Jerricho Cotchery celebrates a touchdown in front of the Browns' Leon McFadden in the season finale at Heinz Field last month.
Gerry Dulac: OK, lets get our chat started. Fire away
Guest: Does the Bus make the HOF this year?
Gerry Dulac: I sure hope so because he deserves it as the best big back to play the game. To me, if Curtis Martin gets in the Hall of Fame., Jerome Bettis shou;ld get in the Hall of Fame.
Rob VD: My Question is a bit of a long one really. The concern is about the middle. I'm a fan of McClendon and hes good against the zone. do you think he'll stick there at NT or moved to DE? and is Williams the answer when Foote is done or will we be drafting there soon? Do you think they are unfairly to blame for the run troubles because of their lack of inexperience?
Gerry Dulac: Let me answer the last part of your question first. Yes, this defense lacked experience in the front seven when you consider that they started two rookies at linebacker -- Jarvis Jones and Vince Williams -- and had a first-year starter at nose tackle in McLendon. And, let's not forget, as good as he was, Cam Heyward was a first-year starter too. So 4 positions out of the front 7 were new guys or young guys. That's why it might be unfair to say those uys can't do the job. Year two should be different. I think it's premature to say McLendon can't be the nose tackle, but I dont' think there's any question they need to figure out of its him, the style he plays and what they need to do to correct the problem. And I like Vince Williams. I don't know if he's the long-term answer, but at the very least I think he showed he's has the potential to be a dependable player, a more than competent backup.
FastWP: What kind of compensatory picks would you guess the Steelers might be awarded for losing Wallace, Mendenhall & Keenan Lewis?
Gerry Dulac: There are several criteria for getting a decent compensatory pick -- third and fourth round -- and they are if the player received a large contract (Wallace), was a former No. 1 pick (Mendenhall) or was a starter (Lewis). So I expect the Steelers, and I think they are expecting the same, to get at least a third and probably two fourth-round picks.
John B.: Would you rather have a big WR or a big TE in the first round?
Gerry Dulac: I'd rather have the tall wide receiver, like Mike Evans, even Allen Robinson, though my stated preference right now is Mike Evans of Texas A&M, who has declared for the draft. They have a tall tight end -- 6-7 Matt Spaeth.
Jack Splat: Does Ike Taylor stay or go? I think it is time to move on rom Ike with thanks for wht he accomplished as a Steeler.
Gerry Dulac: I like Ike, but when faced with a tight salary cap and where you are as a team, I think it's time to move on. Ike is scheduled to count $11.8 millioj in 2014, a lot of money for a player who will be 34 and doesn't pick the ball or make splash plays. If you''re going to pay out that kind of money, you do it for a player who is a difference-maker, and you can't honestly say that about Ike. And here's another reason: After he gave up a lot of passing yards to Calvin Johnson, Josh Gordon and Torrey Smith, Ike was never used again to shadow the other team's top receiver. So even the role he served in the past has been junked. I think that speaks to their plans more than anything.
JamesinNYC: Do you think the Steelers would go for a guy like Linval Joseph if he makes it to FA, would cost 4Y 28-30 MIO probably?
Gerry Dulac: No, not at all, and you might be overstating his value for a guy who has 9 sacks in three years.
Matt from LA: If you are the Steelers' management team, do you base the changes for next year's team on their 0-4 and 2-6 early season record or their 6-2 finish? It seems like Mr. Rooney is taking the positive route and, unfortunately, this may be naive and lead to more 8-8 seasons.
Gerry Dulac: I don't think they will lose sight of the fact they are an 8-8 football team for the second year in a row. Their finish might have given them an indication of the abilities of some of their young players, but I think it showed they still need to make some changes. And those will come with older players such as Ryan Clark, Brett Keisel, Ike Taylor. But, a lot of times, it's not just the players you have or the talent they possess, but the chemistry of those players, the desire of the players, players who can win close games or find ways to win close games.
I don't think anyone thinks they're on the right track after back-to-back 8-8 seasons, though I think the second half of the season indicates they are not regressing either.
Ralph: Why are Steelers fans so anxious to get rid of guys like Palamalu, Ike, and Kiesel? They may not be playing as they once did, but didn't Jarvis Jones show that newer and younger doesn't mean better?
Gerry Dulac: Maybe some people are eager, but those are fans, and that's understandable. The organization is not eager to get rid of them, but when youre 8-8 and have a lot of older players who are making a lot of money it's time to make tough decisions. If those players aren't helping you do better than 8-8, it's time to part with some of those. I don't think Polamalu will be one of those, but I bet you didn't think they would part with James Harrison, either.
Matt from LA: Although everyone loves and admires Dick LeBeau and what he has done and meant to this team, is it time for a fresh set of eyes and a new set of ideas? In other words, is his defense too complex fr today's modern athlete, most of whom never finish college?
Gerry Dulac: No, I don't think so. I don't think the problems of the Steelers defense were what they were doing as much as who they were doing it with -- a lot of new, inexperienced players coupled with lack of production from key veterans such as LaMarr Woodley and, to an extent, Ike Taylor.
And, in today's NFL, you better be complex or top quarterbacks will pick you apart. But that's why continuity is so important. You need to groom players to step in and then keep them, like Jason Worilds. That's why I think they goofed last year with letting Keenan Lewis go.
Ralph: Is there a position where a Free Agent signing could impact the draft the most? A guy like Riley Cooper could be very affordable and really free up the Steelers to pick the NT is Rd 1 and decent corner in rd 2 since there is depth there.
Gerry Dulac: I think the area where they are most likely to sign a free-agent starter is where they went last time they found a starter on the open market -- free safety. I don't think the Steelers intend to re-sign Ryan Clark, but they might be willing to get an experienced safety in free agency. Of course, with Shamarko Thomas waiting in the wings, they might consider another position. Their defense needs some help, and they can't rely on rookies to provide that immediately, whether that's on the line, at linebacker or in the secondary.
Gus from dormont: What's the status of Levi Brown? Will he ever play and what kind of draft pick did we trade for him?
Gerry Dulac: I believe the draft choice was conditional, meaning it was contingent on how he played or if he played. And we know what happened with that. i was told it was a late-round pick in 2015, but that's probably off the board now. I don't believe the Steelers have any intention of bringing him back.
Renegade: Hi Gerry, If Ike doesn't agree to pay cut to say $3M max, is Ike cut? What about Troy at $10M? With Clark likely to be gone, it would be tough to replace 3/4 of secondary but soemthing must give, right?
Gerry Dulac: I agree. I don't think they are going to eradicate the secondary. But I think it's very reasonable to assume they could get rid of two players there, and the most likely candidates are Clark and Taylor. At the very least, the Steelers will ask Ike to take a big pay cut from the $8 million he is scheduled to make in 2014 (he counts ($11.8 million against the cap). If he cant' agree on the cut, he will go the way of James Harrison and be released. It's entirely possible they could release Ike and not re-sign Clark (a given), and ask Polamalu to take a pay cut. But, either way, you will see moves there. And why not? When you allow seven pass plays of 50+ yards, something is wrong and needs to be changed.
Gerry Dulac: Ok, kids, that's all the time we have today. save some of those good questions for next week.
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