Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: May 12

Let's get to it:

Steve McLendon has shown time and time again that he belongs back at defensive end because he's incapable of being the nose tackle this defense needs. Why is it that no one seems to notice that the run defense has fallen apart since Casey Hampton's departure, and the pass rush has fallen off not just because James Harrison got old, Jason Worilds retired, and LaMarr Woodley got hurt and was cut, but also because the linebackers are being swallowed up by blockers?

To start with, I disagree with your assessment of Steve McLendon. The Steelers run defense was better in 2014 when McLendon was at nose tackle instead of on the sideline with a shoulder injury. In two of the four games McLendon missed last season, the Houston Texans rushed for 132 yards and the New Orleans Saints had 143. On another occasion where McLendon started but was injured early, the Jets ended up rushing for 150 yards. In the six games McLendon either missed entirely or was forced out early with that shoulder injury, opponents averaged 114.2 yards rushing. In the other 10 games, they averaged 92.0. If the Steelers run defense would've finished 2014 allowing 92.0 yards rushing per game, it was have ranked fifth-best in the NFL. McLendon is not Casey Hampton, but the NFL isn't the same kind of league it was in 2001 when the Steelers used a first-round pick on a nose tackle, either. And to refresh your memory – Hampton was a two-down player. He came off the field in most passing situations, and so his impact on the success of the pass rush was negligible. No disrespect intended toward Hampton, a very good player and a big part of the Steelers success in this millennium, but in my mind allowing an opponent fewer than 100 yards rushing in a game is not as important for a defense these days as sacking the quarterback and taking the ball away. Which is why I wouldn't use a first-round draft pick on a nose tackle.

Do you see any of the rookie defensive backs being able to make the starting lineup this year?

This question could be answered with more certainty after training camp is underway, but I'm going to give you the guess you requested. Senquez Golson is someone who might not be a starter in the sense of being one of four defensive backs when the Steelers are in their base alignment, but he's someone I believe will work himself into a role in situational football. And since the Steelers are in their sub-package defenses as much as 50 percent of the time, that could qualify Golson for a lot of playing time.

Is it purely coincidence that Jerome Bettis is being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the Steelers are playing in the Hall of Fame Game? Does the league take any of this into consideration when they schedule? I'm not complaining – I think it's great.

It is definitely not a coincidence. Steelers fans move the needle. They watch on television to drive the ratings up, which is why the team is a network favorite for prime-time kickoffs. And their fans buy tickets, which is why teams are loathe to move home games vs. the Steelers to London. As an aside, the Steelers' only game in London so far was in 2013 against the Vikings, who were in the process of building a new stadium that year.

I'm intrigued by the Tyler Murphy free agent signing. Murphy had had been one of the Steelers' pre-draft visitors, and so do you expect Todd Haley to work with him toward becoming a third-down back, or as a new "slash" quarterback/receiver position?

The Steelers are listing Todd Murphy as a wide receiver, and I believe that's the position he will try to learn as this offseason progresses through OTAs and minicamp and then as the festivities move on to Latrobe for training camp. That said, Murphy did take snaps at quarterback during rookie minicamp, but I believe it had more to do with enough healthy arms for the weekend's practices than with a decision on creating a "slash" role. I believe Murphy is going to have to show he has the basic stuff to belong on an NFL roster before there's going to be any role-creating done for him.

Do you think the Steelers will go after La'el Collins from LSU if his situation is cleared up?

Before I could get to your question, the Dallas Cowboys signed La'el Collins to a contract, but I can tell you the Steelers went through the channels to indicate their interest. Because of the rookie salary cap, the money was going to be pretty much the same from team-to-team, and so Collins' decision should have come down to his perception of the best combination of opportunity/support system. He chose the Cowboys.

Do you think that Jesse James will become our eventual replacement for Heath Miller at tight end?

First things first. Jesse James first must show he belongs in the NFL. Not saying that he won't, but draft history is filled with the names of fifth-round draft choices who couldn't make a roster, let alone serve as the replacement for a Pro Bowl player.

How would you judge Mike Adams' performance at the tackle position thus far? Would moving him inside to guard give him a better opportunity to be a starter, considering he seems to be an effective run blocker?

I'm not qualified to judge Mike Adams' performance at tackle, but I'm not a member of the Mike Adams Is A Bust Club, either. Adams was awful as a starter in the first four games of 2013, and he deserved to be benched, which he was. But since then, whenever called upon, and in whatever role, Adams has come through. In 2014, he started four games and played a large chunk of a fifth, and the Steelers were 4-1 in those games with the offense averaging 36.4 points per game. This 2015 season is going to be a critical one for Adams, and he looks like he has gotten his body in good shape for the challenge. Now, it's wait-and-see. Everything and anything could be on the table.

Wasn't Mel Blount 6-foot-4, 220 pounds?

According to his Pro Football Hall of Fame bio, Mel Blount was 6-3, 205. That is also the height and weight listed for him on,, and Wikipedia. That's all I can tell you for sure.

What are the facts behind Le'Veon Bell getting a three-game suspension while LeGarrette Blount's suspension was just for one game?

The facts are that we don't know for sure what Le'Veon Bell's suspension will be. There was a "report" citing "NFL sources," saying that it was for three games, but then again, a few years ago it was a "report" citing "NFL sources" claiming the Steelers were shopping Ben Roethlisberger for a potential trade. It is a fact the NFL issued a statement a while ago saying it had no comment on Bell's suspension because it was under appeal. When it's all finalized, though, I imagine Bell's punishment will be stiffer than Blount's because Bell was the one behind the wheel of the car.

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