Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: May 26

Let's get to it:

RYAN LEACH FROM CHICAGO, IL:
I'm really excited about Martavis Bryant's potential this season. What is your opinion of him, and do you think he's in line for a monster year?

Martavis Bryant has the skills to develop into a dynamic weapon in the NFL. Whether that happens this year, next year, or never, I believe is going to be largely up to him. Here is what Coach Mike Tomlin said about Bryant in the days after the end of the 2014 season: "I saw growth in him. And that growth came with snaps. I would imagine he is going to get more opportunities to grow with those snaps. The thing is, he has to continue to grow and have an open mind. He has to acknowledge that he doesn't have all the answers. Sometimes that is seemingly more difficult than it appears. He probably has less anxiety now than he did nine or 10 months ago, because there are fewer unknowns. Sometimes that's a good thing for men, and sometimes that's a bad thing for men. I am going to be watching him very closely as he proceeds."

T R STOECVKER FROM WORDEN, IL:
Will the Steelers, hopefully, sign Cam Heyward to a long-term deal before Dontari Poe and the rest of the good, young defensive linemen get massive deals?

What I am confident in saying at this point is that the Steelers will sign Cam Heyward to a long-term deal. He wants that. The Steelers want that. And my experience in these kinds of things is that when both sides want the same end result, they usually find some common ground in which to get there. As for the timing with respect to other extensions for defensive linemen around the league, the Steelers typically don't care about such things. What the Kansas City Chiefs do with Dontari Poe – since he's the example you cite – won't impact the Steelers and Heyward, because the Steelers and Chiefs have different salary structures within their own teams, and Heyward and Poe are different players. If the player and his team both see the contract as fair, then it doesn't matter what anyone else believes.

MIKE MURPHY FROM OWINGS, MD:
Does Jordan Zumwalt have a legitimate shot at not only making the team, but being a strong backup who will get some snaps? I watched him play a few games in college, and he was always around the ball, all over the field.

I really don't know anything about Jordan Zumwalt as a potential NFL player, because so little of him was seen at his rookie training camp last year because of injuries, and then he was placed on the injured reserve list. What has happened since Zumwalt was drafted in the sixth round in the 2014 draft, though, is this: the Steelers drafted Bud Dupree  and Anthony Chickillo; Lawrence Timmons made the Pro Bowl; James Harrison was re-signed to a two-year contract; Vince Williams got a lot better in his second year in the NFL, a lot better; Sean Spence came back from a severe knee injury, proved he belonged, and then completed a season in which he didn't miss a single practice and contributed as a part-time starter at inside linebacker; Terence Garvin again showed his value as a core special teams player; Arthur Moats was signed as an unrestricted free agent, played well in his first season with the team, and was re-signed during the offseason; and I didn't even mention Jarvis Jones and Ryan Shazier. I'm not saying Jordan Zumwalt cannot make the 53-man roster and become "a strong backup who will get some snaps," as you phrase it, but I believe making the team this year as a linebacker is going to be tougher than making the team last year as a linebacker.

ROBERT ELLIS FROM MEMPHIS, TN:
If either Senquez Golson, Doran Grant, or one of the undrafted rookies progress really well during OTAs or training camp, do you feel that would make Cortez Allen expendable? Not in a hurry to rid the team of him, just want the best guys on the field in the secondary this upcoming season.

Back in the summer of 2012, Keenan Lewis and Cortez Allen were locked in a fight for a starting cornerback job opposite Ike Taylor. Lewis opened as the starter based largely on seniority, but Allen was nipping at his heels every day. Had Lewis taken even a single day off to nurse a minor injury, as he had done in his previous seasons with the Steelers, Allen would have taken over the spot. But Lewis toughed out the camp sessions and played well enough in the preseason to hold onto the spot. Allen was a reserve, who started three games at the end of the season when Ike Taylor was injured, and in those three starts Allen had 22 tackles, two interceptions, three forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery. I tell that story to remind people how close Lewis and Allen were just a few years ago, and while that doesn't guarantee anything now that it's 2015, I find it hard to believe Allen plays his way off this team before the start of the regular season, because rookies rarely are that impressive so quickly. A rookie's transition to the NFL isn't easy, and it's especially difficult for cornerbacks to adjust – not so much to NFL receivers but to NFL starting quarterbacks, who are far superior to their college football counterparts. Maybe I'm the delusional one, but I still think Cortez Allen can be a quality starter in the NFL.

NICK PHILLIPS FROM ATLANTA, GA:
Who is the next Steelers player to get into the Pro Football Hall of Fame after Jerome Bettis? Hines Ward, L.C. Greenwood, Bill Cowher? What about the Hall of Fame caliber players on that mid-1990s defense, such as Greg Lloyd, Kevin Greene, and Carnell Lake?

These Hall of Fame questions really are difficult, because there's the issue of being deserving and also the issue of electability. I think Hines Ward will get in eventually, as the Board of Selectors gets a better handle on the exploding statistical resumes of receivers; and I also believe Kevin Greene will be elected at some point because of his career total of 160.0 sacks. L.C. Greenwood, who died in 2013, would have to be elected now as a seniors candidate, because his career ended more than 25 years ago, but I see him also as being deserving. In my mind, Bill Cowher, Greg Lloyd, and Carnell Lake are not deserving.

BRIAN GAST FROM QUARRYVILLE, PA:
I gotta say reading these questions and answers are very entertaining. I will say the repeated posts concerning Le'Veon Bell's backup and the suggestions regarding changing of personnel to different positions take away from some of the real legitimate questions/comments people may have. My comment is in regards to Ben Roethlisberger. It was nice to see him identified on NFL.com as a premier quarterback. I find many times when watching the "experts" mention the top quarterbacks in the league, Ben is either way down the list or not mentioned. It's good to see the Haley/Ben partnership is starting to pay dividends. Do you think Ben's personal issues may have something to do with him at times being overlooked?

For me, the statute of limitations on Ben Roethlisberger's "personal issues" has expired. He never was arrested, or charged, or even detained by police for anything, ever, and in the six years since then Roethlisberger has become a husband and a father, and by all accounts a model citizen in every way. And you can bet that if some incriminating cell phone video existed anywhere to the contrary it would be all over the web. I have no idea why it has taken so long for Roethlisberger to be appreciated by the talking heads, but to me that shows how much those guys don't know.

MIKE DOYLE FROM CHARLESTON, WV:
Do you see any legitimate competition for Brad Wing at punter? Do you think the coaching staff is confident he can be more consistent?

Brad Wing's competition at punter is going to be within himself, because Jordan Berry is likely too raw to make a real run at a roster spot this summer. That doesn't mean Wing is a shoe-in for the job, though, either. If he doesn't impress Mike Tomlin and Danny Smith as having improved, there's always the waiver wire, and the Steelers are not adverse to picking up a punter there and going with him during the season. It happened to Drew Butler between his first and second seasons, and it could happen to Wing, too.

GIUSEPPE DE SOLE FROM PARKER, CO:
What about using Daniel McCullers to help the red zone offense? He is the biggest Steelers player, and several defensive players have been used similarly by other teams in the past.

This is what I know about defensive players being inserted into the red zone offense: At one time, Casey Hampton thought it would be fun to line up in the backfield in goal-line situations and help the offense as a lead blocker. He lobbied and lobbied and lobbied, and he was finally given a chance to do it at training camp. After one snap, Hampton decided the job wasn't for him. What do you say we let McCullers try to become a competent nose tackle before trying to turn him into the next Refrigerator Perry.

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