Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: April 28

Let's get to it:

Do you think the Steelers would consider a trade with the Jets: cornerback Dee Milliner for a third-round pick in the 2015 draft?

I don't think either team would be interested in that kind of deal at this time, for their own unique reasons. Just days after trading Darrelle Revis to Tampa Bay, the Jets made Milliner the ninth overall pick of the 2013 draft, and their return on the investment has been spotty at best. Milliner had a history of injuries in college, but mostly played through them. A hamstring injury limited him to 13 games in 2013, when his play was uneven but improved in December. Last season, he sustained a high ankle sprain in training camp, returned from it in Week 2, then tore his Achilles in the Jets' sixth game to end his season. For the Steelers, giving up a third-round draft pick for a cornerback who has yet to show he is an NFL starter when healthy, and who also is less than 12 months removed from tearing an Achilles – that's too much of a risk. For the Jets, they're in this deep with Milliner, and so they might as well ride with him one more season, especially since they have a rookie head coach in Todd Bowles who's insulated against Milliner being a total bust because he didn't draft him. Said Bowles about Milliner, "You've got to get him healthy. Everything else, we know the guy can play. He's a No. 1 pick. I liked him coming out of Alabama. We've just got to get him healthy and he's got to become a pro. Every rookie that comes into the league, there's a time and point where they have to learn to become a pro, whether they're learning from the older guys or whether they just get it themselves. The injuries have held him up. That's all." If this trade was made, history would end up telling us which team made the right move, but today it doesn't look like making the trade would be the right move for either team.

It seems to me that 20-25 years ago having a 3-4 defense gave you an advantage when it came to drafting players for the scheme and also on the field with formations/plays the opposition wasn't used to. Would you agree with so many 3-4 defenses in the NFL today that advantage has diluted? Should the team consider changing back to 4-3?

A team's scheme should be based on its personnel, and nothing else. Players win at the professional level, not schemes, and teams should not utilize schemes with the idea of tricking anybody. Everybody played a 4-3 defense in the 1970s, which meant there were no formation surprises and every team was competing for the same kinds of players. Yet the Steelers still accumulated special talent and put together a unit that ranks among the best of all time. Employ the scheme that maximizes the players on the roster. For me, that's the only way to go.

How well do you think DeAngelo Williams will fit with the Steelers' current run-blocking scheme? Should we expect to see any 100-yard games from him or is he just filling the void, and if that's the case wouldn't Josh Harris have been adequate?

DeAngelo Williams is a legitimate NFL running back, a proven professional. In six of his nine seasons with Carolina, Williams finished with over 700 yards rushing, and twice he went over 1,000. He formed a one-two punch with Jonathan Stewart that accounted for 71 rushing touchdowns during the seven seasons they played together. Twice, the Williams-Stewart pairing accounted for over 2,000 yards rushing in a season. Le'Veon Bell remains the Steelers' top running back, but DeAngelo Williams is still a quality player.

Jonathan Dwyer proved that when called upon he could carry the load at running back in 2012 when he gained 623 yards with only six starts in 13 games. Do you think the Steelers did not pursue him in free agency due to his off-field problems and history of problems with conditioning?

For me, the only thing Jonathan Dwyer ever really proved during his time with the Steelers was that he was undependable. Coming to training camp out of shape, not taking his during-the-week preparation seriously all the time, never showing that he was capable of learning from his mistakes. Then after signing with Arizona, Dwyer was arrested on a change of domestic violence, and he was sentenced in January to 18 months probation after pleading guilty to disorderly conduct. So to answer the question: yes.

I'm really all about the Big Dan McCullers. He looked like a load last season. What are your thoughts?

In an earlier installment of Asked and Answered I mentioned having seen Daniel McCullers at the practice facility. It was before the start of the offseason program, probably some time in March. The first complete offseason for a young NFL player can be a critical one, and with my untrained eye it seems as though McCullers didn't spend his sitting on a couch munching potato chips. Next, we'll see how that translates onto the field at training camp.

Is there any interest in bringing back Shaquille Richardson for a look-see since he is now available?

Never say never, but the only way I could imagine the Steelers turning to Shaq Richardson is if the draft is a disaster in terms of adding cornerbacks and there are major injuries at the position between now and the start of training camp. When teams are signing you in January-February and cutting you before the start of the offseason program, which is what the Kansas City Chiefs just did with Richardson, that's a bad sign to me.

Often it seems like the Steelers are having players plucked off their practice squad. Can they have final say (and protect) a player if another team tries to claim them?

It's not claim, but sign. With the distinction being it's at the player's prerogative. The team has no power. If a guy wants to stay, he can stay, but the difference between the one-week pay for being on the practice squad and a regular season game check – even at the league minimum – is too significant to ignore. A player would be foolish to turn down a chance on a 53-man roster to stay on a practice squad.

I was wondering about who you saw in what roles at the outside linebacker position. The way I see it, there are four real contenders for playing time: Jarvis Jones, James Harrison, Arthur Moats, and an as yet undetermined draft pick if they choose to spend a high rounder. Who do you see starting and who do you see as bit players?

Your assessment of the top four is accurate, and I do believe the Steelers will add an outside linebacker in the draft before the end of the day on Friday. Even if they wait until Saturday, that player is going to have a chance to compete at training camp for playing time. And that's the purpose training camp will serve – to determine who starts and who might end up being the bit players.

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