Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: April 9

Let's get to it:

JAMES SMASAL FROM WATAUGA, TX:
Have seen a lot of talk on here about people wanting to move Ryan Shazier to the secondary. Have the Steelers considered making Carnell Lake a player/coach? With all his knowledge and experience that would seem to be a good move. Or even bringing Rod Woodson or Mel Blount back.

I have seen Mel Blount recently, and it amazes me that any NFL receiver ever caught a pass on him. Blount will be 68 years old tomorrow and still is a remarkable physical specimen. One quick Carnell Lake anecdote: This was during Lake's playing career, during Chuck Noll's tenure as coach when the Steelers would go through two-a-days in full pads for the first week or so of every training camp. And practices were full contact all the time. Anyway, it was between practices and I was in a glorified storage room that was next to the locker room at Saint Vincent College, and it contained one stationary bike and one treadmill the team had brought from Three Rivers Stadium. In those days, that's what qualified as a workout room at training camp, because players lifted weights in a tent that was adjacent to the practice fields. I was riding the bike, and Lake came in and got onto the treadmill. He then went through a treadmill workout that contained at least 15 straight minutes of sprinting full speed, and I'm talking full speed for Lake, not for me. After he was finished, he then practiced for two hours in pads, and then he joined Rod Woodson and Greg Lloyd to run up and down a steep hill adjacent to the practice field. Several times. In full pads. Carnell Lake is one of the most underrated players in the Steelers' modern era; Woodson and Blount are two of the all-time greats at cornerback.

NATHANIEL MATTERN FROM BETHEL PARK, PA:
Is UConn cornerback Byron Jones on the Steelers list at No. 22? Seems like their type of player with his intangibles.

I don't know, and as of today, the Steelers don't know either. The draft preparation process is on-going, and the Steelers won't arrange their draft board until the picking is about a week away. Before that happens, scouts/coaches/management will gather for what the team refers to as "readings," which is when the Steelers grade the players at a particular position. Then all of those position grades are matched up to create the draft board, and it's there where the players are organized and placed into something resembling an overall pecking order. Forty-eight hours before the draft, the Steelers would have an answer for that question.

STEPHEN KEEN FROM GALION, OH:
With the loss of such a legend as Dick LeBeau, do you see the players, especially the veterans, accepting the promotion of Keith Butler from linebackers coach to defensive coordinator? I would love to see our defense get back to being ranked No. 1 in the league and haven't heard a lot on how the transition from LeBeau to Butler has been accepted among the Steelers players.

One of the reasons the Steelers decided to move on from Dick LeBeau was what they saw themselves as having in Keith Butler. He was hired by Bill Cowher in 2003, and Butler also has a history with Mike Tomlin dating back to the time when both were assistant coaches at Memphis State. The players have a comfort level and a lot of respect for Butler, who has been an integral part of the defensive coaching staff for some time. Not that there would have been anything resembling an open revolt had the Steelers gone outside the organization for LeBeau's successor, but Butler has the trust of the players in the locker room.

ROBERT ELLIS FROM MEMPHIS,TN:
Is drafting an offensive tackle in the first round a realistic option for the Steelers? Reason being Ramon Foster's age and pending free agency.

It's an option, but I don't know about realistic. The Steelers need defensive help, and they need it in the areas of pass rush and coverage. For me, what's realistic is they spend the No. 1 pick on one of those and the No. 2 pick on the other. Also, Ramon Foster is a guard, and and when his contract expires he'll be 30 years old. No offense to Foster, a player who is a valued member of this team, but I cannot imagine a huge interest in him from other teams just as I wouldn't imagine he'd be overly excited about leaving.

DIMITRIOS MANTZIARAS FROM CROFTON, MD:
I have gotten some good laughs at your responses to questions about moving players. I definitely agree we need to give Jarvis Jones and Ryan Shazier time at their positions before we declare them busts, but I think the line of questioning in general is not ridiculous. I believe Hines Ward was a quarterback in college and turned out to be a great wide receiver; Kordell Stewart did well as "slash;" and I believe Carnell Lake played linebacker in college and then went on to a very successful career as a safety who also played cornerback. Considering those examples, don't you think it is at least reasonable to consider position moves from time to time, when it makes sense?

Apples and oranges. The history you cite is not comparable at all to the "ideas" posed here involving positions switches for Jarvis Jones, Ryan Shazier, Sean Spence, Vince Williams, etc. Sure, Hines Ward played some quarterback at Georgia, and he played some running back there as well, but he came to the NFL as a wide receiver. He did wide receiver drills at the Combine. He was drafted to play a particular position, and that's where he played because that's how you develop college guys into pros. Same with Carnell Lake. He played linebacker in college, but he did defensive back drills at the Combine and was drafted as a safety. The position switch for Ward and Lake happened as they entered the NFL. The Steelers drafted Ward as a receiver and Lake as a safety (and Lake only played cornerback in an emergency to help the team, which is not the same as a position switch). What is being suggested here is switching a guy AFTER he enters the league by the same team that drafted him. If you want a safety, draft a safety; don't draft an inside linebacker and then after one year tell him to lose 15-20 pounds to try to become a safety. That makes no sense to me, and it never will.

TONY BORRELLI FROM NEW CASTLE, PA:
From my understanding, LaMarr Woodley is still getting $8.5 million from the Steelers this year. When that dead money is gone, where do you see them allocating that money? Obviously, this is looking down the road a ways and a lot will depend on this upcoming year and draft, but $8.5 million is quite a sum, and its interesting to think about.

To clarify, LaMarr Woodley is not actually getting $8.5 million from the Steelers for the 2015 season. That figure is for salary cap accounting purposes and is classified as dead money, as you properly refer to it in your question. As for an answer, it really is speculative, but because the Steelers never have been big players in free agency, I believe any such "windfall" would be applied to extending contracts of those among their own players they want to keep.

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