Former Cincinnati Bengals offensive tackle Willie Anderson was asked to reflect on high school offensive lineman Trevor Ruhland, who is a 270-pound prospect that verbally committed to Notre Dame for their 2015 recruiting class. During his analysis of Ruhland, Anderson said that the team nicknamed former offensive guard Eric Steinbach, "The Tool". Clearly we're talking about mid-2000s terminology -- which differs in the modern tongue -- but the description fits.
"The first kid I looked at was Trevor Ruhland. He’s a bad, bad man," said Anderson. "He's playing tackle now, but he's a guard at the next level with the body of my former Bengals teammate and Iowa star Eric Steinbach. Eric wasn't this mean and prickish. We called Eric ‘the tool’ because he played several positions. Ruhland can play center, guard and tackle."
Steinbach was exceptionally versatile for the Bengals, who played left tackle for the injured Levi Jones while rookie Andrew Whitworth replaced Steinbach at left guard. And sometimes Steinbach filled in for Richie Braham at center. In those days, the Bengals ran the legendary Power-O, with 675 pounds between Bobbie Williams and Anderson blocking down. Steinbach pulled to kick out the defensive end while Rudi Johnson followed Jeremi Johnson through the point of attack to claim the team's single-season rushing title... two times.
Offensive guard Clint Boling, a former fourth-round pick from the 2011 NFL draft, is entering free agency as an unrestricted free agent once his rookie contract expires on March 10, 2015. And while Boling isn't the all-around enforcement player that Steinbach was, Boling has pieced together a solid career and developed a knack for playing multiple positions.
Boling ranked as the league's 8th-9th best left guard, per Pro Football Focus, with an overall score of +5.0 -- exceptional as a run blocker at +5.4. Since taking over as the team's starting left guard in 2012 (he started a couple of games in '11 for the suspended Bobbie Williams), Boling's combined overall score sits at +20.5. When he played right tackle (for the injured Andre Smith and the struggling Marshall Newhouse) against the Pittsburgh Steelers, he scored an overall grade of +3.2... he moved back to left guard after struggling against the Cleveland Browns.
Factoring Cincinnati's quick-pass scheme, Boling was part of an offensive line that only allowed 23 quarterback sacks -- the lowest number since the '06 squad (with Steinbach, Braham, Anderson, Jones, Williams, and Whitworth) allowed 17. Boling also helped power the Bengals' running game to one of the best we've seen during the Marvin Lewis era.
Cincinnati isn't basking in the luxurious position to pick and choose their offensive linemen right now. Simply stated, there are no young players waiting within the ranks to take over as starters. Tanner Hawkinson and T.J. Johnson are career backup players who are fighting for playing time -- and the former is generally a game day inactive -- and Mike Pollak is a rotational, yet serviceable, backup who often steps up as a starter when asked.
If the Bengals find a better solution... fine. Points to them. Until then, get Boling signed.