Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Aug. 24

Let's get to it:

TERRY PECK FROM SPRINGFIELD, OH: What is your opinion of Eric Ebron's play?
ANSWER: I will admit to him being a valuable component in the passing attack for the mismatches he creates in coverage, and he can be a weapon down the field. But he will drop catchable passes at times, and his blocking is inconsistent. To be fair, all of that was known before the Steelers acquired him because that has been the scouting report on Ebron for pretty much his entire NFL career.

JEFF ELINOFF FROM PITTSBURGH, PA: I have always been a big Eric Ebron fan. But seeing Pat Freiermuth's ability to catch makes me wonder if the Steelers might be better playing Freiermuth all the time and cutting or trading Ebron? What is your opinion?
ANSWER: I find it amusing that someone who begins by referring to himself as "a big Eric Ebron fan" is willing to cut or trade the guy after a rookie catches a couple of touchdown passes in a preseason game. Anyway, in today's NFL tight end is not a one-man job because coordinators use multiple-tight-end personnel groupings so often. And as I mentioned in the previous answer Eric Ebron is a matchup problem for opposing defenses, and Ben Roethlisberger is not hesitant to go to him down the field. I do believe Pat Freiermuth is the Steelers' future at tight end, but unless the Steelers get blown away by an offer for Ebron, I believe he will finish out the two-year contract he signed with the team during the 2020 offseason.

ROBERT KISSELL FROM RALEIGH, NC: With final roster cuts near, competing teams have the chance to sign players who are cut/waived from other teams. Do teams do this to gain inside information? Do players disclose secret plays and strategies? And if so, how helpful is the information provided?
ANSWER: You might be reading too many spy novels. With all of the player movement through trades and unrestricted free agency, with all of the movement of assistant coaches from one NFL job to another, and with all of the video teams can access through NFL Films, there is no need to make roster moves in an effort to gain "inside information." Coaches who engage in roster moves in search of inside information instead of using roster moves to better their own team will find themselves as one of those people moving from one NFL job to another after being fired from the one they currently have.

KEVIN NEVERLY FROM WEIRTON, WV: Do you see any drastic changes in the Steelers lineup? And besides Najee Harris, who do you think is a standout among our 2021 draft choices?
ANSWER: I don't know what would qualify in your mind as a "drastic change," but if you have been able to pay some attention to the team during this preseason, you should have a pretty good handle on those who will be the starters and primary role players for the team in 2021. I don't know whether the slot cornerback job is something you might consider a "drastic change," but at this point – primarily because of injuries to Antoine Brooks and on Saturday night to Arthur Maulet, I would guess that Cam Sutton will slide down from his current spot as an outside cornerback opposite Joe Haden into the slot whenever the Steelers go into a sub-package on defense, and in those instances my opinion is that James Pierre would come in to fill the spot Sutton would be vacating.

As for the team's 2021 draft class, Pat Freiermuth is going to be a No. 1 tight end for the Steelers no later than 2022; Kendrick Green already is a starter; Dan Moore will be a starting tackle in the not-too-distant-future; Buddy Johnson will be an asset to special teams in 2021 as he learns the nuances of the Steelers' defense; Isaiahh Loudermilk bears some similarities to Brett Keisel at a similar stage of their careers; Quincy Roche is an interesting developmental prospect; Trey Norwood can follow in the footsteps of Deshea Townsend and Will Gay in terms of being a Swiss Army Knife in the secondary; and Pressley Harvin III should be the starting punter as a rookie.

LONDON SAMUELS FROM PINE HILL, NJ: How are both Derek Watt and Jamir Jones able to wear jersey No. 44?
ANSWER: With all NFL teams currently with rosters of 85 players, and with the rules for which positions have to wear certain jersey numbers, the league allows teams to carry double-numbers during the training camp/preseason process. The only stipulation is that in the cases of double jersey numbers, one player has to be on offense and the other has to be on defense.

LEONARDO MASCARENHAS FROM MACAÉ, BRASIL: Isaiahh Loudermilk does not look like an NFL-level player. He will most likely not make the roster, and so should the team look for a young player at his position with better skills, or do we have enough players at that position?
ANSWER: I completely disagree with your assessment of Isaiahh Loudermilk. He is raw and must be developed, but the Steelers knew that when they drafted him. Loudermilk may not be ready to contribute to the Steelers as a defensive lineman at this stage, but he will contribute enough on special teams to buy himself some time to continue to develop. Give him some time.

TITUS LANEY FROM CHERRY TREE, PA: L.J. Fort is out for the 2021 season because of a torn ACL. And Lamar Jackson's production in training camp has declined some. What do you think of the Steelers' chances of beating the Ravens twice again this year like they did in 2020?
ANSWER: For the Steelers, beating the Ravens twice in a regular season never is easy, just as for the Ravens, beating the Steelers twice in a regular season never is easy. Such is the nature of that rivalry. I have to admit that during this time of the NFL calendar, it's all I can do to keep on top of the Steelers and their 90-man roster. A couple of weekends ago, I was bored enough while flipping through the channels on TV that I dropped in on the start of the Baltimore vs. New Orleans preseason game, and from that introduction I will tell you all I know about the 2021 Ravens. Baltimore's backup quarterback – in other words the player who is one snap away from being the team's starter – is Trace McSorley. And imagine Steelers fans whining incessantly about their favorite team's depth at quarterback. Trace McSorley.

JAIME EL BANCO FROM ALBUQUERQUE, NM: Is quarterback a priority in the 2022 draft? I just don't see Mason Rudolph or Dwayne Haskins as the heir apparent. They just seem ample back-ups. Ben Roethlisberger, at 39, appears much more proficient than either of them.
ANSWER: The Steelers front-line guys just played very well in a victory over Detroit that raised their preseason record to 3-0, and not that it matters to someone with your advanced knowledge of NFL quarterback play, but all three Steelers quarterbacks who saw action in that game finished with passer ratings over 80. And you write that, "Ben Roethlisberger, at 39, appears much more proficient than either of (Mason Rudolph or Dwayne Haskins)." Well thanks for that revelation, Captain Obvious. If it hasn't escaped your attention, Roethlisberger is one of a dozen quarterbacks in league history with more than one Super Bowl win, and the only quarterbacks with more than Roethlisberger are Tom Brady, Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana, and Troy Aikman. This should indicate that there are going to be many, many, many more quarterbacks to come and go from the NFL who are not as proficient as Roethlisberger. So, if you're looking to a particular NFL draft for a quarterback to come along to the Steelers who is more proficient, or as proficient, as Ben Roethlisberger, quarterback is going to be a priority in many, many drafts after he retires.

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