Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Sept. 15

Let's get to it:

KYLE  ANDERSON FROM COWETA, OK:
Where was Shamarko Thomas during the Patriots game? Here is a guy who was penciled in as Troy Polamalu's replacement, got demoted to backing up Will Allen again, and then sees Robert Golden (the special teams ace) on the field ahead of him. It seemed last year that there wasn't much support from the coaching staff for Thomas, but it seemed like he was getting the support and turning a corner over the offseason.

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According to the playtime percentage statistics kept by the NFL, Shamarko Thomas did not play a single defensive snap against the Patriots. He was on the field for four plays on special teams. You are correct in that Thomas was penciled in as Troy Polamalu's replacement, and what the Steelers saw in terms of him developing into an NFL safety is why they traded a No. 3 pick in the 2014 draft to Cleveland to select him on the fourth round in 2013. It appeared to be only injuries that were keeping Thomas back through his first two NFL seasons, and going into this offseason program it seemed reasonable to expect he would be one of the starting safeties this season. What I believe may have happened is that Thomas made too many mistakes in the preseason, and when a safety is making mistakes it can end up on the scoreboard, and so the coaches took the approach that a mistake-prone safety is too much of a risk in a game with Tom Brady as the opposing quarterback. I don't believe the Steelers have given up on Thomas, and hopefully this was something of a wake-up call for him. After watching Thomas during the preseason, I have to admit that I thought it was the correct move to start Will Allen against the Patriots.**

STEPHEN SCHMIDT FROM GODDARD, KS:
Was B.J. Finney offered an injury settlement, and if not, why not? Pro Football Focus had him as the 14th-rated guard (of 154 total) over the final four preseason games. Clearly the injury is the only reason he has not been signed to at least a practice squad.

There is only an injury settlement if a player is waived when he's too injured to practice/play. According to the list of transactions the Steelers made in getting down to the 53-man limit, B.J. Finney was waived. Because he wasn't listed as waived/injured, I would conclude his situation didn't require an injury settlement. As for those rankings you cite, I would caution against putting too much into preseason statistics and rankings, because as an example, someone told me that Landry Jones led the NFL in preseason passing yards this summer. Preseason statistics/rankings are relative, based on amount of playing time allotted and the caliber of the competition faced. On the Steelers practice squad, there are two offensive linemen – one is tackle Matt Feiler and the other is center Barrett Jones, who also started at right guard and left tackle for Alabama.

DAREN JOHNSON FROM PORTLAND, OR:
Thank you for Asked and Answered. Do you believe the personnel department will ever address why they haven't been able to "hit" on a cornerback in the draft? I'll give you Bryant McFadden in 2005 and Will Gay in 2007, but it's now been 12 draft classes since Troy Polamalu and Ike Taylor. What's your take on this?

I have nothing for you as to why the Steelers haven't been able to "hit" on a cornerback in the draft, but I'm also not giving up on Senquez Golson and Doran Grant. It's not as though the Steelers are incapable of scouting and identifying cornerback talent, because in the 2015 draft the team made serious efforts to trade up in the first round to pick Trae Waynes and then in the second round to draft Jalen Collins. They couldn't find a trading partner. So much luck is involved when it comes to the draft, because players have to be available to a team at the time it's picking, and what the Steelers don't do – and what their fans want them to do – is draft a particular position in a particular round regardless of whether the talent at that particular position is worthy of being drafted in that particular round. This philosophy of drafting from your board has been going on since the days when Chuck Noll was the coach, and it's at the core of the Steelers' philosophy. That said, the Steelers have to get better play from their secondary if they hope to contend in 2015.

The Steelers prepare for the home opener against the 49ers.

BRAD CANFIELD FROM HARRISBURG, PA:
Since we are hurting for depth along the defensive line, why wouldn't the Steelers take look at Louis Nix? He's available and could be an answer at nose tackle. I know he was injured last year and has some attitude issues, but he just might have had his wakeup call after being waived.

When the Texans traded up in the third round of the 2014 draft to select Louis Nix, the issue with him was the health of his knees. He had knee surgery last summer, then sustained a wrist injury and wound up on injured reserve in September and didn't play a snap as a rookie. This past summer, Nix started every preseason game but he didn't do enough to impress Texans coach Bill O'Brien, who waived Nix one year after trading up to draft him – not a good sign there. After being waived by the Texans, Nix was claimed by the Giants, who quickly waived him after some issue with passing a physical. Nix then passed the physical and is on the Giants' roster. Nix was inactive for the Giants' opener last Sunday night in Dallas.

PHILIP SMITH FROM CENTENNIAL, CO:
There seems to be a lot of interest in Doran Grant. If he is so good (to some fans), why did he not make the team, and why isn't he starting? What is the big deal about this guy?

The big deal is Doran Grant is a rookie fourth-round draft pick at a position where the Steelers need help. He was a contributing part of a national championship team at Ohio State, and he had six interceptions along the way to that championship. That said, I believe fans calling for Kevin Colbert and/or Mike Tomlin to be fired when Grant was waived – and there are some of them out there – are overreacting. The Steelers have not given up on Grant, who's currently on their practice squad, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him added to the 53-man roster here before the season is over. What he does with that opportunity then will be up to him.

LAZARO BROITMAN FROM SAN JOSE, COSTA RICA:
Your thoughts on losing Howard Jones, who I saw as a raw but promising player from Shepherd, and Jordan Zumwalt, the former UCLA linebacker who was a sixth-round draft pick two years ago and showed some ability in training camp.

The Steelers waived Howard Jones on Sept. 5 in getting their roster down to 53, and the team was interested in signing him to the practice squad. Tampa Bay apparently was more interested in signing Jones to its practice squad, because the Buccaneers offered Jones his full rookie year's salary to be on their practice squad. Wisely, Jones accepted Tampa Bay's offer. As for Jordan Zumwalt, he just could not stay healthy. He ended up on the injured reserve list for all of 2014, and then he was injured again this summer shortly into the preseason schedule. Zumwalt just couldn't stay healthy, and the Steelers couldn't continue to wait for him. They had to move on.

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