Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: August 18

Let's get to it:

Is there any chance the Steelers would inquire about trading for Bryce Petty from the Jets? He seems to be the odd man out there, and he has more upside than Landry Jones.

ANSWER: Bryce Petty. I thought the Joe Webb thing from our last episode was out there, but I may have to declare a new winner. "He has more upside than Landry Jones." You make the statement with such conviction, but that doesn't make it true. Bryce Petty's current situation with the Jets is that he's fourth on a depth chart also including Ryan Fitzpatrick, Geno Smith, and Christian Hackenberg. And he's fourth on that depth chart because the Jets coaches still don't have complete confidence in his ability to be an NFL quarterback.

Being an NFL quarterback involves things such as receiving a play-call from the sideline, then relaying that call in the huddle to 10 other professionals, getting the group to the line of scrimmage and taking a snap under center. Before the play clock runs out, too. Because Petty came from Baylor, a program where what passes for a play-call from the sideline can actually be a big sign with pictures of cartoon characters on it, where there is no such thing as a huddle, and where taking the snap from under center is a mortal sin, he came into the NFL with a gigantic hole in his game.

And we haven't even gotten to reading defenses and checking into audibles, or any of that grown-up quarterback stuff. Those college spread offenses do nothing to train a prospect to be an NFL quarterback. The position in the NFL is nothing like the position Bryce Petty played at Baylor. Maybe Petty gets it sometime in the future. Maybe he doesn't. But he's not going to be better this season as a backup for the Steelers than Landry Jones. Impossible. Therefore, not interested.

With Bruce Gradkowski out do we bring back Mike Vick? Or do we go with Landry Jones? And would you like to see us bring in another veteran quarterback?

ANSWER: Sorry to use you and your question as an example, but it's time for everybody to get off Landry Jones' back. The Steelers see Landry Jones as a legitimate NFL backup quarterback, and there isn't going to be any scanning the waiver wire to look for a replacement, or trying to lure Peyton Manning out of retirement, or making a trade for Joe Webb, or this Bryce Petty foolishness, or any of the other wacky options that have been sarcastically and seriously discussed here recently. Maybe the perceptions of Jones being awful come from the inevitable comparison when he's asked to fill in for Ben Roethlisberger.

Listen up, boys and girls, because you all need to understand that there is no backup quarterback on this planet who isn't going to look inadequate by comparison to Roethlisberger. Athleticism. Arm strength. Accuracy. Confidence. Command. Toughness. Landry Jones comes up short in any comparison to Ben Roethlisberger. OK, I get that. But being Ben Roethlisberger isn't Jones' job, and he wasn't brought here to be the next Ben Roethlisberger, either.

NFL backup quarterback is its own position. It can be a career for someone who becomes good at it, because there is real value in having a homegrown backup quarterback. A homegrown backup quarterback knows your offense. He knows and has a relationship with the existing personnel. He's a familiar face in the locker room. He comes to be regarded as a teammate. He understands how the organization operates, and because the Steelers are on their third head coach since 1969, he understands what the head coach expects and how the head coach wants to operate. That's why the Steelers drafted Jones in the fourth round back in 2013, to develop him into an NFL backup quarterback.

Last summer after Bruce Gradkowski was injured in that preseason game, the Steelers went out and signed Mike Vick. Maybe that was the turning point for Jones, or maybe his improvement was going to happen regardless, but from the time the Steelers signed Vick until today, Jones took more steps toward being an NFL backup quarterback than he had in his three previous seasons combined. Jones got his first real playing time in 2015, and he was better than anybody the Dallas Cowboys tried in going 0-for-months after Tony Romo was injured. Jones came off the bench and stuck it to the mighty Arizona Cardinals for 168 yards and two touchdowns; the following week he threw two interceptions in Kansas City. Two weeks later, Jones came off the bench late in a shootout and hit Antonio Brown with a pass that turned into a 57-yard gain that set up Chris Boswell's decisive field goal; the following week he was shaky in a home start against the Browns only to be relieved by Roethlisberger. He threw two interceptions in Seattle when Roethlisberger was in the Concussion Protocol, and looked to be a deer-in-the-headlights during that cameo in Cincinnati for the Wild Card Game.

That's not bad for a guy in his first real season as the next man up at the quarterback position. Arrowhead Stadium is a very difficult place to play as a visiting team, and in Seattle against that defense is worse. The playoff game also is to be expected, based on how the circumstances played into his inexperience. Jones showed some things in Latrobe that indicate his growth and development is continuing, and there is a level of trust developing between him and the coaches, and between him and his teammates. Landry Jones will be the Steelers' backup quarterback in 2016, and he's the best realistic option for the job.

Aloha, Bob. Who do you think will be the last receiver to make the 53-roster?


Players participate in the annual homerun derby.

ANSWER: As of today, the morning of the is the second of four preseason games, my perception of the top five receivers are (listed alphabetically) Antonio Brown, Sammie Coates, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Eli Rogers, and Markus Wheaton. To be the sixth receiver on this 53-man roster, the candidate is going to have to be a big-time special teams contributor. That person is yet to reveal himself, if he even exists.**

I don't recall another NFL team that has had a draft that included as many Hall-of-Fame players as the 1974 draft that included Lynn Swann, Jack Lambert, John Stallworth, and Mike Webster. Am I being inordinately Steelers proud, or am I correct? Incidentally, I really don't object to being Steelers proud.

ANSWER: It is a fact that no one-year NFL Draft produced as many Hall of Fame players as the Steelers' Class of 1974. Also worth noting is that during the undrafted rookie stage after they had picked those four future Hall of Fame players, the Steelers signed Donnie Shell and Randy Grossman.

Which current Steelers do you think might sign new contracts before season starts?

ANSWER: David DeCastro is the most realistic possibility, but even he is no certainty.

How and in what ways do you think our offense will utilize Roosevelt Nix? I think he has super potential.

ANSWER: Roosevelt Nix is a much better receiver than people might think for a guy who played defensive line in college. He has soft hands and a good ability to track the ball on deep routes. Good speed for his size and not an easy guy to get on the ground. If it's me, I'm not doing a lot of handing the ball to Nix and asking him to run, but I'm utilizing him as a receiver in different parts of the field and I'll sure put him in front of Le'Veon Bell or Le'Veon Bell and hand one of them the ball.

While it's fair to say Senquez Golson probably won't play a regular season game this year due to his lack of practice time, is there a rough timetable for his return to practicing with the Steelers?

ANSWER: Here's my prediction of the exact time: Next year for OTAs. Senquez Golson just recently had surgery to repair his Lisfranc injury, and the Steelers most likely will respond to that by putting him on the injured reserve list. It's unlikely they would do that in a way where Golson could qualify to return, because each team only gets one such designation and it wouldn't make much sense for the Steelers to use that on a guy who doesn't even have five NFL practices on his resume. That brings us to next year for OTAs.

I doubt anyone is surprised that William Gay was selected for another random drug test, but it does seem as though he gets tested an awful lot. Does the league publish information on how often individual players are tested and if so, is there anyone who has had more tests recently that Harrison?

ANSWER: There is no such published information.

What happened to coffin corner punts in the NFL? Are they a lost art?

ANSWER: Today's punters instead employ a technique popularized in Australian football, which is to punt the ball so that it travels end-over-end instead of in a spiral. That's supposed to contribute to the ball bouncing back toward the kicking team once it hits the field.

This is not one of those crazy questions about position changes. I'm just curious about how Le'Veon Bell's route running and receiving abilities compare to the full-time receivers on the team. As great as his running ability is, I think the ability to split out and create mismatches is really what makes him unique in the NFL. Hypothetically, if you had to place him on the wide receivers depth chart – given his current ability and without any additional training focus at receiver – where do you think he'd land?


ANSWER: Le'Veon Bell's receiving skills should be judged in light of his primary job being running back. When Bell is in the game, defenses have to respect the threat of him being handed the football and running with it behind big offensive linemen, and so the defensive personnel has to allow for that. In those situations, Bell becomes a dangerous receiver because he has to be covered by a linebacker or a safety, and he has the skill-set to run any route and catch the football at any spot on the field. Bell is never going to draw Patrick Peterson or Richard Sherman or Josh Norman or those kinds of cover cornerbacks, because those guys have to worry about Antonio Brown.**

Marshall Faulk is in the Hall of Fame, and for me is the best receiving running back ever, but the best cornerbacks of his era were assigned to Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt. Faulk has a bust in Canton because he could do both, and I don't know if that's the case had his production been limited to just one of those areas. Like Faulk once did, Bell practices both. He works on both. He trains his body to do both. So, "without any additional training focus at receiver," I'm not at all certain that Bell could make this Steelers roster at wide receiver.

I am looking at the numbers at the linebackers position, and I am worried about guys like Tyler Matakevich or Jordan Zumwalt not making the team. I think these guys could be good pieces on special teams and serve as serviceable backups in spot duty. Are these guys competing for one spot or two spots on the roster?

ANSWER: Jordan Zumwalt has been working at outside linebacker. Tyler Matakevich has been working at inside linebacker. The only way they're competing for the same spot is as special teams guys. Matakevich and Zumwalt each have three more preseason games to prove that they "could be good pieces on special teams and serve as serviceable backups in spot duty." If they do, you won't have to worry.

After teams cut their rosters to 53, do you think there are any advantages to claiming a player from an AFC North opponent to glean information on schemes, audibles, playbooks, etc.

ANSWER: No. There's sufficient familiarity with division teams based on playing them at least twice a year every single year.

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