Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: March 15

Let's get to it:

JAMES LABAR FROM CATASAUQUA, PA: Can you recall any team going to the Super Bowl with an average offensive line? In my humble opinion I would invest heavily in offensive linemen. They say it's a quarterback driven game, but I think a dominating offensive line is more important and even more effective from a money aspect. Many pro quarterbacks can get the job done if they have great protection, in my opinion.
ANSWER: Advancing to the Super Bowl with an average offensive line? How about winning a Super Bowl and advancing to a second with below average offensive lines? I offer you the 2008 Pittsburgh Steelers, winner of Super Bowl XLIII, and the 2010 Pittsburgh Steelers, AFC champions and their conference's representative in Super Bowl XLV.

The Steelers starting offensive line in Super Bowl XLIII (from left to right) was Max Starks, Chris Kemoeatu, Justin Hartwig, Darnell Stapleton, and Willie Colon. Those Steelers, despite having Ben Roethlisberger, Hines Ward, Willie Parker, Santonio Holmes, and Heath Miller, finished 29th in the NFL in rushing yards per attempt (3.7), 19th in points scored, 15th in red zone offense, 32nd in fourth-down conversions, and allowed 49 sacks. In the Super Bowl itself, the offense was 2-for-4 in goal-to-go situations.

The Steelers starting offensive line in Super Bowl XLV (from left to right) was Jonathan Scott, Chris Kemoeatu, Doug Legursky, Ramon Foster, and Flozell Adams. That Super Bowl was lost with the help of a pick-6 that resulted when journeyman defensive lineman Howard Green (two sacks in 76 career NFL games) drove Kemoeatu off the line of scrimmage and into Roethlisberger as he released the ball, which caused it to fall short of receiver Mike Wallace and into the hands of Nick Collins.

ROD KEEFER FROM EDMOND, OK: You called it – the Steelers will indeed bring another veteran quarterback into the fold (welcome aboard, Mitch Trubisky). On a scale of 0 to 100 percent, where would you set the probability that they draft another quarterback, given General Manager Kevin Colbert's comments about starting camp with four?
ANSWER: As of the time I am answering your question, the terms of Mitch Trubisky's two-year contract are not known, and there are reasons why I believe that is significant. If the Steelers handed Trubisky big money, it means they effectively are anointing him the starter, and I would see a situation where Trubisky is brought in and given a complete and fair opportunity to determine his role in 2022 – along with Mason Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins – via an offseason competition as being the better plan. Based on what I know and have seen with respect to Trubisky's NFL career to date, he hasn't reached the level of deserving to be anointed the starter with a new team, which puts him basically on the same level as Rudolph and Haskins in that respect. Yes, the Steelers will bring four quarterbacks to training camp, but I think having three guys on the depth chart with starting NFL experience would preclude them from using a premium draft pick – or any draft pick – on the fourth. Just sign a college free agent for that spot and use him as a camp arm, while the other three guys compete. Provided the Trubisky contract falls in the team's favor, the Steelers could go to camp with three quarterbacks owning NFL regular season starting experience at an extremely reasonable salary cap total (Rudolph at $4.04 million, Haskins at $2.54 million, plus whatever is in Trubisky's contract). Using a premium pick on the position all the while knowing one of the four will end up being cut would be a wasteful approach to the allocation of draft capital.

FLORENCE GOMEZ FROM MARIETTA, GA: Should the Steelers consider signing Bobby Wagner to help fix our run defense?
ANSWER: I believe it would be a worthwhile consideration, certainly worth a conversation to gauge his interest and get some idea what he might be seeking in a contract. But there's a difference in "considering" and "targeting" a soon-to-be 32-year-old linebacker who has played over 9,500 snaps in his NFL career.

GREG SMITH FROM GAINESVILLE, VA: With Bobby Wagner's release from the Seahawks, do you think Pittsburgh should target him? With Wagner being released and not an unrestricted free agent, how does it work for a team to be able to sign him?
ANSWER: As explained in the above answer, I would be in favor of due diligence on Bobby Wagner, but it's not the same kind of situation the Steelers were in during the 2002 offseason when they signed 27-year-old James Farrior. Wear-and-tear must be considered. Because Wagner was released, teams are free to begin negotiating with him immediately, and if things were to progress to both sides' satisfaction, the signing could happen as soon as the negotiations concluded. With released players, there is no need to wait until the start of the new league year on March 16 for the actual signing.

CASEY MCDONALD FROM MONTGOMERY, AL: What were your thoughts on how Alex Highsmith played last season? Personally, I thought he was pretty solid with some really nice moments.
ANSWER: I would put Alex Highsmith in the category of good enough for the Steelers to not be actively seeking a replacement this offseason but still in no danger of being voted to the Pro Bowl. The Steelers need more from him, and Highsmith needs to up his game so he's better able to take advantage of the attention opponents have to pay to T.J. Watt. He needs to be more like the 2008-10 version of LaMarr Woodley, who had 35 sacks to add to the 36.5 James Harrison posted over the same span.

SCOTT ROGERS FROM CENTERVILLE, OH: I enjoy reading your Steelers-by-position articles, for the insight and information relative to the positions as we move forward through this rollercoaster of an offseason. In the running backs installment, you mentioned the team had plans in some capacity for Anthony McFarland, but he tore his MCL and went on injured reserve. In the same article, you mentioned maybe signing a veteran to complement Najee Harris. Have plans for McFarland been put on the back burner, or is there a good enough relationship with offensive coordinator Matt Canada (with them having spent time together at Maryland) where Matt is confident in McFarland's ability to have an increased role moving forward?
ANSWER: "Plans" for an individual player don't necessarily have an expiration date, nor do they automatically carry over from one season to the next. It's much more of a fluid type situation, with the player showing he either deserves another chance or that he has squandered the opportunity based on his conditioning, availability, and performance on the field. And a past "relationship" with an assistant coach at a previous stop in their respective careers would have little impact on how such a scenario would play out. Roles for a player are a head coach's decision.

MARY COLUSSY FROM PATTON, PA: What is the order of the draft picks for the Steelers after No. 20 overall in the first round of this year's draft? I can't find an article anywhere addressing this question.
ANSWER: The complete draft order through seven rounds of the 2022 NFL Draft will not be determined until after the NFL awards compensatory picks, which usually happens late in March.

JOSEPH CASSA FROM LANSDALE, PA: My memory is a little foggy sometimes, but I don't ever remember the Steelers admitting that the upcoming year was a rebuilding year. With help needed at so many positions, do you think they would consider 2022 a rebuilding year? How about you?
ANSWER: The Steelers aren't ever going to proclaim a season or seasons as "rebuilding," because they perceive such a declaration as a form of surrender. During a long-ago conversation with Dan Rooney, the subject of a local professional team came up when management of that team said the goal for the year was to improve to .500 as part of the next phase of development. Rooney said that setting such a goal was tantamount to providing the team with an excuse, because if the team was above .500 two-thirds of the way through the season it could relax and coast knowing that it was still going to reach the "goal." His belief was you played to win every game every season, and then at the end of a particular season you perform a deeper evaluation of the performance to determine if changes need to be made moving forward.

KEITH CARTER FROM JACKSONVILLE, FL: Jordan Davis from Georgia is an elite run-stuffer. Do you think his impact as a two-down player is enough to be considered with this year's first-round pick?
ANSWER: I don't watch video and study these players, so I'm not going to do what so many others in this business do and pretend to be a scout, but my concern now about Jordan Davis is that too many people could end up being seduced by his Combine performance and give that more weight in his evaluation than how he played for the National Champion Bulldogs. As you mentioned, I believe Davis can be an elite run-stuffer in the NFL, but if he cannot contribute anything to his future team's pass rush, then I don't know whether he would be worthy of being the 20th overall pick in the upcoming draft.

MIKE FOSTER FROM EWA BEACH, HI: If I'm not mistaken, you were skeptical of taking Jordan Davis in the first round because he was only a run-stuffing, two-down player. Did his Combine performance (a 4.78 in the 40-yard dash at 6-foot-6, 340 pounds) change your opinion? Why couldn't he be coached-up to rush the passer and become a three-down defensive lineman?
ANSWER: Jordan Davis was a two-down player in college, and if he had noticeable pass-rushing skills why didn't Georgia coach him up to become a three-down defensive lineman?

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