Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: April 7

Let's get to it:

The team has added unknown linebackers this offseason, such as Shawn Lemon and Shayon Green. Do you see either of them making the 53-man roster ahead of Howard Jones? Why did they not wait to sign James Harrison until after training camp to keep him fresh, and what do you see Mike Tomlin doing to keep him healthy heading into the season?

The Steelers were scouring for linebackers during the offseason, because it would be foolish for them to assume that Howard Jones is going to be good enough to deserve a spot on the roster and the playing time figuring to come with it. Personally, I believe Howard Jones has a better shot than either of the newcomers you mention simply because he has been around the team for nearly a calendar year. A year on the practice squad should offer Jones a significant leg-up on the new guys the Steelers have added so far this offseason. As for signing James Harrison now, General Manager Kevin Colbert said the decision was made to provide the young linebackers a first-hand look at the proper way to get one's body prepared for the rigors of an NFL season. I also think Harrison pushed the Steelers' hand a bit with that flirtation with the Tennessee Titans. Finally, Mike Tomlin knows the drill, but the way it usually works with a maniacal worker like Harrison is it's the coach having to push him off the field, not onto it.

The loss in Super Bowl XLV was very painful for me. When I watched and studied the tape, I noticed that on the final drive of the game, where the Steelers could have won with a touchdown, Ben Roethlisberger missed an open Mewelde Moore check-down a few times because he kept on trying to force it deep to Mike Wallace. Did you see this as well or am I not understanding the play correctly? Also, if we had known how good a rookie named Antonio Brown was going to become, maybe he should have been on the field instead?

The loss in Super Bowl XLV was very painful for the entire Steelers organization as well, and I know it still stings whenever the particulars of that game are brought up. I cannot speak to the specific plays to which you refer, because I've never re-watched the game, to be honest. I can tell you that a significant component of Bruce Arians' offensive philosophy was to attack down the field a prescribed number of times per game, regardless of what the defense might be showing. Those kinds of plays take time to develop, and that's why you were seeing the quarterback sacked/hit so often. In fact, in the first quarter of Super Bowl XLV, on a first down from the Steelers 7-yard line, Roethlisberger tried to go deep to Wallace but the pass rush got to him as he threw and Nick Collins ended up with a pick-six. Sure there were games won because Roethlisberger and Wallace had a ridiculous number of 40-plus-yard touchdown hookups, but in that Super Bowl the Packers were determined to take that away and the Steelers had no answer. Bruce Arians has won two Coach of the Year awards since leaving the Steelers, but there had to be a change at offensive coordinator here. I would maintain everybody is better off as a result.

I see three of the five starting offensive lineman are free agents next year. Do you think we will have the cap room to re-sign all of them? I would think it is in the team's best interest to keep them together, if at all possible.

Maurkice Pouncey and Marcus Gilbert both signed long-term deals last summer. David DeCastro is a first-round draft pick entering his fourth NFL season, and according to the CBA a team can exercise an option for a fifth-year on the rookie contracts for first-round draft picks. That means the Steelers can hold onto DeCastro for two more years. Kelvin Beachum is going into the final year of his rookie deal, and there are no fifth-year options for seventh-round picks, but the Steelers have interest in doing a long-term deal with him, and in doing it before the start of the 2015 season. Ramon Foster is going into the final year of his deal, after which he'll be 30. I believe the Steelers are in pretty good shape along the offensive line from a contractual standpoint, and I really like the unit's coach.

How come the fans see the decline of players years before the team? Ike Taylor was loyal to the Steelers for years but his play the last three years has been sub-par at best. And the same for Troy Polamalu over the last two years. Do you feel the Steelers organization has been loyal to a fault?

I'm going to start this answer with a portion of another question, this one submitted by JUSTIN MOWRY FROM BEDFORD, PA: "From what I've read/heard, it seems that the Steelers are all but officially done with Ike Taylor. Why do you think that is? He was easily the best cornerback on the roster last season before his freak injury. He is fully healthy again, so why not give him a shot? It appears that they have the cap space to afford him on a minimum contract." I'm not making fun of anybody here, but clearly fans don't "see the decline of players years before the team," as you maintain. And most often, the issue isn't so much that the team hangs on, as it is that the team doesn't have anybody better. When Brice McCain showed himself to be a reliable option at the position, he started there even when Taylor returned from his injury, but when Polamalu was injured last season, so was Shamarko Thomas.

Who do you think is going to get his number retired next, and do you see any current players getting their numbers retired in the future?

I believe the decision to retire Joe Greene's No. 75 last season resulted from an interest in honoring a man universally believed to be the Steelers' all-time greatest player, and not so much as a sign of things to come. But if it proves to be the start, then for me, the next player to have his number retired should be Franco Harris. But I don't know that there are imminent plans to do so with him or with any other players. As for current players, in my mind they would have to be multiple Super Bowl winners and Hall of Fame players even to be considered.

Most of the speculation on how the Steelers will address needs on the defensive side of the ball focus on drafting rookies. Considering how rookies typically need two-three years to reach their potential in the Steelers defensive scheme and the team has needs for starters now, is there any chance of trading a second-to-fifth-round draft pick for an established starter with a low cap cost?

If a team had an established starter with a low cap cost at one of the positions the Steelers need – cornerback or pass rusher – why would that team be willing to trade him for such a paltry return? It's just not real.

Do you think the Steelers will try to trade up for Michigan State cornerback Trae Waynes in this upcoming draft? Also, with the crowd of talent they have at inside linebacker, do you think the Steelers would experiment with Vince Williams at outside linebacker as an attempt to get him on the field more?

Trae Waynes is the best cornerback prospect in this draft, and thus can be expected to be a top-10 pick, certainly top-15. The cost for trading up that high into the round will be prohibitive for the Steelers, because they're going to need all of their picks to add as much talent as possible. And what in the wide, wide world of sports have you seen from Vince Williams that makes you believe it would be smart for the team, or fair to the player, to move him to a completely new position?

It is increasingly frustrating to constantly read comments from fans who already have given up on recent draft picks and their ability to learn and excel at their positions. Ryan Shazier to safety? Jarvis Jones a bust? TRADE TIMMONS? My question is: Percentage wise, out of all the questions you get, how many are legitimate and how many make you want to scream into a pillow?

Well, since you asked, allow me to offer a question submitted in the same batch as your own: "Have the Steelers given any consideration to bringing on Tim Tebow? I think he was shafted by the Broncos. He is a Steelers-type player, a tough guy, a winner. They say he is unorthodox, but so is Ben Roethlisberger. He is like Ben in the fact that he finds a way to get things done. I think backing up Ben would give Tebow time to sharpen up, and he is a man of character that a lot of fans like me think is rare in the NFL." Between questions such as these, and the ones that would require a crystal ball to answer, and the ones about randomly changing a player's position (see above, regarding Vince Williams to OLB), sometimes I worry about having enough to put together an edition of Asked and Answered. But so far, Steelers Nation always manages to come through with enough legitimate/intelligent queries to get me through, although I will admit to using some of the other questions for entertainment purposes only.

I am confused. Living on the West Coast we don't always get the latest news on the Steelers, but I thought Alejandro Villanueva was brought in to compete at tight end, like he was at West Point. What's all this talk about offensive line or defensive line?

It's called Bookmark it. Visit daily. Read the stories. Watch the videos. Had you been doing that, you wouldn't be confused about the team's plans for Alejandro Villanueva. He never was considered a tight end by the Steelers. He never was considered a defensive lineman by the Steelers. If you must read those fan sites employing writers who couldn't find the Steelers practice facility with a GPS, who never have attended a practice, who never have talked to a coach, or a scout, at least don't believe everything you read.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.