Bob Labriola, a Pittsburgh native, has been editor of Steelers Digest since its inception in 1988. Do you have a question for Bob? Go to the Steelers Facebook page – facebook.com/steelers – look for the Asked and Answered logo and post it there. Then continue reading Asked and Answered to see if yours was chosen.
Vesna Zeiler: How is the salary cap going to impact the Steelers this year with veteran players and draft picks?
General Manager Kevin Colbert estimated that before any contract re-structurings or terminations the Steelers would be between $25-30 million over the 2012 salary cap depending upon where the final figure lands when it's finally determined in early March. The team already has done several re-structurings and hopes to do more, and there have been two terminations – Bryant McFadden and Arnaz Battle – and there will have to be more. Maybe some older veterans retire, as Chris Hoke did. There still are a lot of things to be worked out by the close of business on March 12, which is when the Steelers will have to be in compliance with the salary cap. Colbert said the team is not in rebuilding mode, and while I agree, I also believe there will be some name players released because of cap/production issues. One thing is certain – the salary cap situation will not impact the Steelers' draft philosophy. They will go by their evaluations and pick the best players.
David Rosko: In what direction are the Steelers going with the new offensive coordinator?
The only direction the Steelers have any interest in going in 2012 would be south, because Super Bowl XLVII is in New Orleans. They believe that to get there, the offense has to be better than it was in 2011, better than it has been in the recent past. Last season, the offense produced a 4,000-yard passer, two 1,000-yard receivers, almost 1,400 yards rushing from the tailback position, and it was second in the NFL in time of possession. But that all adds up to a big not-good-enough when you're tied for 21st in scoring and rank 18th in the league in red zone efficiency. When it comes to red zone efficiency, the Steelers ranked 23rd in 2010, tied for 21st in 2009 and 15th in 2008. Sorry, not good enough. Actually, I do know in which direction the Steelers want to go with the new offensive coordinator – across the goal line more often.
Darren Minns: So, Bob, do you really think Todd Haley will be a good fit for the Steelers offense? I just don't know. His resume doesn't seem all that good from my perspective. I really thought he sucked as a coach, and I really think he will suck as the offensive coordinator.
Your opinion of the job Haley did as head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs is debatable, in my opinion. He won a division title in 2010, the first division title won by the Chiefs since 2003, and in the two seasons before he was hired Kansas City was 6-26. But for sake of argument, let's say Haley was a poor head coach. So was Dick LeBeau. What do you think of LeBeau as a coordinator? There are many examples of good coordinators who aren't successful head coaches.
Daniel Ettinger: Will the Steelers place Rashard Mendenhall on IR or just cut him? It doesn't look like he is going to be healthy enough to play in 2012.
Whoa, whoa, whoa. I was sitting across the table from Kevin Colbert when he talked about Mendenhall on Feb. 13, and he was taking a conservative approach to the ACL rehab because his job is to find good players. From a personnel standpoint, it wouldn't be smart to assume that Mendenhall is going to be ready for the start of training camp and instantly be the guy he was before his knee surgery. That would be delusional. My prediction is that Mendenhall begins camp on the physically unable to perform list, where he does not count against the roster limit. Then we'll see. Maybe he's not healthy enough to be activated until the regular season is about to start, or maybe it's not until six weeks into the season. But any notion that Mendenhall definitely will be on IR for the 2012 season is way premature, and the idea of just cutting him is laughable.
Rick Latanzio: In my opinion, the team is about to unload Casey Hampton and some others. With the money issues we have and the current roster, is it possible to see Ziggy Hood at NT next season, or will they go for one in the draft? Nose tackle in a 3-4 is one of the main positions, and Hood doesn't seem to get much pressure from his position now, so would that work?
I'm not so sure I agree with all of your contentions regarding Hampton's status and Hood's pass-rushing abilities, but when he was drafted there were was an opinion within the team that eventually Hood's best position in the NFL was going to be nose tackle. Drafting a defensive lineman in April isn't out of the realm of possibility, either.
Dan McKibben: What is your gut feeling about Hines Ward being in the black-and-gold next year?
I understand that it's all about production, and with that said I believe Ward can be a productive part of the team in 2012. In what form, that's to be determined, but look at the team's roster today. At wide receiver, you have Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders. If Jerricho Cotchery doesn't re-sign – with the issue there likely being whether he would be willing to accept a contract commensurate with being a No. 4 receiver – who's left? Ward has said he would re-structure his contract, and if he's willing to re-structure to what a No. 4 receiver makes, I would bring him to training camp. My opinion.
Josh James: Is Antonio Brown's ceiling higher than Mike Wallace's?
I don't know how to measure a player's ceiling. Both guys have qualities you look for in a dynamic playmaking receiver, but neither guy is a finished product by any means. Continuing to improve, developing counters for how defenses will try to take them out of games, health. All of those are factors that cannot be predicted, and those are the things that ultimately will define both of their careers. And if a competition develops between the two – as happened with James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley – all the better.
Sharon Sebastian: Will the Pittsburgh Steelers place a franchise tag on restricted free agent Mike Wallace?
I don't think so, because they have cap issues as it is, and the franchise number for a wide receiver is not peanuts. My prediction is that the Steelers will place a restricted free agent tender on Wallace that calls for a first-round pick in compensation, and that Wallace will get no offer sheets from other teams. First-round picks are valuable, and teams will see that the Steelers picked Wallace on the third round and believe they can do the same to add a similar talent. Then, Wallace either plays 2012 for the restricted tender or comes to a longer-term arrangement with the Steelers. This would be a better question for February 2013.
Bernie Froio: Hi, BOB! How come Jon Kolb is not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame?
Hi, BERNIE! A lack of statistics for offensive linemen, a perception among voters that there are enough Steelers from the 1970s already enshrined, the fact Kolb has not kept his name in the forefront by being an NFL game analyst on network television, a la Dan Dierdorf. Because on my team, I'm picking Kolb over Dierdorf.