Injury sidelines Titans' OL Piller for season

Updated: October 27, 2006, 10:18 AM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

For the second time in three years, Tennessee Titans starting left guard Zach Piller will end the season on injured reserve, this time victimized by an ankle injury sustained last month.

Piller started the first three contests of the season, then sustained the ankle injury in the Sept. 24 game at Miami, and has not played since. The former University of Tennessee star played in just one game in the 2004 season because of a torn left biceps.

Once considered one of the NFL's top young blockers, and an emerging force at weak-side guard, Piller's progress has been slowed by the recent injuries. The ankle injury means that Piller, who came back from the torn biceps to start all 16 games in 2005, will have appeared in only 20 games over a three-season period.

The latest injury, and the recent success the Tennessee line has enjoyed after reconfiguring to compensate for his absence, could make it difficult for Piller to win back his starting job in 2007. Given his base salaries, it might be tough for Piller to remain with the Titans as a backup. A third-round choice in the 1999 draft, Piller is earning $2.5 million this season. His salary jumps to $3 million for 2007, to $3.5 million in 2008 and to $4 million in 2009.

In his absence, former right tackle Jacob Bell has moved to left guard and second-year veteran David Stewart has become the starting right tackle. Those two, along with second-year left tackle Michael Roos, provide the Titans a solid nucleus of promising, young blockers for the future.

Piller, 30, has appeared in 87 games, including 58 as a starter. Known for his strength as a drive-blocker, he improved his pass-blocking skills over his eight-year career, but injuries continue to derail him.

In unrelated moves, the Titans have signed a pair of veteran free agents, defensive lineman DeQuincy Scott and tight end Ben Hartsock, to what are believed to be one-year contracts.

Hartsock, 26, was released earlier this week by Indianapolis, where he had recently battled hamstring problems. But the former Ohio State standout, a third-round choice in the 2004 draft, definitely has talent as a receiver, and should be a nice addition to the young Tennessee tight end corps. Scott is a four-year veteran who played most of his career in San Diego, was in camp with Minnesota this summer, but did not make the Vikings' roster. Scott, 28, has 14 career sacks in 56 appearances.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here Insider.