Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: March 24

Let's get to it:

With both Sean Spence and Terence Garvin gone via free agency, who steps in at inside linebacker when an injury happens? Even though Spence and Garvin didn't start, I feel like losing them will hurt the depth chart at that spot. Do you see the Steelers adding some new blood through the draft?


Photos of Outside Linebackers Coach Joey Porter.

ANSWER: The top backup at inside linebacker as of today would be Vince Williams, and in my mind he is a solid alternative in the event of an injury to one of the starters. In the previous couple of seasons, the Steelers had an obscene wealth of depth at inside linebacker, because it's just not normal for a team to have two backup inside linebackers with starting NFL experience, as the Steelers did with Sean Spence and Williams. The individual who will get the first opportunity to capitalize on the departures of Spence and Garvin is going to be L.J. Fort, who was claimed off waivers last summer during training camp. Having two veteran inside linebackers behind the two starters is about all the depth a team can expect to carry there on its roster.**

In the event of an injury, does the team cover the cost for said injury, for example, if a player tears an ACL. Also, does the fact that the player is on the practice squad matter if he suffers the same injury? Lastly, how does an injured player's salary impact the cap and does that player get paid for the season, like Maurkice Pouncey's injury in the preseason and not playing a snap of regular season football?

ANSWER: If an NFL player tears an ACL – to use your example – he would receive medical care either from the team's orthopedic surgeon, or the player can seek another surgeon of his own choosing to treat his injury at no cost to himself. A practice squad player is no different; same deal. An injured player's salary counts on the team's cap for that season, so even though Maurkice Pouncey didn't play "a snap of regular season football" in 2015, he was paid his salary and it counted on the Steelers' cap.

I read the comment made by someone in a previous Asked and Answered about making Marcus Gilbert into a guard, and I wanted to pull my hair out strand by strand. Gilbert might've been the best right tackle in football last year. My comment this week is on the young defensive players. It'll be interesting to see what the Steelers add during the draft, but I'm excited to see year No. 2 for the some of those already here, including Senquez Golson, Doran Grant, Anthony Chickillo, not to mention Bud Dupree. Do you get excited about that, or does your outlook more resemble your on-air 'hold your horses and let's see what happens' attitude?

ANSWER: It once was explained to me that the NFL is a "show-me occupation," and I have come to believe that it's consistent performance over time that wins the trophies. Just because a fan anoints a player as something great, or labels him as something not great, it means nothing until the good or the bad is proven over time. I will agree with you wholeheartedly that when it comes to improvement on the Steelers defense, most of that must come from the players already on the roster. Now, I also understand there must be a talent upgrade in the defensive backfield, and some of those additions will have to be contributors to some degree right away, but it's also never a one-year proposition. The defensive players drafted by the Steelers in 2016 will be counted upon to contribute beyond that single season. It truly is a team concept.

Now that the Steelers are going to have a little extra (Martavis Bryant) money available, can you see them making an attempt to trade up in the first round? Also which teams do the Steelers have a good relationship with when it comes to talking in the war room on draft day?


ANSWER: Trading up in the first round is about a whole lot more than salary cap space, with the No. 1 thing finding a team willing to make a trade for a reasonable return. Trading up in Round 1 can be difficult because so many teams are looking for the same kinds of difference-making players, and so instead of trading down teams with those high picks decide to use them themselves to improve their own rosters. Accumulating picks is only a good strategy if you can follow up with solid selections, and it's easier to identify the top 10 players, say, than it is to know which ones might be good values in the second and third rounds. And when it's time to make a trade, relationships really don't matter, because it's a business transaction, and nobody is going to give somebody else a break because of a relationship.**

It seems year after year the Steelers neglect to sign a premier cornerback from free agency when quite a few have been available. In a league that is becoming more and more pass happy, isn't it time we address this obvious shortcoming by trading up to insure we get one of the can't-miss corners in the draft.

ANSWER: So which is it, signing a premier cornerback via free agency, or drafting one? Because with the exception of Darrelle Revis a couple of times, premier cornerbacks don't become available in free agency, and the ones who do become available carry a massive price tag. And please identify the can't-miss cornerbacks available in this upcoming draft for me, because the Cleveland Browns thought they had picked one when they used the eighth overall pick on Justin Gilbert from Oklahoma State. And before you write that off simply as the Browns being the Browns, a lot, a lot, of teams were very high on Gilbert that year.

I would like to see the Steelers pick up veteran linebacker Karlos Dansby to help with repetitions and to help the younger guys. Do you think he can help and that we should go get him?

ANSWER: In the category of a veteran linebacker who can provide quality snaps when he gets onto the field and also serves as a mentor to the young players at the position, I'll go with William Gay. Thank you very much.

Sports Illustrated just released a list of the top NFL players under 25. They included Le'Veon Bell and Stephon Tuitt but not Ryan Shazier. They included C.J. Mosley instead. Based on their play so far, would you put Mosley ahead of Shazier?


The best photos of Linebacker Ryan Shazier from the 2015 season thus far.

ANSWER: You do understand that's nothing more than an arbitrary list that has no more meaning for the players it included than for the players it omitted. What I believe is that Ryan Shazier is going to become a dynamic linebacker in the NFL and a key contributor for this new Steelers defense. Mosley vs. Shazier is irrelevant.**

I saw that you mentioned Tim Tebow in the March 22 Asked and Answered, and what I'm hearing is that the Steelers are going to sign him as a tight end, draft quarterback Paxton Lynch at pick No. 25, move Ryan Shazier to running back, and try Ben Roethlisberger out at safety. Is that correct?

ANSWER: You forgot Maurkice Pouncey to guard, and it's actually Alejandro Villanueva to tight end. Tebow will compete with RG III to be the No. 2 quarterback and the focal point of all of the gadget plays and zone-read options runs that will be installed to take advantage of skills that worked so well against the Vanderbilts and the Kansases of college football. Sheesh, pay attention. We're trying to win a championship here.

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