Former Cincinnati Bengals RT Willie Anderson’s quest for a Super Bowl ring ended on Sunday when the Ravens fell to division rival Pittsburgh 23-14. The Steelers will face the upstart Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII.
The final verdict on Willie’s release last August? Anderson proved his doubters wrong, starting 11 regular-season games as well as all three of Baltimore’s postseason tilts. Though dinged up several times over the course of the year, Anderson routinely “rubbed a little dirt on it” and got back into the game. He helped plow the road for the NFL’s fourth-best rushing attack and did his part to keep rookie QB Joe Flacco clean. Flacco was sacked 33 times in 2008, 15th in the league.
Meanwhile, Cincinnati was an abysmal third in the NFL in sacks allowed, 51, in 2008, and their running game ranked 29th. Injuries on the offensive line forced the Bengals to end the year with Dennis Roland, a career practice squad player, starting at RT. The team’s “RT of the future” and 2008 franchise player, Stacy Andrews, blew out his knee at the end of the season. An unrestricted free agent in March, his future is cloudy (to put it mildly) and in any event his performance — Stacy was credited with giving up a line-high 9.5 sacks — certainly didn’t do anything to convince fans he deserved a big-bucks deal.
In the end, releasing Willie has to be seen as a mistake. It eliminated any semblance of depth on the offensive line and the unceremonious manner in which was let go surely damaged the line’s morale and cohesion. Really, though, it was simply the final act in a comedy of errors on the line that stretches back to 2006. The coda will play out in April, when the Bengals are virtually certain to spend the sixth overall pick on a new offensive tackle.
Go Cards! Bengals fans are, naturally, pulling for the Cards against the hated Steelers. The Arizona squad includes a couple of former Bengals in defensive lineman Bryan Robinson, who was with Cincinnati from 2005 through 2007, and one-time Cincy bootman Neil Rackers, who had three inconsistent years with the club early this decade.