Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: March 2

Let's get to it:

WILLIAM GARDNER FROM NASHVILLE, TN:
How do you view the recent news that the Steelers will let Jason Worilds test free agency? True, he was putting up single-digit sacks, but they were also asking him to drop back in coverage a lot, which may have contributed to the low number. I think he's the most stable outside linebacker on the roster and should they try to restructure his deal rather than letting him test free agency?

The only indication from the Steelers regarding Jason Worilds is that they don't plan to use either the franchise or transition designations on him, and based on the one-year salaries that go along with those tags I would have to agree. The franchise tag for linebackers requires a one-year salary of $13.17 million; for the transition tag it's $11.07 million. Whether he re-signs with the Steelers before the opening of free agency on March 10, or chooses to test the market, will reveal itself within a week. At some point, a player has to show an interest in signing a long-term contract with a team, because continuing to tag him just creates too much stress on the salary cap. I still believe both sides are better off together than apart, but we'll see what happens. And if Worilds isn't interested in being with the Steelers long-term, maybe there's another free agent outside linebacker on the market who is.

ANDREWS HALES FROM BATH, UK:
Do you think Steelers will consider Steven Jackson as a possible back up to Le'Veon Bell, or use the draft instead?

This time, the Steelers will make sure that there is no misunderstanding as to the role of the guy who's the No. 2 running back. This guy is going to be Le'Veon Bell's caddy, for the most part, and he needs to accept that. When Bell needs a breather, he goes in. If Bell doesn't need a breather, he watches from the sideline and/or plays special teams. He eats carries when games are decided, because Le'Veon Bell is a first-team All-Pro. There is no "sharing" of the position, or the touches, or anything like that. There is a clear No. 1, and that's Bell. All that said, I don't know whether Steven Jackson is ready for that kind of a role, because he's been primary back in the NFL for a long time. That's why I now believe the Steelers will use the draft for Bell's backup, because a rookie is going to be made to understand the pecking order right away.

BRADLEY CANFIELD FROM HARRISBURG, PA:
I was intrigued with B.W. Webb two years ago in the draft. Webb was a sleeper pick to watch, with speed. He needed to get bigger and stronger and get acclimated to better competition then he saw in college at William & Mary. I haven't heard much about him since we picked him up last season. With our need for cornerbacks, I was wondering where he is in terms of development and what the Steelers feel they have in him? Does Webb have what it takes to be a possible starter or fill a nickel role?

The Steelers have a pronounced need at cornerback, and Webb is a candidate. Training camp really will be the time for him to show what he can do, but he can set himself up for camp by making an impression during the offseason program. That's when Webb has to get the defense down pat, so that he can show his physical skills when the pads go on. Phase I of the offseason program begins on April 20.

FRED ZANG FROM GREENE, NY:
For whatever reason Dri Archer could not get it going last season. I was excited at the possibilities his speed might bring. I don't know that he is viable as a running back in the NFL. Lance Moore is on the way out. Do you think the Steelers might try to utilize Archer more as a receiver next season, in an effort to put his speed to use? I would hate to see him turn out like Chris Rainey did, especially being a third-round pick vs. a fifth-round pick.

Rainey didn't work out because of off-the-field issues, but at least he looked like he belonged in the NFL. Archer hasn't shown that yet. I believe Archer needs to build some confidence, because he often looked tentative on the field. For his speed to be a weapon for him, he cannot be tentative on the field. Mike Tomlin always expects significant improvement in players as they advance from their rookie to second seasons, and so Archer is going to need to bring it this offseason and then again in Latrobe. Once Archer shows he's a player, only then should the Steelers start thinking about how to best "utilize" him.

ROBERT JACOBS FROM COLLEGEVILLE, PA:
I know tight end and wide receiver are not needs, but if Maxx Williams or Dorial Green-Beckham is on the board at No. 22 overall do the Steelers take one of them?

I hope not. I hope there are some quality defensive players available at that spot. If it's to be a receiver there, he better be more dynamic and more of a sure thing than a guy like Green-Beckham, who was suspended twice by Missouri and arrested twice for marijuana-related incidents. Then he was kicked off the team at in April 2014 after details of his role in an alleged burglary were released by police in Columbia, Mo. As for Maxx Williams, I personally don't want a tight end at No. 22 even if he's the best prospect at the position. He's no Heath Miller, and the Steelers got Heath Miller at No. 30. Plus, I believe Miller has a couple of good seasons left, so it's not necessary to shop for a successor in the first round. Later in the draft, I'm more amenable to adding a tight end.

TOM KING II FROM ALBUQUERQUE, NM:
Any talk about using Ryan Shazier at outside linebacker?

Only among fans and misinformed media.

LEO BIRBILAS FROM DENVER, CO:
I've not heard any talk about using Alejandro Villanueva as a tight end. He's 6-foot-9, seems to have decent hands after watching him during his college career at West Point. He's athletic and runs well. Why not a tight end?

Villanueva was recruited by West Point as a tight end, but he played tackle, defensive end, and wide receiver for the Black Knights. The Eagles tried him as a defensive lineman before waiving him, and the Steelers believe he can be an offensive tackle. Consider his size and athleticism, and also the fact that as an Army Ranger he understands how to work within a unit, which is what an offensive line is. He is a tough guy, both physically and mentally; he is a hard worker and accepts coaching. Imagine what Mike Munchak could do with someone like that. Offensive tackle is a more important position than tight end. I like the idea of trying him there.

PHILIP SCARSELLA FROM WEIRTON, WV:
In the upcoming NFL draft, what is the status of Noah Spence from Ohio State? Spence was declared permanently ineligible by the Big Ten in Nov. 2014 after he failed a second drug test. He could be a great sleeper pick for the Steelers if he is clean. What do you think?

Noah Spence has transferred from Ohio State to Eastern Kentucky, and he will play there this fall. Eastern Kentucky is in the Football Championship Subdivision, which used to be known as I-AA. He indeed was declared permanently ineligible by the Big Ten after a second failed drug test. Spence explored the possibility of entering the NFL draft, but instead opted for another season in college. At this point, he's way too much of a risk.

RON HARDING FROM UPPERCO, MD:
Do you think that Art Rooney II and the Steelers organization as a whole have egg on their face given how well Bruce Arians has done since he "retired?" Thank you for providing this forum for us fans, especially those of us living in enemy territory.

What Bruce Arians has done in Indianapolis and Arizona really has nothing to do with the Steelers making a change at offensive coordinator following the 2011 season. By the end of the 2011 season, the Steelers offense had become a unit that couldn't run the ball efficiently and was exposing the quarterback to too much physical punishment. During Arians' tenure, Ben Roethlisberger was sacked 215 times, an average of 43 per season. That's a big part of why the Steelers made a change. Arians is 21-11 as Arizona's coach, and he was largely responsible for the Colts finishing 11-5 in 2012 during Chuck Pagano's battle with cancer. All due credit to Arians for that, but then there's this: during that one season as offensive coordinator/interim head coach with the Colts, Andrew Luck was sacked 41 times; and in those two seasons in Arizona, Carson Palmer was sacked 41 times in 2013 and then the Cardinals started three different quarterbacks in 2014 because of injuries. There's a pattern there. The Steelers believed that continuing to expose Roethlisberger to 40-plus sacks a season was risking a quarterback of his talents. That change had to be made.

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