Alumni Update: Marvel Smith

May 22, 2003

PITTSBURGH (AP)--For the first time since his final game at Arizona State in 1999, Marvel Smith is playing left tackle, and he's calling it the opportunity of a lifetime.

'I always looked at myself as a left tackle and I played left tackle my whole life until I got here with the Steelers,' said Smith, a fourth-year pro with Pittsburgh who earned his bachelor's degree in interdisciplinary studies at ASU. 'It's been my dream to play left tackle in the NFL, so now I have the opportunity.'

The left tackle is responsible for keeping speedy defensive ends away from the quarterback's blind side and is essential in establishing the passing game.

Broadcaster and former Steelers tackle Tunch Ilkin told the right-handed Smith, who is moving to his college position of left tackle this to become left-handed this offseason.

'It seemed like I hadn't done anything with my left side for three years, so it's just getting your body back adjusted to doing something you,re not used to doing, something as simple as eating cereal with your left hand,' Smith said. 'Whenever I think about it, I go ahead and do anything with my left hand. I unlock the door with my left hand.'

In 2000, Smith became the first Steeler rookie offensive lineman to start in his first game since 1969.

At the Steelers' coaching sessions this week, Smith replaced Wayne Gandy, who signed a six-year, $30 million free-agent contract with the New Orleans Saints.

Gandy questioned the Steelers, ability to find an effective replacement.

'Tommy needs a lot of protection,' Gandy said of quarterback Tommy Maddox. 'Letting me go is a gamble.'

Instead of seeking a replacement in free agency or the draft, coach Bill Cowher moved Smith, his right tackle the last three seasons.

'He's a very natural left tackle,' Cowher said. 'I don't think he'll have any problem making the transition.'

Coaches say Smith's college years will help.

'It's early but he appears comfortable over there,' said line coach Russ Grimm. 'He played left tackle in college and he is a seasoned vet. He's got three years under his belt. I think he,ll be fine.'

Grimm is more concerned about having Smith and left guard Alan Faneca build chemistry on the left side of the line.

'He's already seen a lot of good rushers on (the right) side anyway. Teams are always flipping rushers,' Grimm said.

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