Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered 3/16: Wembley?

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 – – look for the Asked and Answered logo and post it there. Then continue reading Asked and Answered to see if yours was chosen.

Aaron Breeze: Bob, do you share the opinion that Big Ben needed to lose some weight after this season?

I cannot speak to Ben Roethlisberger's weight, but if you're asking about his weight as a way to question his mobility in the latter portion of the season, I believe the wear and tear on his body – highlighted by the high ankle sprain – was a much more significant factor.

Martin Adrian Mendez: Normally the Steelers aren't big in free agency, but with the release of several veterans is this year going to be different? A guy like Mario Williams or Cortland Finnegan would definitely help. Any targets?

The Steelers never have been big players in free agency, because their philosophy regarding team building is to use the draft to add young talent, then teach those players the Steelers way, and then keep those players through the prime years of their careers. The Steelers use free agency as a way to plug holes that might come up so they can go into a particular draft and simply pick the best player available in each round rather than go into it with specific needs to address. Both Mario Williams and Cortland Finnegan were signed in the first couple of days of this free agency period, and each of them got the kind of money the Steelers did not have available under the salary cap. If the Steelers are active at all in this free agency period, I believe it will be in the second or third wave and primarily as a response to some of their own players signing elsewhere.

Josh James: Do the Steelers' coaches view Stevenson Sylvester as the eventual starter next to Timmons or do they draft Dont'a Hightower, or any other ILB, this year?

My feeling is that the current plan would call for Larry Foote to join Lawrence Timmons as the other starting inside linebacker, at least for the opening of the 2012 season. As for Stevenson Sylvester, I don't think it would make any sense to have a definitive opinion on him yet, because he's still too young and therefore still developing. Sylvester will be 24 on July 18, and remember, last year there was no offseason program. I think the Steelers look at it this way: they have Foote, and Sylvester will determine his role on defense by how he performs at camp and during the preseason. As for the draft, an inside linebacker figures to be among their selections, and if the best player available to them on the first round plays that position, so be it.

Kevan McGuire: Any chance the Steelers will play at Wembley? I saw them in Dublin in 1997, so they are overdue. They have a huge following in the UK.

That trip to Dublin for the preseason opener in 1997 against the Chicago Bears at Croke Park was a fabulous experience, but a regular season game overseas poses some unique problems. The Steelers' lease at Heinz Field requires 10 games to be played there every year, and since home playoff games cannot be guaranteed it would be tough for the Steelers to sacrifice a home date for a trip to England. And with the way Steelers fans scoop up tickets to road games, the question becomes whether any NFL owner would want to sacrifice a home game against the Steelers. Personally, I would love the experience, so I am in favor. But I have no vote.

Josh James: Any update on Wesley Saunders' suspension? Can he make an appeal or is he out of luck?

Appealing this kind of thing – a suspension for a positive test for performance-enhancers – is virtually impossible to win, because the NFL has a rule that the individual is responsible for what is in his body. Saunders will have to serve the suspension, but I still believe he has a very promising future with the team.

Jeff Moll: Why was Jerome given the chance to play one more year but not Hines?

The difference between the two situations is a simple: the Steelers believed Jerome Bettis could still contribute to the team and they don't think Hines Ward can. Bettis took less money in both 2004 and 2005, and the Steelers ended up with a real bargain. Even though Duce Staley opened 2004 as the starter, Bettis took over in the seventh game after Staley was injured, and he finished with 938 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns in essentially half-a-year as a starter. In 2005, Bettis rushed for only 338 yards because of Willie Parker's emergence, but he scored nine touchdowns. Also, there was this: In both 2004-05, Bettis entered training camp as no worse than the No. 2 running back; in 2012, Ward would have been no better than the No. 4 receiver.

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