Ray Fittipaldo's Steelers chat transcript: 01.13.14

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Poll:
Who will win Super Bowl XLVIII?
   Seattle ( 42% )
  San Francisco ( 17% )
  Denver ( 29% )
  New England ( 13% )
1:10
 
Ray Fittipaldo: 
Welcome to my weekly Steelers chat. Post your questions and we'll get started.
1:11
 
Comment From Dude_From_Cali 
Steelers seem to have much less injury due to friendly fire while TACKLIING than say the Chargers, is this something can be minimized in practice or nature of the beast?
1:12
 
Ray Fittipaldo: 
Just the nature of the beast. They had a bunch of guys go down in the secondary yesterday, which is not ideal when facing Peyton Manning. Kudos to the SD defense for hanging in there. Too bad Philip Rivers and the offense got started a little too late.
1:15
 
Comment From Sam 
Good Afternoon Ray, It's definately a passing league and the Steelers needs corners, safteys, and a receiver. Which position(s) has the most depth in this year's draft class?
1:18
 
Ray Fittipaldo: 
I've seen some mock drafts where there are 10 corners that could be taken in the first three rounds. I think there were two or three that were first-round possibilities, led by Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard. I think there is some depth at receiver, too. Mike Evans has been the most-talked about big WR, which is a Steelers' need. But Kelvin Benjamin decided to forego his final years of eligibility at Florida State and declared for the draft. He is another big WR with first-round potential. There have been a lot of underclassmen to declare, which should make for a deeper draft at a lot of positions.
1:18
 
Comment From Brian 
What do you think about Jerricho Cotchery coming back as a No. 3 WR (assuming Wheaton at No. 2)? Or has his big TD season major made him too expensive?
1:21
 
Ray Fittipaldo: 
That's a really good question, Brian. Cotchery will turn 32 in June. That's not a great age to be cashing in as a free agent WR, but then again, not many free agent WRs can claim to have the type of season Cotchery just had. He was a very effective player in the slot, caught a bunch of touchdowns and would be very valuable in the same role next season. He made $1 million last season. I said last week bringing him back for $1.1 or 1.2 million made sense for the team. I guess it all depends on what other teams are offering, too. I would think he'd get some offers and it oculd come down to which team is willing to pay out in a multi-year contract.
1:21
 
Comment From JamesinNYC 
Hello Ray, After looking at a listing of the top 12 WR on the draft site Walterfootball.com...they are all over 6 ft .... and the 6ft guys are burners. With that in hand I would rather pick for DT or CB at 15 which would you pick?
1:27
 
Ray Fittipaldo: 
A nose tackle and corner are both viable options for the Steelers at No. 15. Journalists, including me, like to talk about how the NFL has become a passing league, but have you seen the playoffs to date? The winning teams, and even some of the teams that have been knocked out, have done a great job running the ball. Look at New England. The Patriots, yet again, have reinvented themselves as a power running team. San Francisco, Seattle and to a lesser extent, Denver can run the ball with effectiveness, too. The reason I bring this up is nose tackle and the possibility of taking Louis Nix at No. 15. The importance of stopping the run in the NFL will never go away. Teams like to control the clock and possessions. And the Steelers struggled mightily stopping the run last season. They have always managed to fill in with solid CBs with later-round picks. Ike Taylor was a fourth-round pick and a mainstay for years. William Gay was a fifth-round pick. Cortez Allen a fourth-round pick. So if the Steelers have a choice at No. 15 and the player the nose tackle they want is there I think it's a decent bet that they go for a nose.
1:27
 
Comment From Sam 
Hello Ray, what's a good reason NOT to extend Ben's contract? Reducing the amount of dead cap money in the future, see how he performs again next season, or to see if Landry Jones makes a giant leap in the next year or two?
1:31
 
Ray Fittipaldo: 
First off, Landry Jones would have to make huge leaps to get into the mix as this team's future starter. He was a fourth-round pick for a reason and I'm not sure anyone ever envisioned him in that role. Art Rooney II said it's not set in stone that Ben's contract has to redone this offseason. He is 32 and has two years left on his contract. The Steelers could let it play out and then franchise him in 2016 when he will turn 35. I don't think it will come to that, but the Steelers do have that option. I think it makes sense for both sides to do an extension, but it doesn't necessarily have to come this offseason.
1:31
 
Comment From Anthony 
As much as a playmaking WR (Watkins, Evans, etc) would be a real help, I see no way how the Steelers can pick anything but defensive playmakers in with their first 3 picks. Fact is, the offense can compete at a high level next year as is - even with the impending loss of Sanders. But the defense needs major help if this team wants to get back to what we saw only 5 years ago. Agree?
1:35
 
Ray Fittipaldo: 
I agree that drafting defenders is a major need at a few positions for the Steelers, but history suggests the defensive players the Steelers draft won't be ready to be major contributors until their second or third seasons. I did a story on this in the Post-Gazette in December. Jason Worilds played 43 snaps as a rookie in 2010. He was a second-round pick. Former first-rounder Cam Heyward played 247 snaps as a rookie and only 267 in his second year. Jarvis Jones got to play a lot this season, but most of that had to do with LaMarr Woodley's injuries. After starting the season as a starter, he was benched and had to wait for an injury to get back on the field. This defense is complicated and it takes time to learn. So while I agree with your premise, I think it's wishful thinking that the Steelers will fill immediate needs by using their high picks on defenders.
1:36
 
Comment From Jake 
Hi ray, what's the depth in this years draft class for NT? And do you see the steelers taking one sooner or later? Or maybe not at all?
1:40
 
Ray Fittipaldo: 
I don't think it's terrible deep after Louisx Nix at Notre Dame. He's been a first-rounder injust about every mock draft I've seen. He's either a mid-rounder or late-rounder, but he's always in the first round. I've seen Hageman from Minnesota as a borderline first-rounder, but he's not a slam dunk. After that, there are a couple of guys who might get taken in the second or third round but more likely the second day of the draft. I have no idea if the Steelers like any of the guys who might get taken later in the draft, but the last time they did did that it did not work out well. They invested a fourth-rounder in Alameda Ta'Amu and he did not make the cut in his second season.
1:40
 
Comment From Jim 
Seems like getting a good backup running back might be priority right? All the teams still in the playoffs seem to have a good backup.
1:42
 
Ray Fittipaldo: 
This is true, but those guys can be found in the later rounds or as undrafted free agents. The one guy for the Saints (his name escapes me at the moment) went to college at West Texas A&M. And he looks like he's better than Mark Ingram, who was a first-round pick. I would not take a RB high in the draft for that reason. There are so many guys who are off the radar that end up being quality backups in the league.
1:42
 
Comment From Mason 
Best case scenario what position should steelers draft in round 1
1:44
 
Ray Fittipaldo: 
In my opinion, the best-case scenario is to get nose tackle Louis Nix for a couple of reasons. He fills an immediate need and the Steelers need to get fortified up the middle. And another reason is nose tackles don't need a lot of time to learn the defense. Casey Hampton was one of the few rookie first-rounders on defense who came in and had an immediate impact. And he had an impact for a decade. If not Nix, then a cornerback or a big WR would be my second option.
1:44
 
Comment From Thomas 
Do you think that Dennard will be available to the Steelers select him ?
1:45
 
Ray Fittipaldo: 
I've seen him projected to go right around that spot. In a few mock drafts, he's not there and in a few others he is. We'll have to see how he and others do at the combine in a few weeks, but he is the best corner available in the draft.
1:45
 
Comment From Sam 
Hi Ray, will credit be given to Andrew McGill of the PG if Mike Tomlin reduces his use of the adverb "obviously"? It was a well written piece, obviously.
1:47
 
Ray Fittipaldo: 
Obviously, it was a well-written piece. I also read Andrew's blog where he described how he tracked the number of times Tomlin used "obviously." Very interesting how he got that number although some people who cover the team keep track every Tuesday. All he had to do was ask them.
1:47
 
Comment From Jim 
Who do you think is going to win between Denver and New england?
1:50
 
Ray Fittipaldo: 
Before the playoffs, I picked a Denver-San Francisco Super Bowl. I'm going to stick with that, but the Broncos lost Harris, one of their top CBs, to a season-ending ACL injury. That means they'll likely move an aging Champ Bailey from the slot back to the outside. Plus, Tom Brady has been very good in matchups vs. Peyton manning over the years, especially in the playoffs. I'll stick with Denver at home, but I don't feel quite as confident in that pick now than I did a few weeks ago.
1:50
 
Comment From Anthony 
I understand the appeal of having a big target for Ben at WR. But am I wrong to think think this team can function effectively on offense without one? Getting that "nastiness" back on D (I.e. Drafting some playmakers) is much more critical to this team getting back to the top - do you agree?
1:53
 
Ray Fittipaldo: 
It's true the Steelers were very effective in the second half of the season on offense without a big target for Ben. It's also true that the best offenses in the NFL have a guy or guys who provide their franchise QBs who are big and fast. Look at the Broncos. They have two guys: TE Julius Thomas and WR Demaryius Thomas. New England has Rob Gronkowski. The Saints have Jimmy Graham. And not to jinx Antonio Brown, but what would this offense look like if he was injured for any length of time? The team is likely to lose No. 2 WR Emmanuel Sanders to free agency. Drafting a WR or TE is something they Steelers have to consider even though the offense was very good in the second half.
1:54
 
Comment From Fury1 
If they draft a WR in the 1st round, I would take Kelvin Benjamin from FSU, but I would try to trade down in the round pick Benjamin and add a pick, possibly a 3rd round and with the 2nd roud pick look at E.J. Gaines from Missouri. What would be your take on this suggestion?
1:57
 
Ray Fittipaldo: 
Benjamin, at this time, is not as highly touted as, say, Mike Evans. So there is a chance the Steelers or another team could get him in the second round. Gaines is one of those good corners after Dennard. As I mentioned earlier, there are a bunch of corners who are expected to go in the second or third round.
1:57
 
Comment From paul 
Have the Steelers seen emough from this Fangupo kid to allow them to adress other defensive positions first and draft a NT in the later rounds 3-4. He seems hardworking.
1:59
 
Ray Fittipaldo: 
Fangupo is not a kid. He'll be 29 when training camp begins. And if the Steelers thought that highly of him he would have earned the starting job over Steve McLendon. I know Dick LeBeau likes Fangupo and believes he has some upside, but I don't know if he is a guy who projects as a starting nose tackle for this team now or in the future. He was on the 53-man roster all season and the Steelers never turned to him even though they fell drastically in run defense.
1:59
 
Comment From Guest 
For supposedly being a model franchise, why can't the Steelers attract free agents from other teams?
2:01
 
Ray Fittipaldo: 
I'm not sure it's about attracting other team's free agents as much as it is this team following a plan that has worked for them over the years. And that plan is building through the draft and trusting your scouts rather than taking chances on other team's players. The Steelers have signed some good free agents over the years, but they're usually off the radar guys and never the highest-priced ones. When the Steelers invest money in a player it's usually a guy they know about. There is always a risk in how a free agents adjusts to your team and scheme.
2:02
 
Comment From Fury 1 
Ray, Any word on OL coach candidates? or when one will be hired?
2:03
 
Ray Fittipaldo: 
Tomlin interviewed Shaun Sarrett last week. He was an offensive assistant last season and helped with the offensive line. Gerry Dulac reported on the blog last week that he could be in line for the job. I'm over at the Steelers facility today and it's pretty quiet. If others have interviewed for the job I have not heard about it yet.
2:03
 
Comment From FastWP 
what kind of compensatory picks do you think Steelers will be awarded for losing Wallace, Mendenhall & Keenan Lewis?
2:04
 
Ray Fittipaldo: 
Ed might have a better answer on this tomorrow, but if I remember correctly from one of his previous chats he said the NFL has a rather secretive process for determining those compensatory picks.
2:04
 
Comment From JamesinNYC 
You hit on the nose about big tackles, Nix is the one that you could count on to make it. Followed by maybe 1 other guy but he is more of a 4-3 guy and then a few spread out. I like depts of CB and WR for rounds 2+3(maybe even still there for possible comp picks). Butler leaves with Wiz?
2:06
 
Ray Fittipaldo: 
There is a chance Keith Butler leaves to become a coordinator with Whisenhunt, but the Steelers would have to let him out of his contract. They do not have to do so. The only way an assistant can leave his current team while under contract is for a head coaching position. Otherwise, if they're under contract, the team must let him out the contract.
2:07
 
Comment From Jack Splat 
Any early rumors what the steelers are going to do with Woodley's and Taylor's contracts? At the least they need to be reduced substantially for cap reasons. May be nice to have them both back but only if the price is right.
2:08
 
Ray Fittipaldo: 
They don't have to make a move on either for a while, at least until March and maybe later in Woodley's case. I don't think Woodley will be brought back if Worilds is signed. I think Taylor has to agree to a pay cut to come back.
2:08
 
Comment From Ds the key 
Ray, Seems to me, after watching this years playoffs, that the notion that the NFL is a passing league now does not have much merit. It looks like 3/4ths of the final four are built on pound it out and pound the other team out of existence. Could this possibly change the Steelers draft plans? Mainly, about spending a first rounder on a big reciever? It still looks to me that the keys to winning the superbowl is mostly how the steelers won their six. Pound the ball, pass just enough to keep the other team honest, and a D that punishes anybody who has the ball.
2:10
 
Ray Fittipaldo: 
Yes, I addressed that earlier in the chat. This, in many ways, is a throwback playoff. I kind of like it. These things go in cycles in the NFL and teams with Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are going to build their teams around the passing game. It only makes sense when you are paying those guys $17-20 million a year. The impressive thing to me is a team like New England, which is without Brady's top target, gets to the final four by morphing into a running team.
2:11
 
Comment From Deezus 
Hi Ray, love the chats. But I wonder, is it time to scrap Lebeau’s 3-4 defense in favor of a more rookie friendly scheme? It seems the learning curve is just to steep in todays nfl.
2:12
 
Ray Fittipaldo: 
If the Steelers felt that way they would have fired LeBeau long ago. They haven't so I don't think their philosophy will change much in that regard.
2:13
 
Comment From Tbomb75205 
Any speculation on more coaching changes?
2:13
 
Ray Fittipaldo: 
I think the only speculation at this point is whether some assistants leave for other jobs. I don't get the sense that anyone else is going to be fired, although I could be wrong.
2:14
 
Comment From DSF 
I have read what you wrote about a nose tackle and teams not running the ball anymore and how the nose tackle only plays two downs, but do the steelers have a choice but to draft a nose tackle high? The whole defensive philosophy and therefore defense, is built around stopping the run and making teams one dimensional. But it seems like once teams notice the steelers cant stop the run (this year) they do it successfully. I guess my question is do the steelers have any choice but to draft/sign a dominant 2 gap nose tackle even though it's passing league?
2:15
 
Ray Fittipaldo: 
We'll see come May. From all indications it looks like Nix will be available at No. 15.
2:15
 
Comment From Tbomb75205 
Your thoughts on expanding the playoffs? I say add two teams from each conference. I don't like the top seeds getting a bye week. This would level the field a bit.
2:17
 
Ray Fittipaldo: 
I like the idea of adding two more teams, one from each conference. That would bring the total to 14 teams. Adding two more from each conference would mean 16 teams, or half the league in the playoffs. I don't like that option. Allowing seven teams per conference would mean a .500 team gets in once in a while, but it would also mean a team like the Arizona Cards get in this year when they were 10-6.
2:17
 
Comment From Dallas Dave 
I think the Steelers have three WRs that could help them in the future - Moye, Wheaton and Justin Brown. Any thoughts on why they are not getting more of an opportunity to play?
2:18
 
Ray Fittipaldo: 
Wheaton had some injuries that hampered his progress and he had some other rookie growing pains. Moye was only activated for games two or three times this season and Brown spent all season on the practice squad, so I don't think they are holding out hope that either will develop into the next Lynn Swann.
2:18
 
Comment From CT 
Where do the Steelers go at Middle LB? Is Sean Spence still an option, will they bring back someone from this year, or will they look to the draft? Seems like a weak M-LB draft.
2:20
 
Ray Fittipaldo: 
Spence is an option, but the big question with him is whether he can bounce back from the knee injury that has now forced him to miss two seasons. He was encouraged by his progress this year, but the Steelers have to believe that he is back to where he was pre-injury. I don't know if we'll know that answer until training camp. And we might know it sooner if they invest a first-, second- or third-rounder in an ILB.
2:20
 
Comment From Ken 
Ray, i'm a little disturbed to read today that Munchak is communicating with the Browns. I was hoping for a lesser hire in Cleveland and personally I view Muinchak as an old Oiler nemesis. Do you think Munchak to the Browns might happen?
2:21
 
Ray Fittipaldo: 
Munchak is a good coach. He beat the Steelers at Heinz Field this year, but he did not finish with a winning record in any of his three years in Tennessee. Being a good head coach in this league usually means you have a have a good QB, so unless they hit the jackpot in the draft I don;t know if there is any reason to worry about the Browns just yet.
2:22
 
Comment From Keith 
Unless its an absolute stud, I hate to see the steelers spend a first rounder on a wr...if the steelers have shown anything, it is you can get high-quality receivers in the 3rd round or later (ward, brown, Wallace, Yancey Thigpen). Heck, Nate Washington of the titans almost had 1000 yards last season and he was undrafted.
2:23
 
Ray Fittipaldo: 
That's a good point, but you can go through every position and come up with a list of guys who were impact players from the lower rounds. I think WR is an option but no more than I think NT or CB is an option for the Steelers in Round 1.
2:23
 
Comment From Phil 
Ray, do you know if Donnie Shell still works for the Carolina Panthers? I was listing reasons why I wanted Carolina to win yesterday and "The Torpedo" was one I came up with.
2:24
 
Ray Fittipaldo: 
I do not think Shell does work for the Panthers any longer. Shell was among the alumni at Heinz Field for the Bears game this fall. I talked to him and if my memory serves correct he is not working in the NFL at this time.
2:26
 
Ray Fittipaldo: 
Thanks for all the great questions this week. We'll do it again next week when we'll know which two teams will be competing for the Lombardi Trophy. Enjoy championship weekend

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