Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: April 14

Let's get to it:

GREG WRIGHT FROM TAPPAHANNOCK, VA:
What a complete jerk you were to Michael Warrington, who asked the last question on the April 7 edition of Asked and Answered. No wonder you have such a hard time getting quality questions, as you said earlier in the column. Why would anyone bother to write you knowing they could possibly be demeaned and degraded for asking a simple question? It's called EmilyPost.com. Bookmark it. Read it. Visit it daily.

I went to that website you suggested. It didn't have any Steelers stuff at all.

SCOTT BAETE FROM SIOUX FALLS, SD:
Why not try Shaun Suisham at ROLB? He is so small that no one would notice him on the field, and then, BOOM, he's at the quarterback! Hopefully he just wouldn't bounce off …

Better watch yourself with the sarcasm, Scott. Not everyone appreciates our sense of humor.

BRIANT LASLO FROM JOHNSTOWN, PA:
With the retirement of Troy, I have two questions: Was there any one individual who pushed for the Steelers to draft Troy back in 2003; and do you think there is ANY chance Troy is not a first-ballot Hall of Famer?

Going into that draft, Troy Polamalu was viewed as the top prospect at safety, but the NFL didn't necessarily view safeties as all that valuable when it came to trading up to pick them. Teams believed in trading up for quarterbacks and pass rushers and even cornerbacks, maybe, but not safeties. The Steelers went into it with the 27th overall selection, and they had their eye on Penn State running back Larry Johnson if they stayed there and made the pick. Kevin Colbert was a big fan of Polamalu's and really saw him as someone who could help revamp a defense that was old and slow in the secondary. Bill Cowher also liked Polamalu as a player, but the hard sell was the Rooneys. Dan Rooney and Chuck Noll believed in the concept of building a team through the draft, and that tenet became the foundation of the franchise, and Art Rooney II shares that belief. And so when he was pitched the idea of spending three picks for one player back in 2003, he wasn't convinced immediately. Credit Colbert largely, because he made sure Cowher was on board, secured approval from Art Rooney II, and then supervised the working of the phones to turn an idea into reality. Regarding the Hall of Fame, I believe Troy Polamalu is deserving, and I hope he is elected. First ballot? That would be a pleasant surprise.

GARY KIRKWOOD FROM ROCKY MOUNT, NC:
Since we play the Baltimore Ravens two or maybe even three times a year and their pass rush dominates our tackles, I believe our first-round pick should a tackle. Or do you think our tackles will improve?

And in one of those three games vs. the Ravens last year Ben Roethlisberger completed 67.5 percent for 340 yards, with six touchdowns and no interceptions. I will agree that the Ravens outside pass rush was a dominant factor in the playoff loss, but the absence of Le'Veon Bell was an issue that day as well. Based on the makeup of this team at this time, I just believe the starting offensive tackles into the near future are already on the roster. Make them better, help them. But premium draft picks must be spent on defensive playmakers.

MICHAEL M. GAETA FROM AUBURN, NY:
I have been a Steelers fan for 37 years now, and I have been waiting patiently for us to draft a shutdown cornerback in the first round. I realize that a great pass rush improves your secondary, but with the evolution of offenses and a greater need for man coverage and press coverage, I feel it is time to spend a first-round pick on a cornerback. What are your thoughts?

I think it's time, as well. It's just not as easy as it sounds. How many "shutdown" cornerbacks are there in all of football? Six? Maybe that's even a generous estimate, but the point is there have been a lot of cornerbacks drafted in the first round who never became "shutdown" anythings. Pick the best players, as a general rule. This year, the rule should be modified to "pick the best defensive playmakers." And since I believe the Steelers need to add more than one cornerback in this draft, starting the picking in the first round would be my preference.

KYLE DAVIS FROM ST. CLOUD, FL:
It really sounds like the Steelers are looking to develop Arthur Moats and Jarvis Jones as the outside linebackers of the future, so would you say the team would rather go for a cornerback in the first round? Also, does Ryan Shazier have a starting job that's his to lose, or will it be more of an open competition among him, Vince Williams, and Sean Spence?

It's not as cut-and-dried as you portray it, and there are more draft picks than just the one in the first round. The Steelers defense wasn't good enough when the ball was in the air last year, and so anointing anyone anything isn't really on the agenda. The Steelers need certain individuals to step up in 2015, but in the end Mike Tomlin will play the guys he believes give the team the best chance to win.

JAMES LUCAS FROM WESTOVER, PA:
Do you believe that there are plans to extend Kelvin Beachum, David DeCastro, or both this offseason?

What I believe is that the Steelers would like to keep both Kelvin Beachum and David DeCastro beyond the time covered by their current contracts. The Beachum situation is more pressing because he can become an unrestricted free agent in March 2016, while DeCastro last week had the Steelers exercise the fifth-year option on his rookie contract to bind him to the team through the 2016 NFL season. Before either of those extensions get done, however, I would expect something long-term for Cam Heyward. He also could become an unrestricted free agent next March and is one of the best young players on the team.

L.E. McCANDLESS JONESBOROUGH, TN:
One of the many aspects of the Steelers' organization that I really appreciate is that they do NOT waste time and money on cheerleaders. I think the reason they are not needed is that Steeler Nation is so strong. What are you thoughts on this?

Not to burst the bubble, but from 1961 until being disbanded in 1969 the Pittsburgh Steelerettes were the first cheerleading squad in the National Football League. They were college girls attending Robert Morris Junior College in Pittsburgh, and because their school didn't have football they began cheering for the Steelers. Also from my understanding, NFL teams that have cheerleaders make money on the endeavor, but the Steelers choose not to pursue that stream of revenue.

GREGORY HELMAN FROM REYNOLDSVILLE, PA:
Glad to see Ben Roethlisberger will be around for the next five years. If something happened and he does go down with an injury, would the Steelers use the second-string quarterback for the rest of the year or look outside for a veteran?

When the Steelers put their roster together, they attempt to stack the talent as best they can so that in the case of injury it's next man up. Obviously, this concept is not so easily achieved at quarterback when you're talking about Ben Roethlisberger as the starter. But in the situation you describe, I believe the Steelers could be a whole lot worse off than having to play Bruce Gradkowski, who can be effective running the offense and distributing the ball to some nice playmakers. He's not going to be Ben Roethlisberger, but he'll be better than anyone else they could realistically sign.

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