Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: April 16

Let's get to it:

Since Troy Polamalu joined Ed Reed in retirement, there is debate over which player was the better safety. I don't think they really compare. Reed was one of the greatest safeties ever, I'll admit that, but Troy was one of the greatest defenders, maybe one of the greatest players, ever. He transcended position. Would you agree?

I would agree that one-to-one comparisons between Reed and Polamalu are somewhat meaningless because of the disparity in the ways they were deployed and utilized by their teams. Reed was a centerfielder, and an extraordinary one at that. Opposing quarterbacks who challenged him often ended up as a statistic in the form of one of his 64 career interceptions. Polamalu was liable to line up anywhere within the defensive formation, and then when the ball was snapped he was as likely to attack the offensive backfield as he was to patrol an area of the secondary. For the way the Ravens played defense, Reed was what they needed. For the Steelers defense coordinated by Dick LeBeau, Polamalu was perfect. Two great players, but great in different ways.

Now that Troy Polamalu officially has retired, I would like to revisit the discussion of retiring numbers. I'm sure I am not the only one of the opinion that Polamalu has meant as much to the Steelers and the City of Pittsburgh as the legendary Joe Greene. Do you think that No. 43 will one day be retired in his honor?

This is what Ike Taylor said in announcing his retirement on Tuesday, "From the time I walked in the door until the time I left, this is where I wanted to be. How the organization is, the locker room, you see why we win. The Steelers speak for themselves. When you talk about the Steelers, you talk about success. (When) you talk about Pittsburgh, the first thing people talk about is the Steelers." The reason for that, the reason why the Steelers organization is viewed as special by players and coaches, why there is a mystique, a legacy, all of those things, can be traced back to one coach (Chuck Noll) and one player (Joe Greene). Before Noll and Greene, the Steelers were perennial losers and a second-class operation. The draft choices they traded away for washed-up veterans were used by other teams to pick Hall of Fame players; they actually cut Johnny Unitas without ever giving him a chance to play even in an exhibition game. Without Noll and Greene and the foundation they laid, there is no Pittsburgh Steelers as you know them. As for Polamalu, if I had to pick an All-Time Steelers defense, he would be one of the four defensive backs; I believe he deserves to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame; and I cannot imagine seeing his No. 43 on another player. But he has not meant as much to the Steelers as Joe Greene.

What do you think about Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall as a Steelers sleeper pick in the third or fourth round as a cornerback project? Seems like with his talent and unique perspective as a college quarterback that he could thrive under Carnell Lake's tutelage.

Nick Marshall impressed a lot of people at the Senior Bowl by jumping into drills as a cornerback. He has very good size (6-foot-2, 207 pounds) for cornerback, and he's a good athlete as well. He actually was recruited by Georgia as a cornerback, and he played the position there for one year before moving on to Auburn to be a quarterback for Gus Malzahn. Marshall is a very raw prospect right now as a defensive player, and for me, the third or fourth round would be too early to start considering the kind of project Marshall appears to be. One other issue to consider: Marshall has had a couple of off-the-field incidents. He was dismissed from the Georgia program, reportedly for stealing money from teammates, and he was suspended for the first half of the 2014 opener as punishment for being cited for possession of marijuana.

Losing two key players in the secondary this past week has surely put the Steelers in a tough spot. Will these retirement decisions on the defensive side of the ball have any implication on how the Steelers will draft in the first round/second round?

This was not a situation where the Steelers were surprised by those decisions. In fact, the team was planning all along to move forward into 2015 without both Ike Taylor and Troy Polamalu. As a result, their plans for the upcoming draft won't change as a result of the events of the last week.

Is Asante Samuel available?

Asante Samuel is currently 34 years old, and he played 11 seasons in the NFL. After starting several games for Atlanta in 2013, he was released by the Falcons on Feb. 5, 2014. He has been out of football since.

Love your Asked and Answered. I would like to know where to get that picture of the Steelerettes, because I think my BFF is pictured in the lower left hand corner of the photo. We both grew up in Pittsburgh, and I lost her in a plane crash years ago when she was only 21. She was a flight attendant for UAL.

That photo came from the Steelers archives. There was no individual identification of the Steelerettes shown. That's all the information I have.

I know you don't have to, but if you would have to choose between Markus Wheaton and Martavis Bryant, because there are a limited number of snaps, who would be your No. 2 receiver for the upcoming seasons?

As this stage of their young careers, Markus Wheaton and Martavis Bryant seem to me to have different strengths. Bryant's combination of size and speed make him a dangerous deep threat, but I haven't seen enough of him to know whether he could handle the other routes required of NFL receivers. Not saying he can't, but just haven't seen it. Wheaton is a little bit more experienced, and he is such a hard worker that I wouldn't want to put a ceiling on his development. Over the next couple of seasons, if I were forced to prdict, I would say Wheaton would end up with more catches, but Bryant would have the higher average per reception and more touchdowns.

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