John in Ohio: Who will start at LT against the Jets?
Ray Fittipaldo: Kelvin Beachum or Levi Brown. It all depends on how well Levi Brown can pick up the offense. If he can demonstrate an ability to pick up the playbook he might get a shot. Otherwise, they feel comfortable enough with Beachum that they'll give him a try.
JAMESH: Do you get the feeling the coaches are disappointed with the level of play from McLendon?
Ray Fittipaldo: I don't get that sense at all. He is different from Casey Hampton, but I don't view him as a weak link. There are problems with the run defense, but a lot of that has to do with tackling in the linebackers corps and secondary. I am not absolving McLendon of blame, but I think there is much more to being 29th in the league against the run than the new nose tackle.
JAMESH: Any changes coming in who plays when using the nickel, dime, and quarter packages? Any changes coming in how often they are used?
Ray Fittipaldo: How often those packages are used depends on the opponent and their tendencies. The Jets run a fairly basic offense, so you might see more regular personnel for that game. Tomlin's news conference is tomorrow so we might learn some more about other changes. The only change we know for sure right now is that there will be a new left tackle.
John in Ohio: Everyone talking badly about pick up of Levi Brown vs the Ravens Eugene Monroe trade. I think Colbert got the better deal - only giving up 1 day 3 pick along with having through 2014 if they like his play. And per PFF, Monroe is only 5 spots ahead of Brown. Good job Colbert!
Ray Fittipaldo: The deal for Brown was basically the Steelers taking him off the Cardinals' hands. He had fallen out of favor in Arizona. They'll give him a look. If he can help them they'll keep him. If not, it costs them nothing to cut him at the end of the year.
John in Ohio: Do you think Vince Williams gets the start against the Jets, or Kion Wilson?
Ray Fittipaldo: Kion Wilson has been dealing with an injury so I would expect Williams to get the start again. That will depend upon how practice unfolds this week. Wilson might be getting healthier.
FAKE_JAMESH: Ray, please tell the people advocating trading away players that are in the latter years of their career that a team will not trade away 1st or second day draft picks for an aging star. Is it just me who is amazed by the lack of understanding here?
Ray Fittipaldo: You are correct, James. The trade deadline is Oct. 29 and I have suggested here before that even a starter such as Emmanuel Sanders would not bring more than a fifth- or sixth-round pick, if that. You might find a team that is desperate. A team might have major injury problems and you might be able to get more, but by and large you're likely to get lower-round picks.
Ray Fittipaldo: Folks, they've opened up the locker room for us and I have to go do some interviews. Post your questions and I'll answer all of them. Thanks. The transcript will be posted later on the PG web site.
Doug Gilmour: Do you expect any moves at or before the deadline?
Ray Fittipaldo: Hard to say at this point, honestly. They're still in the mode of trying to win some games. Now, if between now and the Oct. 29 trade deadline, they judge themselves to be out of the playoff race something could happen.
malsor: how can MT say what he said in his post game comments regarding the threat to the players that arent getting it done, and saying that the reserve he had on the bench (guy whimper) is "below the line" as to the reason that mike adams wasnt replaced, have a bye week, and guy whimper is still on the roster?
Ray Fittipaldo: I believe what he meant to say in his postgame comments -- and I don't have the transcript in front of me to reference -- was Whimper would have been "below the line" in terms of his preparation. I took Tomlin to task for not having Whimper prepared to play. You took it as he viewed Whimper as below the line in terms of his playing ability. By the way, Whimper too reps as the starting left guard today because Ramon Foster is working his way back from that pectoral injury. Foster said he is day to day, so Whimper could have a role this week.
Scott in Dallas: I am somewhat concerned about our new "savior" Bell. The first thing I noticed when they drafted him was he had 382 carries last season. That kind of workload for NFL backs equals career killer. How concerned are you with that kind of load?
Ray Fittipaldo: Bell played through some minor injuries at Michigan State,. Durability was not an issue for him as a college player. Sometimes you have injuries, such as the one in his foot, that simply take time to heal. He is back now, had a solid debut in London and we'll see what he can do on a week to week basis. But no, I am not concerned about the number of carries he had in one year of college.
Guest: Ryan Clark seems to have lost a step this season, any chance Shamarko gets more time in place of Clark?
Ray Fittipaldo: Clark has not enjoyed a great first few weeks, but he is a team captain and a valued member of that defense. The Steelers would have to be out of playoff contention completely for Tomlin to make that move, and I'm not even sure that he would make it then.
JamesinNYC: Have you heard any regrets from the Steelers that they didn't let Sanders go to the Pats? Would have saved them this years #3 which is looking pretty high up. I thought it was OK trade at the time but their performance has made that trade look horribe....to the freeking Brownies none the less.
Ray Fittipaldo: Hindsight is 20-20. If they let Sanders and Wallace go in the same offseason I don't think it would have sent a very positive message to the other players on offense, most notably Ben Roethlisberger, who lobbied for Sanders to come back. If they had let Wallace and Sanders go, then they would have been counting on Jerricho Cotchery or Markus Wheaton to be the starter. Cotchery is having a very nice season, but he's probably at his best a slot receiver at this stage of his career.
Scott in Dallas: It seems there has been a shift in the draft strategy over the last several years leading to a number of poor draft results. How much of that previous success was the influence that Coach Cowher wielded in the draft room?
Ray Fittipaldo: Not sure there has been a big shift in draft strategy. Under Colbert, whether it was Cowher or Tomlin as the head coach, they try to take the best payer available if it makes sense roster-wise. Every head coach has a certain amount of input in the draft, but the general manager and his scouts are the ones evaluating the talent on a year-round basis. The coaches don't get to do that until January or February.
JAMESH: Shawn Powell, whom the Bills kept in favor of Brian Moorman, was just released and Moorman was re-signed. How close are we getting to bringing back Drew Butler?
Ray Fittipaldo: Zoltan Mesko has not been very good, but as a veteran and a member of the 53-man roster on opening week he is guaranteed his salary. It would not be a cheap move salary-cap wise, which is why I think you'll see him being afforded a few more opportunities before being shown the door.
Scott in Dallas: With our struggles at linebacker do you see the D going with more of a 4 man front to get Cam on the field more?
Ray Fittipaldo: The Steelers have not really switched between a 3-4 and 4-3 since Tomlin came here. There was some speculation that would be the case when he was hired because he was a Tony Dungy disciple and came from the Tampa cover 2 scheme. But Tomlin has let Dick LeBeau run the defense and there hasn't been much in the way of changing things.You might see more of Heyward, but it would be at the expense of Ziggy Hood.
Scott in Dallas: Which players from the D do you see not being asked back/not returning next year? I forsee some significant turnover along with the possibility that Coach Lebeau calls it a career.
Ray Fittipaldo: These types of moves oftentimes don't have to do with how well guys are playing. It can be a situation where management has to decide if a player is worth the money. So for example, Brett Keisel can play at a high level this year, but at 36 and making the money he does, the Steelers might feel like it's time to move on and give a younger guy like Heyward a chance. The same goes for Ryan Clark.
Guest: Ray, thanks for the chat, I always participate but I'm fresh out of questions. Seems there is little progress in the areas where the team is challenged while AB, Ben, Troy, Keisel and Suisham try to carry the team with superior individual efforts, what's to be hopeful for this season?
Ray Fittipaldo: If New England would have beaten the Bengals yesterday I would have told you a division title was still in reach, but I don't believe that to be the case now. The Bengals are through their most challenging portion of the schedule. But hey, it was only 21 years ago that the San Diego Chargers lost their first four games and made the playoffs. Anything can happen, right?
Ray Fittipaldo: Thanks for the all great questions this week. Sorry for the chat being interrupted. We'll do it next Monday at 1:30.
First Published October 7, 2013 10:40 AM