelhoffen's "straight" won't beat the "4 aces" Bill Cowher holds in his hand: Casey Hampton, Aaron Smith, Rodney Bailey and Brett Keisel.
As the focus of the Steeler brass shifts to the insanely important decisions regarding Marvel Smith , Kendrell Bell and Plaxico Burress , money must come from somewhere. If the Steelers indeed have the season many of us predict, Tommy Maddox will demand a steep pay raise, which means even more money.
All of these factors, and we mustn't forget about age (Kimo will be 33 in January), contribute to the solid chances that von Oelhoffen will be released following the final pre-season game of the year.
Kimo von Oelhoffen, a 10-year veteran, has endured the glum days of a Steeler team hampered by poor coaching, fundamentals and talent. When he arrived from Cincinnati, the word was that he was one of the very few linemen that gave the great Dermontti Dawson trouble. While von Oelhoffen won't be considered one of greatest linemen to ever wear a Steeler uniform, he will be considered the rock that allowed Aaron Smith and Casey Hampton to mature.
But, Hampton doesn't need von Oelhoffen any longer to be successful. He already gets double-teamed. Smith can only be helped by Bailey's pash rush abilities or Keisel's tenacity. If youth is to be served, the Steelers would be smart to release von Oelhoffen.
The problem is that von Oelhoffen, although not flashy, has been a consistent contributor, especially to the run defense. In his three years he has only missed one regular season game. He is also a team leader of the quiet Mark Bruener -variety. He is an emergency backup nose tackle, having played the position as a Steeler in 2000, before Hampton's arrival. No one can ask for anything more over a three-year span. That's why, as with the situation with Mark Bruener, von Oelhoffen is an expensive luxury that the team can certainly have within the confines of the cap, but doesn't necessarily need.
Still, the Steelers will in all probability wait and feel out the seasonal-progress of Rodney Bailey and Brett Keisel and choose to release von Oelhoffen during the mass exodus following the season. But, that would risk another mammoth season by Burress and a probable Pro-Bowl appearance by Bell.
One thing is for certain, von Oelhoffen's playing against a stacked deck.