The senior Alabama offensive guard and rising third-year starter said friends have called him “Antonio” and “Steen” and “Big A.” There was also the lady who held up the sign all last season.
“I’d see it every day, before we eat on Fridays before a game,” he said Monday after the Crimson Tide’s fifth spring practice of 2013. “She’s holding a sign up saying ‘Steen Roller.’ Me and the guys are just laughing, cracking up.”
Then Steen realized the mistake in sharing that with a huddle of reporters: “I guess that will stick now,” he said.
One of two returning starters from one of Alabama’s greatest offensive lines, Steen is learning a lot of things in spring practice. He’s learning foreign concepts, like leadership.
It’s not something he had to do before, playing with departed Tide greats like Barrett Jones, D.J. Fluker and Chance Warmack. Jones, especially, had the whole leadership thing covered.
“It’s difficult, because I’ve always been a guy that’s been around — just do my job and that’s it,” Steen said. “Right now, I’m just trying to make sure all the young guys know what they’re doing so, when the time comes and they come in the game, they’ll know what to do.”
Now, the leadership role falls on Steen and his fellow returning starter, junior left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio.
Among the 16 offensive linemen in spring practice, Steen and reserve utility lineman Kellen Williams are the only seniors. The soft-spoken Steen is the lone senior returning starter and not a likely suspect to come back at senior quarterback AJ McCarron, like Jones did in the Bowl Championship Series final in January.
“He’s a leader. He just doesn’t say a whole bunch,” McCarron said.
Not that Steen’s quiet nature is such a bad thing.
“He’s a good leader for that offensive line group,” McCarron said. “He can talk to them when they get in their meeting room and stuff like that. He’s been here for a while now and can offer some guys advice and stuff like that, so it’s been good.”
Indeed, Steen has appeared in 39 games with 25 starts, including all 14 games of 2012. He would seem the natural choice to step into the leadership role on the offensive line.
Too, he must learn new things under a new offensive line coach. Mario Cristobal replaced Jeff Stoutland, now with the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles, after the 2012 season.
“He’s bringing new things to the table, and we’re adjusting to it,” Steen said. “Just different kind of footwork, pass sets and stuff that we weren’t doing before, but I like it.”
So Steen must learn and lead on the fly, but he knows what it’s like to be part of a great line. The “Steen Roller” just wants to keep the Tide rolling that way.
“It’s a big challenge,” he said. “Everybody was saying we were the best offensive line in the country. It’s going to be difficult making our own way, but I think we’re looking forward to it.”
Sports columnist Joe Medley: 256-235-3576, firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @jmedley_star.