Right tackle Flozell Adams owns the All-Pro credentials and has been in the league much longer. But he’s a newcomer to the Pittsburgh Steelers and is on the downside of his career.
Rookie center Maurkice Pouncey is considered by many the team’s best offensive lineman. But an ankle injury has him out of today’s Super Bowl against the Green Bay Packers, barring a medical miracle.
An epidemic of injuries and other assorted turnover leaves a behemoth left guard from Tonga and Oahu’s North Shore as the only starter on the Steelers offensive line remaining from the 2009 Super Bowl winning team.
Chris Kemoeatu, stabilizing force and elder statesman?
Who saw this coming?
Siuaki Livai, for one.
"I always knew Chris had it in him as a leader," said Livai, who was the head coach when Kahuku High School won its first state championship, in 2000 when Kemoeatu was a senior. "He’s always been an inspiration to the players around him."
He’s now a 28-year-old, six-year NFL veteran. He’s had some injuries, but has started all 43 games he’s played in the past three seasons. He’s a two-time Super Bowl champion, going for ring No. 3 today.
Kemoeatu knows he has to take charge to at least some degree as the patchwork Pittsburgh offensive line tries to hold off a tough Green Bay front seven. And he knows that includes not drawing penalties for late hits, like he did twice in the playoff game against the Ravens.
"I have to do my job as far as being a leader. If Pounce can’t go, we’ll be OK. We’ve been playing musical chairs on the line all year. We have men who when their name is called they are ready to go," Kemoeatu said in a phone interview Wednesday. "(Backup center Doug) Legursky has been around the last couple of years. He’s very smart at identifying fronts. We’ve been doing it all year; there will be no step down."
If you interviewed him when he was at Kahuku, that probably seems like a month’s worth of words from Kemoeatu. All of his answers then were yes and no — on the field, too: Yes, I will crush you. No, you won’t get past me.
Now the veteran of nearly a decade of microphones and notepads being shoved in his face at the college (Utah) and pro level — including three Super Bowl media days — Kemoeatu is comfortable with interviews.
"I definitely enjoy it more now. I’ve really matured in that part. I’ve gotten used to it," he said. "I’m more confident in knowing what to say and how to say it. It comes with time."
THE PACKERS are the hot team coming in. But many more Steelers have been to the Super Bowl, and have won it. Kemoeatu said he and his teammates see that as a distinct advantage.
"That’s definitely how we have to look at it coming in. But of course we have to back it up with execution. We had a good week of practice last week, so this is a good week of continuing to review stuff about their personnel. They’ve got a good defensive front, so we need to be aware of everything they might do, as well as their linebackers."
As for the biggest non-story of the week leading up to the game, Kemoeatu said he had no problem with Ben Roethlisberger taking him and his fellow linemen out for barbecue and drinks Tuesday night. He only hinted he’s not a fan of the quarterback’s piano bar stylings.
It’s been mostly business for Kemoeatu, including arranging tickets for 15 relatives, friends and business associates he invited ("especially some who didn’t come to the first two Super Bowls").
"We’ve been here and we know the routine. At the same time we’re here for the Super Bowl and everything about it and we want to get that full experience and have fun, but never forget what we’re really here for," he said.
"We’re here to win."