Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Feb. 24


Let's get to it:*

With the money it will take to re-sign Jason Worilds, do you think it would be an upgrade if the Steelers let him go and signed Pernell McPhee if he was interested in joining the Steelers?

Too many ifs, and the timetable for free agency would make this difficult to execute, even if it was the plan. The Steelers can negotiate with Jason Worilds now, because his contract with them doesn't expire officially until March 10, but they could not enter into any negotiations with Pernell McPhee until March 7, which is the start of a three-day window in which teams can begin to contact agents of other teams' impending free agents. That's too small of a window, and attempting that might mean losing out on both guys. That's one aspect. Also, reports are that McPhee is seeking a contract between $8-10 million per year, which is not a bargain price. In terms of Worilds vs. McPhee in a player-by-player comparison, I believe the Steelers would rather hold onto their own guy.

The media and fans know the Steelers play down to the level of the opponent. Why do they do this and can they stop?

I don't know. And yes, they better stop. Often times, the last element a team develops as it matures is the ability to win the games it's supposed to win. There are two other traits that need to develop in young players: the understanding that even if an NFL team has a losing record it still has a lot more talent than teams with losing records in college; and when you play for the Pittsburgh Steelers, you're every opponent's target. During the week leading up to the game against 1-8 Jets last Nov. 9, for instance, the coaches preached all week about the importance of preparation and doing the things during the week that result in victories on Sundays. Still, the Steelers didn't play well and lost to a Jets team that turned out to be a whole lot more talented than 1-8. I'm willing to wait for the "beating the teams you're supposed to beat" element to develop; I'd be more concerned if they hadn't been able to post a signature victory yet.

Do you think any of the linebackers have the speed and skill-set to take over at safety?

No, no, 1,000 times no.

With regards to Le'Veon Bell's backup, do you think Steelers will stand pat with what they have, or is there a free agent you see out there who would be a good fit?

My sense is the Steelers believe they can find a quality backup running back for Le'Veon Bell in the middle rounds of the upcoming draft. I have no names for you, and I don't believe that they would at this stage of the process either, but my sense is they won't just stand pat and that they would rather draft their own guy than sign a free agent.

It seems the team is dragging its feet in re-signing Ben Roethlisberger. Are they having second thoughts? Is there any chance they are going to go in a different direction at quarterback?

There are no second thoughts. These kinds of contracts are complicated things, to the degree of getting the player what he wants while also structuring things in a manner that allows the team the flexibility to sign other players, both on their own roster and free agents. This contract extension will get done, because both sides want the same outcome. And trust me, there is no other direction to go at quarterback. Steelers fans will come to understand that Ben Roethlisberger is a once-in-a-generation quarterback, and they are going to miss him terribly once he retires.

Can the Steelers lobby to be part of NFL Kickoff Weekend against New England in 2015?

There is a provision in place for every team to submit schedule requests to be considered by the league office. For example, an East Coast team that has multiple games on the West Coast might request that two of them be scheduled back-to-back to ease travel. Or there could be issues in a particular city at a particular time of the year, where the resident NFL team might want to have a home game, or maybe a road game as the case may be. All kinds of things are considered, but for an event such as NFL Kickoff Weekend, the matchup is going to be the best one for the league and the networks. They don't care what the teams think, or want.

Ben Roethlisberger threw six touchdowns to win a game against the Indianapolis Colts. The Steelers defeated the Colts 51-34.

Is it more important to acquire a quarterback to start grooming to take over for Ben Roethlisberger or a running back to back up and/or give some relief to Le'Veon Bell?

It's way too soon to be thinking about looking for Ben Roethlisberger's successor. Barring a calamitous injury, Roethlisberger has at least four-five more years of quality football ahead of him, and it would be foolish to implement a succession plan that far out. If the Steelers believed Roethlisberger had only one or maybe two more good seasons left in him, which they do not, then it would be time to start considering alternatives. Draft Roethlisberger's replacement now and the guy would hit unrestricted free agency without the Steelers really knowing if he could play or not. By process of elimination, that leaves Bell's backup as the more pressing issue.

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